Today’s post is a bit of a sad one, as my fiancée’s granddad died yesterday.
This brought up a variety of emotions in me, which I had long thought I was over. 5 years and a bit a go, my dad died suddenly in a car accident, and no one could explain why. It’s hard to deal with the fact that, one minute they are there, healthy and alive, and the next minute they are gone. No one expected it, he was 53, and had what we thought we’re many years ahead of him.
I thought that sharing my feelings from back then would help my fiancée a little, however instead they opened the floodgates for me.
Today, I was struck with how unfair it was, coupled with a sadness that I haven’t felt in a while, that raw, real sadness that hurts your heart and soul. Why is it fair, that someone should die so young and so suddenly and unexpectedly? I guess the simple answer is that it’s not. However these things happen, and the only way to move forward is not to worry about them, or so I thought at the time. I tired quickly of well wishers, despite their good intentions, and went back to university two weeks after the crash. Did I grieve properly? To this day I still don’t know, as I know that sometimes I am still affected greatly by what happened. Most often this manifests in my desire to get out of my dead end job and do something meaningful rather than wasting any moment of the life that I have, and sometimes in the way that I worry about the people I care about when they are travelling, as my dad was on his way home from work when he died.
There is a feeling of disbelief when something so tragic occurs, and I couldn’t believe that my dad was dead until I saw the body for myself, morbid as that may sound. It all seemed like a bit of a dream until I had confirmed the truth with my own eyes. I wrote a lot during those times, on paper in a diary of my feelings. It was the only way that I could share how I was feeling, as I felt that I had to be strong for my family. I did a lot of crying alone during those first few months, feeling unable to share my grief when others were upset around me, when my mum was struggling so much to deal with it. I’d sit alone outside in the sunshine, just thinking, letting it all wash over me without any interruptions and basking in the good weather. I do love the sunshine, it always lifts my moods and makes me feel better. To this day I haven’t visited my dad’s grave, preferring instead to believe that I can think about him anywhere, rather than having to go to a grave to do it.
Some people talk of a rose tinted effect that comes with the death of a loved one. My family experienced this to a large extent after my dad died. They would talk about how wonderful he was, how happy we were, what a safe driver he was, making it out like he was the perfect person. This behaviour drove me up the wall, and I would often catch myself thinking ‘wrong’ or ‘you and I both know thats not completely accurate.’ Although I can understand I think why they said those things, because I think thinking of the bad times would have made the whole ordeal harder to deal with, for them at least.
From day one, I had accepted that we had good times, but we also had our share of bad times. Go-Karting with my dad is one of the fondest memories that I have of him, because it was time that I got to spend with just him, away from the rest of my family, and it was one of the times I remember where he never shouted at me or got frustrated with me. On the other hand, even at the time in the midst of grief, I could acknowledge that we didn’t have the smoothest of relationships. We both had a fiery temper and a desire to always be right, and that caused us to butt heads more often than not, to the point that one day he stormed out of the house when we had been arguing. Another time I remember is an argument at dinner: he upset mum, I shouted at him, and he ended up upstairs sulking and I ended up looking after mum on the bench in the garden outside. I’ll never forget what she said to me that day when I said that at least she is in a relationship and she has someone to look after her, or something similar. She said that sometimes even if you are in a relationship you can feel isolated and alone.
I think I understand what she meant – that if you let the relationship become all that you have, it hurts all the more when you fight and things go wrong, that you can easily lose your sense of self worth. Sometimes I feel that my mother back then and my mother now are two completely different people: she has a job, independence, lots of friends and the freedom to do whatever she wants nowadays. Back then she was much more isolated.
As for the ”safe driver” comments – those got to me the most I think. My dad was not the safest of drivers: indeed he was a little reckless, suffered from road rage, and refused to back down and get over on country lanes. One day he met someone as stubborn as him and they both lost their wing mirrors. All I remember is sitting in the back seat of the car trying to pretend to be invisible as they shouted back and forth at each other about whose fault it was. I don’t think the way that he drove was the reason he died, no one can ever know that, but the fact that they were saying things that were not true got to me.
I think however, what strikes me the most about how unfair the situation seemed, is not how unfair it was on my mum, me or my sister, or his brother, but how unfair it was for his parents. My grandparents are the loveliest couple you could ever meet, generous, kind hearted, and worked hard all their lives. No one ever expects to bury their own child, for we all expect our children to outlive us, grow old, and then have their children look after them in their old age. Such is the regular cycle of life. For my grandparents, now in their eighties, losing their youngest son is something that I don’t believe they will ever recover from, or indeed something that I could imagine any parent recovering from. My nan still sends my mum an anniversary card on the anniversary of her wedding to my dad – she means well when she does this, and it is perhaps her way of coping, however at first it hurt my mum a lot to be reminded of it, and now she dreads each year around that time because she knows what is coming.
The main thing I have taken from the experience is that essentially I am a strong person, and when faced with difficulties I switch onto autopilot and just deal with the essential facts. When the policeman knocked at our door to break the news, I was the only one who could answer his questions, who didn’t break down and cry.
Losing someone suddenly rips the heart out of you and it takes time to rebuild that, no matter who you are. For me, I believe I have come out the other side of this grief as a stronger, better person, even if sometimes, when death hits again close to home, I am reminded again of the sadness of the loss I experienced.