The bubble of loss and what gets you through

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Grace-Marie shares her story of losing her dad in March 2019, and how she has coped since.

My dad died in March 2019; I was scuba diving with him on a holiday in South Africa. I want to share my story.

Witnessing his death was one the most horrific things a 21-year-old could witness. My head was ablaze with thoughts, and the hour I spent not knowing whether my dad was alive or dead felt like years.

It is like your house is falling on top of you. I was scuba diving with my father when I lost control of my dive. He was with an instructor; however, unfortunately, had an aneurysm in the water and drowned whilst I was getting on the boat. As soon as we realised they were shouting for help, I instantly knew that it was my dad in trouble, to this day I could not tell you why.

The pain of the formalities

Sitting on a small boat whilst they were giving my dad CPR is something I will never forget. I will also never forget the hour that followed, trying to get hold of my mum, who was also in South Africa on holiday at the time with us. Having to tell her that her husband, my father, was dead over the phone is something no one wants to do. The grief that followed was as horrific. Firstly we had the issue of being in South Africa at the time. We had to make sure all formalities were sorted (for repatriation) before we could fly back. Luckily we had a very good friend who flew out to help us.

Friends supporting me

Once I got back, it was like being in a bubble, and I did not know what was going on. I was carried by visit after visit from friends. I was surprised that my friends who lived hours away were able to commit to visiting me and helping me get through my dads’ funeral. It is something I will never forget.

I also will not forget the love and kindness shown by my local friends as well. I was informed how this is the time when you notice who cares for you, and in the months that followed, it became clear who stood by me. We had the comments from people saying we ”should be over it, he has been dead three months now”. You learn to ignore these comments. I will never get over it, I am learning step by step and starting to except what I have been through.

Making dad proud

I love to talk about my dad with my mum and friends, bringing him up in conversation is like he is still with us. I always am thinking about whether he would be proud of me now. I decided that September 2019 to continue to become an architect by enrolling in a Masters course which I do not regret, a lot of people told me I should have a year out. Still, I knew what I was capable of myself, and I knew that work would be good for me. Not only is it a good distraction, I knew deep down my dad would be incredibly proud of me.

Throughout these one and a half years I have learnt about grief and understanding what it means to grieve. Not many people at my age go through what we have been through. It’s okay to be not okay.

Grace-Marie Spencer