Me and Dad: Reflecting on a Decade of Grief

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Polaroid of a man in front of decorative wallpaper

In this blog, Beth talks about her art work based on her father. Three years on from the exhibition, and ten years on from the death of her father, she reflects on her father’s life and how it has shaped the person she has become.

Ten years ago on 12th December, my father Geraint Morris, passed away. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year before he died. This happened at a very strange time for me. I was 16. That year still feels like a blur when I try to remember anything about it.

After school I decided to study art and I started to work through my feelings on his death. After graduation, I began to feel strong enough to analyse it.

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In 2016, I created an installation using ephemera relating to him. I wrote notes on how I felt about his life before and after becoming a Dad. Even though this installation only took place 3 years ago, my feelings towards what I wrote have changed.

His early life

Throughout this project, I researched as much as possible about my Dad’s life before my birth, in particular what he would have done at my age. My parents met kind of late, so finding out what my Dad was like as a teenager/young adult was difficult. I had to rely on my Mum and any photographs we could find. I regret not asking him enough about his life before he met my Mum.

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My Dad was confident and talkative. However, while in school, he suffered with a stammer which lead to him leaving before sixth form. I am a very anxious person and I find it really difficult to talk to people and be confident in myself. Whether my anxiety is related to my loss, I am not sure.

Growing up in the Welsh Valleys, my whole family had a love of music. My Dad was in a Male Voice Choir and my Mum played piano for another choir; that’s how they met. I always felt like he didn’t respect my love of art, but the older I get, the more I think he regretted not truly pursuing his love of music as a career.

I think he didn’t want me to be disappointed if I didn’t get anywhere. Even three years ago, I still had a chip on my shoulder about his lack of understanding of my art. I just really hate how I missed out on knowing him as an adult.

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Discovering that his own father had died while he was quite young (28) was shocking to me, slightly mirroring my own experience. I never got to meet his parents, but I always remember how hard he found it to talk about them. Going to see their graves together were some of the only times that I saw him cry.

I don’t want that to be me.

Ten years on

I thought I would be fine talking about him, but there’s no rhyme or reason in grief. One minute I could talk about him without a problem, the next I am barely able to hold back the tears. One of the most surprising things is how raw it can still feel. The more time you have to reflect on something, the more heartbreaking it can become.

Deciding to make an installation about my Dad felt difficult at the time but it really helped me to work though my deeper feelings of grief. I received many lovely comments about my work and the meaning behind it. It resonated with so many people, which made me realise that talking about death is so normal and that I shouldn’t be scared to bring it up. Having time to reflect on everything is incredibly important and giving myself the opportunity to learn and understand him more made me feel closer to him.

Thank you

I’m so grateful for how he shaped me as a person. From my love of music of all kinds to my love of film, in particular Indiana Jones and Monty Python, as well as a love of classic cars (he owned a Daimler and we went to a lot of rallies).

But most of all, I’m so thankful for the love he had for our family and just how caring he was. I don’t remember much about the funeral and the year that followed his death, but I do remember the huge crowd of people attending it and the reception. Everyone had such lovely stories to tell. If I can even be 10% as loving, caring and friendly as he was, I’ll be happy.


Beth Morris

You can follow Beth on Instagram or find her full exhibition here: