If you frequent my blog you’ll know that I suffer with anxiety and depression stemming from a sort of PTSD from several personal traumas, but for this post I want to discuss my mental health in regards to something else – something arguably more unfortunate. Grief.
“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room
You may know that, on April 1st 2018, I lost my Grandad, Rodney Dodds, and the grief of that loss has been immeasurable.
To say grief was a new feeling to me would be a lie, I have grieved many things in the past, including the loss of who I was before my traumas. This grief was completely new.
I was holding on to the thought throughout his hospital stay that he would pull through, that he would be one of the people you heard about beating the impossible, but no matter how much I hoped – and prayed – things got worse. I’m a spiritual person but I’m not overly into organised religion, despite this, several times I had to excuse myself to go pray in the hospital chapel just to feel comfort and hope. Watching someone you love in so much torment and pain is terrible, an awful part of you feels relieved when it ends and that is when the guilt kicks in.
The night he died, I wrote a poem about my loss; the words of pain came freely and easily. After that, a lot of my initial grief was masked by trying to pull my family through this tragedy and supporting the people who needed me, but as time went on my grief knocked me back constantly. This year has been a process of learning to live with this agony in my heart and trying to move forward by honouring and loving his memory.
Most days, I’m okay. I’ll go to work and talk to my friends without the shadow of my grief haunting me. But, there can be a glimmer of something I’d forgotten – like how I’ll never see him wave goodbye to us on the driveway again or how I can’t tell him how well my plants are doing – and it all hits me like a freight train.
“What no one tells you about grief is that you don’t want to figure out a way to live with it—you want the part of you that hurts to die instead.”Leesa Cross-Smith, Whiskey & Ribbons
Since realising the mortality of the pillars of my life, I have panic attacks about losing everyone else. When my parents don’t take their medication or my grandparents don’t feel well or someone has bad news, I’m right back at that bedside watching a seizure rack through a loved one. It makes me want to hold people at arms length so I cannot be scarred by losing the people I love. I spoke with my therapist last year about how I push people away when they get to close and how I isolate myself because I don’t want to get hurt. He helped me realise that loss is inevitable. I also began to understand that I am angry. I’m angry at the universe or God that life is messy, awful, terrifying and devastating, just as much as it is awe-inspiring, extraordinary, beautiful and heart-warming.
So, a year’s gone by, and my mind still can’t fathom never seeing my Grandad again. I sob as I write this, hoping I honour his life whilst wishing he was here to tell him I love him or hug him one more time. I don’t know if this will ever stop feeling heart-wrenching, but in time I hope it will be more of a celebration of his life rather than wallowing in grief. I am blessed to have known him for 21 years and could not imagine a world without growing up knowing his love and support. I miss you so much and I love you always.
(Below is the poem I wrote the day he died)
Rodney DoddsBy Catherine DoddsFunerals aren’t for the dead,They’re really for the grieving.A way to help us with the shockOf our dear ones up and leaving.21 years of life,And I’m still learning the art of loss.I lose my keys, my phone, my mind –But what I want to get acrossIs this time round,We haven’t lost an ordinary man.He was a husband, father, and grandfather –Also a footie fan.And though, his armchair’s empty;There’s no more hospitals or doctor’s charts.We may not see you around no more,But you’re forever in our hearts.Lincolnshire will always be your home.Yellowbelly – proud and true.Whenever I go walk these fields,I’ll always think of you.