Making space for grief

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In this blog, Emma reflects on losing her Dad, Nanny, Mum, and Brother throughout her twenties and offers advice to others for going through their own grief journey.

‘Adulting’ through loss

Navigating the wilderness that is grief has shaped the majority of my early adulthood. I’m 28 years old now and since 19 I’ve experienced the loss of four very important people in my life. I could write ten thousand pages about each person that I’ve lost, but it still wouldn’t capture everything that I’ve felt. But here is some context.

In May 2011, I was a fresh faced university student. I’d just turned 19 the month before I lost my dad very suddenly to a short-term illness.

Over the next few years my mum, who was the kindest soul I ever met, cared for my grandmother who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In October 2014 we lost my “nanny”.

Fast forward to October 2015. It’s almost the first anniversary of my nanny’s passing. I’d just started my Master’s Degree to become a Social Worker. I came home from a day at my placement to the news. If you know, you know. I can still feel the ringing in my ears and the numbness in my chest. That dreaded C. She had stage 4 lung cancer and all that could be offered was palliative care. I lost my mum 3 months later in January 2016.

My brother had always struggled with drug addiction. In July 2018, I lost my brother to an opiate overdose. Another funeral to arrange, another grief to navigate. But this time it’s complex. There were so many feelings; sadness, disappointment, guilt. We didn’t have the closest relationship at times. There wasn’t the same pouring of love from family or friends, but I think they tried their best. If I had a pound for every time somebody said to me “what a waste”. And it hurt. It still hurts. My brother through all his difficulties was never a waste. He was the kindest soul and he deserved to be remembered in that way.

Sharing my ‘story’

I’m sharing my story now at 28 years old and this is the first time I’ve felt ready to.

I’m due to marry the most wonderful man next year and although my twenties have been shaped by so much loss, I wouldn’t say I’ve ‘lost’ my twenties to grief. I used to think that and that’s OK if you do. My view is that my twenties have been my awakening that most people don’t have until much later in life. My friendships mean so much more, my memories are so treasured. My love for my family never leaves me. I’m not saying life is an oil painting, I still have days where I don’t want to leave my bed and the pain is so overwhelming, even brushing my hair is too much.

It’s YOUR journey and we’re all different

I’m writing this to share that even if you’re at the start of your grief journey, it’s to tell you, it’s simply that; a journey that you will embark upon for the rest of your life. But it’s not a straight mile or a winding road. To me it’s a wilderness.

It is not an isolated trauma you will simply “get over”. There is no curing it, nor would I want to cure it. It’s your reminder of the people you have lost who you love and who loved you. They deserve to be entwined in your life story.

It’s to tell you that there are times when you feel that you will never smile again, that no one understands. Your memories and old photographs may soothe your soul but they can also bring you great pain, and that’s fine to feel both. Yes, at the same time.

It’s to tell you that emotions are complex, you can feel so many all at once. And that’s OK. It’s to tell you that you won’t just survive, although you might not feel like it at times, but you will absolutely thrive.

When I walk down the aisle next year, I’m taking my dad, mum, nanny, and brother down there with me. Creating new memories without them still makes my heart ache and it will ache forever. But my grief lives with me and I will give it space; it deserves to sit beside my happiest memories.


We love sharing stories from grieving young people to show that you are not alone at this time. If you have a story you’d like to share, please get in touch.