This week will see the second anniversary of the date that my Dad died.
Two years. Twenty-four months. One hundred and four weeks. Seven hundred and thirty days. By all accounts, that’s a pretty long time. In two years, a lot can happen, and certainly a lot has happened for me. I graduated. I’m on my third job since April 16th, 2013. I’ve run a half marathon, met my partner, moved to London and I’m happy.
It’s strange, because after the influx of cards and flowers and best wishes and visits that April 16th 2013 brought, by the time a month had passed it was as though nothing had happened. Flowers were thrown away, cards neatly filed away in a box at the top of a cupboard, funeral catalogues disappeared and my dad became a topic left unspoken, except for, perhaps, within our kitchen over a cup of tea.
And this is something that surprised me – perhaps it shouldn’t have, but it did. My life was turned upside down, so how come everyone else seemed to move on?
I never realised how often people talk about their dads until mine wasn’t around any more. I wanted to talk about mine too – I had a zillion memories, even if they weren’t necessarily the same as somebody talking about how their dad was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week.
I’d want to tell them – ‘my dad climbed Mount Snowdon and was at the top when me and my friends were doing the Three Peaks!’ but that might have also included explaining that we were doing the challenge in order to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, because my dad had been diagnosed with the illness the year before. And that’s where whoever I was speaking to would search frantically for the right words to say, making me wish I hadn’t mentioned it. ‘Mount Kilimanjaro? Wow, that’s amazing!’ I’d say instead.
Talking about my dad almost became a taboo subject – more because I didn’t want to upset someone else than because I didn’t want to upset myself. It was often assumed that if I brought my dad up it was because I was upset, or wanted to have a deep and meaningful conversation. But what if it were only to mention the fact that he made a smashing chilli? A fond (and spicy!) memory for me was perceived as a cry for sympathy and attention by somebody else.
And it’s tough, because no-one really talks about grief. It’s not that friends don’t realise something’s up – it’s because we’re taught, from a young age, intentionally or otherwise, that it’s not okay to talk about death, because it’s upsetting. Does anyone stop to wonder how upsetting it can be to not talk about death?
I get angry with myself, often, when I feel upset about what happened. I berate myself – ‘it’s been a year! Move on, everyone else has!’ as though losing my dad to a hideous disease four years after diagnosis was only as traumatic as not being picked to sing in the choir at primary school.
And herein lies the reason I wanted to write something – anything – about my dad. I need to remind myself that it’s okay to grieve. Yes, even after two years have passed.
In fact, when I’m feeling rational I’d even go as far to say that maybe it’s even normal that I can go from feeling on top of the world one minute to being unable to breathe due to tears pouring down my face the next.
My hope is that as I start to write down some of these thoughts, seeing them on a computer screen will help me to start to understand them. Grief is something we will all experience – it’s inevitable. We will all lose someone we love, and we will all have to learn to carry on with life afterwards. So why can’t we talk about it?