If you don’t like reading “personal journey” type posts… click away now!
Well, 2018 was ‘quite the year’… and not a particularly happy one. I have realised that my last blog post was June 2018 and that’s purely because last summer I experienced the most heartbreaking moments of my life so far.
I was struggling with my medication for arthritis and the journey I was on was simply not a happy one. I was (and still am) in a tremendous amount of pain, I was piling on the weight due to the steroids being pumped into me to help with short-term solutions and then the worst of my luck happened…
My dad died unexpectedly (we simply didn’t see this coming, it happened so fast), sending me into a spiral of emotions and experiences that I simply wasn’t expecting to happen so soon in my life.
No time is a good time to die, but I had just started to build a fantastic friendship with my dad that I had never really had before. I had recently bought my first home after years of saving hard, he was so proud and I was enjoying getting to know him better as an adult. And then he left us.
There’s a lot more to this, perhaps for another time, I still don’t feel ready to talk too much about his death five months later, there’s still a lot of healing to be done, my heart seems to break just a little bit more every single day. My family and close friends have been amazing in support, my sister and I have become closer as a result because she’s the only one that truly understands how I feel right now, which is comforting at times.
‘The Bearded One’ could have run away from this, but he has been there every step of the way. He cooked and prepared my meals for months afterwards when I couldn’t leave the comfort of my bed or a blanket on the sofa, he wrapped/wraps himself around me every time I cried/cry or had/have a panic attack, he talks to me without awkwardness and knows when I’m not ok, he’s helped me to grieve more than he will ever know. I am very thankful for him.
This is beyond the hardest experience I have ever faced and I don’t feel like I am doing too well, no matter how strong people (outside my family) tell me I have been.
What they don’t see is how I feel on the inside, how many tears roll down my cheek on a daily basis, how close to shutting down I have become and the days I have shut down and simply don’t want to leave my bed have become more frequent than I would like to admit.
What’s tough is you can’t really “take time off” for grief… I took my allowance of 3 days from work (this honestly isn’t anywhere near enough without wanting to sound ungrateful) and stayed in bed to cry the entire time. I struggled more than I ever imagined I would, but then I had to go back to work and just sat there at my desk, unable to move my fingers to type the words expected of me in my job, I didn’t function properly for weeks and still struggle months on. It’s been one of the hardest parts, having to “go back to normal” so fast, it’s just impossible.
On the surface, people think this is ‘old news’, that I’ve moved on and dealt with it (I haven’t), people feel uncomfortable if I talk about my dad in any way (no matter how ‘ok’ I feel about discussing him / his death) and they just change the subject or just look so uncomfortable that I just mentioned it that I have to stop because they are most obviously feeling awkward. Some days I cry all day at my desk (however hard I try not to, it just can’t be helped), it feels like my colleagues simply ignore it mostly, not knowing what to say or do. If somebody does ask me how I am doing, nine times out of ten I tend to say I’m ok, as I just can’t face the awkwardness that follows.
We aren’t taught how to deal with death as living humans… or about the grief that follows… I don’t know if it’s a “British” thing that makes us automatically feel awkward around the topic of death, but it’s the one thing I am not seemingly able to talk about with most people because they just don’t think I’m ok to be discussing it… That’s usually not the case, I have been really quite open when I can.
Grieving is exhausting to be quite honest.
I’ve found solace in the strangest place, and that’s in podcasts and articles about death. I have become a huge fan of true crime (Sword & Scale and My Favourite Murder being amongst my favourites), I listen to stories about death and they calm me. It may sound odd, but it’s helped me to take my mind off my personal grief and focus on something else. At first it helped me to focus on the podcasters’ voice to help me sleep – once everyone else is asleep, this is just the WORST time for grief to take hold.
It took me months to get to a point where I could go to bed without enduring physical panic attacks about the hours of sleepless nights ahead of me (it still happens months on unfortunately), but then these podcasts became something I listened to in the daytime too, focussing my mind on the psychology of murder and the way people grieve in different ways, it felt like a huge comfort from a very unexpected source.
This year I have also found The Griefcast, where the host discusses death and grief with comedians – it’s still a sad podcast to listen to and I don’t usually make it through an entire episode without tears, but again, it helps to listen to people openly talking about the topic that most people just can’t approach.
And to my main point of this blog post… the fantastically honest and kind-hearted Nigella Lawson.
Nigella has been my domestic goddess/hero from my early teens, her recipe books being my bible at the very start of my fascination with baking, she is ingenious and I have always loved her, no matter what. Nigella is the reason I started baking, her TV shows portraying her amazing and healthy attitude towards food made me fall just a little bit in love with her.
A while ago, I came across an article titled “Nigella shares emotive posts about bereavement… as she admits she envies anyone that ‘doesn’t yet now about grief or loss”… admittedly the article was written by an online source that I wouldn’t normally share with you, but it grabbed my attention.
She’s right, I was one of those people until 5 months ago… yes, I’ve lost grandparents and I lost a friend to a car accident a few years ago and these losses, no matter how sad they have been, were nothing compared to the loss of my dad.
I thought I knew grief. I didn’t.
Now I know what grief is, it’s the worst possible experience and one I am now panicking about experiencing again in the future. I feel hugely worried about losing ‘The Bearded One’, it’s a fear I’ve developed since dad died and one that panics me hugely. It has broken me, changed me, I’m not entirely sure how, but it most certainly has.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, everybody experiences it differently. Speaking to my grief counsellor, she tells me this regularly. She says that she would be worried if I wasn’t talking about my feelings or thoughts, just carrying on with my life like nothing happened – that would worry her. But, the fact that I cry, swear, shout, laugh, talk, sit in silence reflecting – she comforts me knowing that I am expressing my feelings.
I honestly thought I was going to leave 2018 behind me and take 2019 by the horns, make this new year “my year”, do my dad proud, not waste a second feeling depressed or sad, make the most of the life ahead of me.
What I have learnt is that just isn’t possible, it’s just not that easy to move on, no matter how much you want to.
There’s so much “admin” around death, I had no idea (nobody warns you about this). Planning dads funeral, dealing with coroners reports & death certificates, collecting information for probate purposes, closing accounts, sorting bills, not to forget sorting his possessions and so on, it’s draining, but it kept my mind occupied for some weeks/months following. In fact, now that we are on top of everything and finalising the last of his affairs, it’s all of a sudden hitting me harder than before, he’s well and truly gone.
Grief is the worst experience I’ve endured and I have a new-found respect for everybody who has/is dealing with this – my boss who lost his wife and then had to deal with the same illness in his daughter (he had no time to grieve, he had to start supporting her right away) and my good friend Amy who lost her mum unexpectedly a few years ago (I didn’t support her like I should have. I know this now, but I just didn’t realise having not experienced this for myself).
And I have a new level of respect for Nigella Lawson (and her family) having to deal with the loss of her husband (and mum and sister) so publicly, it must add a whole new element of stress and pain having cameras thrust into your face whilst trying to deal with this agony – I can’t imagine the heartache she’s had to deal with and how much it hurts, even years later – in fact I know it must be more painful than ever before.
One quote I came across recently really inspired me, as cheesy as it may come across, I liked it; “ Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” – to grieve means you loved ♡
Nigella, I would LOVE to make you a cuppa, share a pot of your favourite tea at my charming kitchen table (handed down to us from ‘The Bearded One’s’ auntie / grandfather) and dunk biscuits to listen to what you do to get through these most horrendous feelings and how you approach/tackle your grief. Do you know about this fantastic grief podcast? Are you a fan of true crime? (If not, I can highly recommend it!) – in all seriousness, how do you even start to move forward?
I am newly engaged (I am just so lucky that dad was here to see my happiness, finally!) and the thought of planning my wedding without dad here is a very sad thought process.
If you ever fancy sharing a pot of tea or coffee, drop me a line, my kettle will be on for you – I’ll even let you use one of my best mugs, or you can have the Danny Dyer “you mug” mug, should you want it… I admire you and your strength, even if you don’t feel strong yourself, your words mean a lot to others and its very much appreciated.
And to everybody else… I’d love to say that I, “Miss Sue Flay” will be on fire for 2019, but I may be quiet for some time, I just don’t feel myself at the moment and although this blog is predominantly about afternoon tea and I hit 2019 promising I would be back with reviews and smatterings of tea and cake, it’s just not quite going to plan, but I will be back when it feels right.
And to end my rather tearful blog post – this took a lot longer to share than I expected – I wish Nigella some happiness for 2019 (and anyone else out there grieving) and want to say a HUGE thank you to my family & friends for supporting me/us during this most horrible time.
If you are struggling for any reason around grief, please speak to somebody, anybody.
It might not feel like it would help, but I really do think it will in some way – if all else fails, please reach out to one of these and start a conversation, no matter how tearful, upsetting it might be: https://www.bereavementadvice.org / https://www.cruse.org.uk.
And one last note – I found New Year very difficult indeed, more so than Christmas and the build up to it, I felt so sad on NYE 2018 and tried to remember my dad fondly and as happily as possible on Twitter – you’ll find my thoughts here, should you be interested to read more about my old man, Jack Graham Christy, hopefully resting in peace ♡