Wednesday 14 March 2018

Losing a loved one + how to heal

One morning in December 2011, Graham went off to work at about 5am and I settled back to sleep before having to get up around 7.30 for work. I felt really content and remember my last thought before I drifted off was "I feel really happy, everything's good". I was woken up about two hours later by the phone ringing and then my mum's hysterical screams downstairs, a moment that will haunt me forever. It was the paramedic, and my Grandad had died. The news came as a total shock as I'd only seen my Grandad a few days before and despite not feeling too well, he'd still been his usual self. Since I was about 7, my biggest fear had been of death, when I had my first anxiety attack and became petrified my mum was going to die. Now that fear of losing someone had happened for real and I didn't have a clue how to cope. 
I was 21 and had never had to deal with losing a loved one before. The funny thing was, I couldn't cry. I just felt numb and switched off, a bit robotic. I went straight into work the next day. "Sophie, we weren't expecting you!" one of my colleagues said kindly. Everyone was really considerate, and instead of avoiding the subject, all my colleagues came up to me and started talking to me about my Grandad, which I really appreciated. Even though I spoke to them about what happened, inside I'd almost distanced myself from his death and forced myself to remain in control. At his funeral I was the only one not crying, I just couldn't. Part of me blocked out what was happening and the other tried to force myself once again to remain in control. I thought about my characters, my book. Anything other than what was going on. 


3 months later, Graham pulled up outside my work. "He hasn't got a big bunch of flowers with him!" a colleague joked, looking out of the window. I wasn't expecting him to be there and we had a bit of a joke about what it could be. "Your man's here," the receptionist said downstairs. "Nice surprise", I replied. We were joking, messing around and Graham smiled but I knew there was something up. "It's bad, isn't it?" I said. He nodded. I didn't have to guess what; my Nana had cancer and despite beating it a few years before, it had since come back. We went to the hospital, and she passed away later that night. I know it sounds strange but I couldn't handle being there, witnessing it all, so Graham and I went to Bluewater, our place we always go, our "second home", as we call it. It felt safe and away from all the pain. We sat through a film and did our usual routine but neither of us could really think straight.


We had to go through everything again; the grief, the loss, the funeral. Only this time it felt even worse, because now my Nana and Grandad were both gone. It felt cruel and as I've always thought funerals; cold and grey and a process you don't really want to go through. I don't think I'll ever understand the point of a funeral, I don't want to remember people that way and for me, both funerals took away any chance to remember my Nana and Grandad how I wanted. To this day, every night before I fall asleep I still have intrusive thoughts and upsetting images of their funerals, losing them, feeling frightened and repeated flashbacks of what happened even though it was so long ago. I can't think about them, I don't like to look at pictures, I don't really like it when people talk about them. This is something I've gradually come to accept, switching off seems to be the only way I can handle it.


When I was 23 I lost my beautiful friend, Fran, to a terminal illness. She was also 23. I'd known Fran as a toddler, and we met up again when we were teenagers. We'd had a lot of happy memories together and regrettably I hadn't seen her much through my twenties but the times I did, I cherished. I cried when I heard the news, although I didn't talk too much about it. Unlike my Grandparents I was able to think of her freely, and remember happy memories. At her Celebration Of Life, everyone was encouraged to wear nothing but bright colours and Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" played out against a montage of pictures and happy memories. The song was so symbolic for Fran. It was a truly beautiful day for a truly beautiful girl. Fran was always smiling, and I never heard her ever complain or be negative about a single thing in the world, when she had every reason to due to what she had to face. She was nothing but a bright spirit, and a constant ray of light. She loved butterflies, so I took off the butterfly necklace I was wearing that day and left it for her. Whenever I hear Atomic Kitten, I think of her and I'm glad I can think about her, remember her, think of the happy times. I love butterflies, and that's all down to her. 


I had counselling a few years ago and I told the counsellor that my Grandparents deaths had set off a lot of anxiety for me. We talked about the root of my anxiety which was a fear of dying, and even though we didn't find much of a solution, just talking to her felt like a massive help and a weight off my shoulders.


Last August my other Grandad sadly passed away. He hadn't been well for a while and a few days before I'd been driving back from Starbucks, pulled up in the car and received a text message from my mum saying we might lose him in a few days and they'd just said their last goodbyes to him. I felt sick to my stomach, and for the next few days we were all waiting for that horrible phone call. When the phone rang a few days later, I somehow knew what it would be. I went out into the garden and a few minutes later my mum came out, crying, to tell me. "Grandad's died darling,' she said and I broke down and hugged her for a while. Tears came out, and she talked to me for a while about how much he loved me, and was proud of me and would want me to be happy. I felt a lot of grief, and cried a bit which I hadn't been able to do in the past. I called Graham and reached out to my friends, and their messages helped me more than you'd believe. Everyone online was so kind too and really gave me strength. I spent most of the day messaging back friends. Even though it was an awful day, it just shows you how people can be so unbelievably kind, which still gives you hope. It felt okay to look at photos of Grandad and remember him in the way I wanted, happy memories that made me feel OK. 


Last summer I made the decision to put my mental health first and not to go to my Grandad's funeral as I knew I wouldn't be able to cope. I wanted to keep remembering him how I wanted and after what had happened with my other Grandparents in the past, I knew it would be damaging and ruining for me if I did go. My mum and I had a few disagreements about this as she thought other people in the family would judge me for not going, but I told her if people wanted to judge before even beginning to understand, then let them. Eventually she accepted my decision and I had her understanding, which I  appreciated.

As it was, no one judged me for not going and everyone was kind. I was in contact with a few family members throughout the day and Graham had to go to work but beforehand we went to a little cupcake cafe we go to and sat out in the gardens. I wanted to be happy and remember my Grandad in peace, and that's what we did. Graham had to go to work later so I stayed with the cats and as much as I tried to switch off from what was happening, I broke down several times and felt a lot of pain. In a strange way I felt isolated and alone, but then I knew going to the funeral wouldn't have been good for me. Again, I reached out to a few of my friends and they were brilliant. I got through.

Even though the next few weeks weren't that easy, I felt a sense of healing for being able to grieve in the way I wanted and being able to remember my Grandad in my own way. Two days after he'd passed away friends of my mum's came to the garden to help my parents' with something but were rude to me. I ended up screaming my head off at them, and everyone in the garden turned as my words rang through the air. I just thought "Good,". It wasn't the time to upset me and be so insensitive after what had happened, and despite feeling shaken up, Graham and I went off to watch a film and I took some time out where he was living away from it all. It wasn't good for me to be at the family home at that point, and a break away was what I needed most. Put your mental health first.

Don't let anyone tell you how to grieve, grief is a personal thing and we all react differently to losing a loved one. It's okay not to cry, it's okay to cry. It's okay to want to talk or to not want to talk.  

It wasn't easy making a decision that I knew wouldn't go down well, but I stuck to my guns and did what mattered most to my mental health. It's important you take the time you need to do whatever is right for you when it comes to going through grief. 

It's important you take time to heal in your own way.

I'm not always very good at this, but sometimes it's important we let people know we need them. 

You don't ever get over losing someone, but time can heal the hurt and make it somehow bearable. Sometimes it can take days, years, decades, but it does heal.



  1. Everyone has their own way of dealing with grief. So sorry you had to go through all this
    The Glossychic

  2. Dealing with grief is different for everyone but, yeah its all mental, -so yeah counselling could help. I agree time plays a role too. Sorry for all your losses. Hope you get there soon.

  3. I agree with you, no one can tell you how to grieve and mental health is the most important.
    So sorry about your losses.

  4. This is a really hard topic to talk about, and you have done so well with writing about it. Everyone deals with grief in different ways (which a few people have already written here), and I think it is really important to acknowledge and understand the way you grieve. For the longest time after my pop died, I thought I saw him all around e.g. at the shops, or in the car next to me. However, I always try to remember the good times.

  5. I'm sorry you had to go through this, I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. It's good that you decided to put your mental health first - in the end funerals are for those left behind and if you know it will make things harder for you it's better to listen to that feeling. Like you said, there is no right or wrong way. When I'm really distressed, I can't cry either, I just feel numb and dissociated - my grandma's funeral was such a surreal experience and as I was still pretty young, I didn't fully understand what had happened. It sometimes feels like I still haven't said goodbye properly. x

  6. Oh Sophie this is such a great post and I am so happy that you were able to share it. It made me feel so emotional but you are so right, we should all be able to grieve in our own way and that is best for us. It doesn't mean we loved that person any more or less and I completely see where you're coming from. I lost my nan last summer too and I have so many amazing memories of her but the feeling that sticks with me was the feeling that I had when I saw her the night before she died, I just felt so sad and I knew it would be the last time I'd see her. The way things like this affect your mental health are terrible and so you have to deal with it in the best way you can and nobody should ever feel judged. I'm glad you were able to see what was best for you and have all your happy memories :) xx

  7. What a beautiful post. I also lost many people in my life and many were away too young so I wrote about the losses. I wrote a book One Way Trip by Cris A Santos it is for sale on Amazon but I am happy to give you a copy if you want. Writing was a way of healing. Thanks for sharing your story. Wishing you a gorgeous weekend. xoxo Cris

  8. I'm so sorry for your grief, I agree mental health is very very important. I lost my grandad a few years ago and it really hit me hard so I can empathise with how you felt. Such a lovely heartfelt post and I know it will help others xx
    LAURA ­| Laura Thinks About