Tragedy struck my dear friend and her family two years ago and I think we’ll always remember the day it happened, as well as the subsequent moments of tearful whys and twists and corners that just didn’t seem fair, which Charlotte and her family walked through with such bravery. Charlotte has written the raw reflections you will find below and asked me to publish them here. There is a lot of power in hearing the words, ‘me too’, and I hope that this blog brings comfort of that kind to some of you. To us all, Charlotte’s courage is like a thirst-quenching tall glass of ice water…you’ll see what I mean.
Two years ago on May Day my Dad passed away peacefully but very suddenly. I will never, ever forget the days and weeks that followed, the darkness that we fumbled through to get back to daily life, the mixed emotions and all the weird decisions we had to make as a family or support my Mum in making. It will always be the most surreal and painful period of my life.
In the last two years in my family two babies have been born, two of us have got married, one house has been bought, two major surgeries have happened, one routine surgery, serious illness has been faced and fought and I have had five different jobs in three different sectors, finally landing my dream job just last week. I think in any family that would be a whole lot for such a short space of time.
When I look back and reflect on all that has passed since then I once again am faced with a mix of emotions. On the one hand, part of me is angry, disappointed and feels deeply cheated that Dad has missed all of these moments. That he didn’t get to walk my sister or me down the aisle, that I didn’t get to see his face when I told him I had finally got a permanent physio job and that Andy (my husband) didn’t get to ask his permission for my hand in my marriage. Not to mention all that my Mum has faced as the leader of our family, that he hasn’t been able to support and love her in a way that we cannot. All those things make me very, very sad and frequently bring a tear to my eye. But all those things also give me immense hope, hope that personal and family life can and will go on.
I always had a feeling that my family were something special, don’t get me wrong we are just an ordinary family. We fought (a lot!) growing up, up until two years ago we had been through small ups and downs which seemed very difficult at the time but never really changed life in an extreme way. My sisters left home one by one for uni, got married and had babies we all adore. We are just an ordinary family.
But in the last two years we have been tested, our relationships have been tested and our faith to each other has been tested and I think we are doing alright. We still aren’t the family that shares every emotion or phones each other every day or never, ever fights. But we are the family who love each other, who have survived and who know that no matter what else is going in life we will be there for each other to the very end.
So much of this strength comes from our Mum, as Andy said in his speech on our wedding day so much of who I am and how I have dealt with losing Dad comes from her example. I will always be grateful for how she has led our family and held us together every day.
I guess why I am writing this now is because I want people to know that it doesn’t end. Days get brighter and life does return to normal but it isn’t the normal we have always known. It is a completely new and different life, one that you would not choose but that one that is yours none the less.
If you know someone who is living with grief, whether it is through losing someone through death or in any other way remember that just because your life has gone back to normal doesn’t mean that theirs has. It sounds simple but it is such a huge thing for them if they have someone who asks how they are on the “normal” days. Not just the anniversaries or occasions but on the random Wednesdays where they are just at work with nothing out of the ordinary happening, ask them on those days because I guarantee that they will have thought about it.
Try and be extra supportive on days that might be tough, for example I always find friends’ weddings tough, especially the bride walking down the aisle and the Father of the bride speech, sometimes it is the happiest moments which are the hardest.
If you are living with grief I want to say that I am sorry that you are in that situation but that life does get brighter and that God will bless your family with good days and things to celebrate. Choose to see those days as all the sweeter because of your new appreciation for life and how fragile it can be. Hold your family and friends close, appreciate them, be honest with them and trust them with your thoughts and feelings. And in your darkest time, God will give you what you need.