On Easter Monday in 2009 I lost my dad to suicide (you can read a bit about that here.)
It was devastating and if anybody had warned me that was going to happen, I’d have told them I would never be able to get through it.
But I did get through it, and I know people are going through horrible things all the time so I thought I would write down a few things that the last ten years has taught me, just in case it helps anyone or gives them hope.
The photo above is my wonderful family on the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death, celebrating my cousin’s wedding and having a lovely time. I think that in itself proves that things get better, but here’s my thoughts on it too…
1. Bad times, even the very worst ones, are only temporary. Things will get better, YOU will get better. However terrible things might seem, you’ll be happy again, you’ll laugh again, you’ll even stress about insignificant things again. It might take months or even years, but hold on because you will be you again. The best example I can think of to illustrate this is my mum: She loves to sing (badly), but for a long time after my dad died she didn’t sing, she didn’t even listen to the radio.
She sings all the time now.
2. While you’re waiting for the bad times to pass, look after yourself. Talk to people, listen to advice, but do whatever it is you need to make yourself feel better. Don’t worry if what you have to do isn’t what everyone else would do, and don’t feel guilty for doing whatever it is you need. Self-care doesn’t always need to be a yoga or mindfulness (but if it is, that’s okay too.) For me it was listening to my favourite songs, a spontaneous holiday, and laughing with my friends even when I didn’t feel like it.
3. Understand your worth, and if you are struggling to feel that at the moment then just remember you are loved, and you are enough. I’ve read that a lot of people who take their own lives do so because they truly believe the world is a better place without them, but I can tell you categorically that it isn’t. The world with my dad in it was wonderful and I miss him every day.
4. Grief makes you feel like you will never stop feeling sad, like there will never be a time when the first thing you think of when you wake up isn’t how much it hurts or how much you miss them. But that’s not true. You will still miss them, of course, but the days where you feel sad become fewer and fewer. They don’t disappear forever, and there will still be times you’ll find yourself crying in a beer garden nine years on because you desperately wish your dad had been here to see England reach the World Cup semi-finals (shout out to the poor landlord of The Bull who had to console me). But you will remember there was also a time you couldn’t even drive your own car because you didn’t trust yourself to concentrate on the road instead of how sad you were. And you will have come such a long way.
5. Grief can also be difficult to let go of. Sometimes you might feel like you want the person you miss to be the first thing you think of when you wake up forever, as though that anchors them to you somehow. But it doesn’t, and you have to let yourself move on. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. Or that you will forget.
6. I read a quote recently that really resonated with me because I struggled at first with feeling like I’d been left behind. It was: When someone you love dies of suicide, they didn’t leave you. It’s not that they didn’t love you. It was likely that it was a pain completely separate and despite you. Imagine how formidable that pain is, that it rips a person from everyone who ever loved them.
I think it’s really important to remember that.
7. I used to think of myself in two halves; the me before something horrible happened and the me after, and I wanted so desperately to get back to the ‘old’ me. But there aren’t two versions of me, or of anyone who has suffered something life altering. Bad experiences may change you in some ways, but all the ‘old’ bits of you, the good bits, they are still there. They come back.
8. For a long time I kept what happened to me a secret because I was scared that people would think I was broken. But you aren’t defined by what happened to you. You aren’t a tragic event or a sad story. You are just you, and you’re probably fucking fabulous.
9. Life is short, so do what makes you happy. Get drunk on a Sunday, order pizza, book spontaneous holidays and worry about how you’ll afford it later. Take risks. Do things that scare you. Ask for what you deserve. Forgive people. Make time for your friends and if you love someone, tell them. Take photographs because you never know when a photo might be all you have. I’m not really an ‘inspirational quotes on Facebook about eating cupcakes and dancing in the rain’ kinda girl but, eat the cupcake. Eat the fucking cupcake.
10. You never know what’s around the corner and we really do only get one shot at this, so don’t half-arse it. Be the best person you can be, love hard, smash it at work, take it too far on a night out because whatever, it’ll make a good story the next day at least. Life can be difficult sometimes, but it can also be really fucking great. Don’t give it anything other than your best.