In this blog, Anna reflects on what support helped when she was caring for and grieving for her Dad and explores how we can better support friends and family to support those who are grieving.
The hardest experience
My dad died just over a year ago, in May 2019. He had been diagnosed with cancer 11 months earlier and had only been terminal for 8 weeks before he died. I was 25 years old.
Losing my dad is easily the hardest experience I’ve ever been through. Watching him get sicker and sicker, and trying to care for him and make the most of our time together while still keeping hope, was incredibly difficult. Living each day without him now gets easier, but is still painful. Sometimes I miss him so much that I can’t breathe.
I want to tell them not to be scared of my grief
Support from friends and family
The thing that has made all of this easier are the amazing people who have been wonderful throughout my grief. I try and focus on the people who have supported me and comforted me.
Those who have sat with me, who have listened to me, who have taken me for walks and cuddled me while I shook from crying so violently. The friend who let me use her bath when I needed some relaxation time, because my flat only has a shower. The amazing people who sent care packages and letters, and someone who has let me use their Disney+ login for solo movie marathons. I even have a friend who found me a part time job because she knew that funds were tight due to me helping to care for my dad!
Of course, there is a tiny minority of people who haven’t been there for me. Those who are so scared of making my pain worse, that it paralyses them. I think that maybe they don’t understand how unbearable and lonely grief can be. They don’t know that their inaction accidentally makes it worse. I want to tell them not to be scared of my grief. If I get upset when we speak, it’s because I lost my dad, it’s almost certainly not because of something they said or did.
The pain is always there, and I am learning to live with it. I want to say to those people: Will you learn with me? Will you support me in a way that works for you and your personality?
My brother and I are creating a website for people (particularly young adults) who have not experienced grief, but who want to do their best to help and comfort those of us who are grieving. We want to provide concrete advice and resources of all the different ways to speak with, spend time with, and support someone who is grieving, whatever stage of their grief journey. We have found that it is quite hard for our friends and family to say or do the wrong thing, but the worst thing they can do is nothing because that multiplies our loss. We want to encourage them- Don’t Say Nothing.
We want to highlight all of the ways that people can support someone who is grieving, to help the friends and family of grieving young people understand how they can be loving and supportive- no more ‘deepest condolences’!
If you’d like to share your experiences of ways that people have supported you through your grief, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org , or fill in this form. We’d love to hear from you!