The ten year anniversary and everything I have learnt about grief

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Emily shares all that she has learnt in the decade since her Dad died.

In March 2022, it was ten years since my Dad passed away. Every anniversary since his passing has been a day full of sadness, longing and wishing he was still alive. The anticipation of the ten year anniversary has undoubtedly had an effect on me, and I often find myself questioning if it is normal. In the midst, however, of the heartache, there is also remembering; remembering the kind, funny man that he was and the legacy that he left in myself and my brother. Ten years simultaneously feels like no time at all, but also a lifetime.

Everything I’ve learnt so far

What I have learnt is that is the very nature of grief; it has its own rhythm – sometimes fast, sometimes slow. It is both in the present and in the past and it definitely appears that it stays that way no matter how much time has passed. Grief is difficult to understand unless you have experienced losing someone you love.

Grief is not just one event in time. In fact, it is not even just an emotional response to a loss. It is a process that changes us permanently but also constantly as we ourselves change and grow. It is not something that happens once and goes away; it is something that evolves, expands and contracts, and changes in shape, depth, and intensity as time goes on. Ten years, for me, feels like a momentous anniversary, because of how much my life has changed and been shaped by losing my Dad.

Accepting the range of emotions

The tenth anniversary of my Dad’s death has had me feeling a whole spectrum of emotions – loneliness, despair, anger, worry and fear to name just a few. As the years have passed, I have come to understand that rather than stifling my emotions, I have to allow myself to go through those emotions, even as I experience joy and happiness.

A lovely colleague told me that grief is like a shipwreck

Grief doesn’t magically show up or end at a certain point after you lose someone you love. Over time, reminders will bring back the pain you initially felt, particularly on anniversaries. For me, this ten year mark seems to be bringing back the pain in waves so hard and fast that sometimes, it feels hard to breathe. A lovely colleague told me that grief is like a shipwreck and when the waves are stormy and choppy and intense, it feels as though you are grasping onto any part of that shipwreck and trying to not get swept away.

Persistent invisible grief

I find that I cannot always remember the sound of my Dad’s voice – but I remember everything else about him. It is true that grief persists invisibly through life, and slowly, you do get used to a new reality but that hole of loss that they left behind can never be filled. Another thing that I have found is that the last 24 hours of my Dad’s life replays in my mind almost daily. It is one of the days that changed my life irreversibly and a day I will never forget. At the time, it felt like a blur but now it is so vivid.

The most important thing I have learnt about grief over the past ten years is that it is okay to feel how I need to feel and that it is okay. It is also okay to reach out and talk to people too. Be patient and be kind to yourself.

Emily Maybanks

As Emily says, it’s so important to talk openly about grief and be kind to yourself. Let’s Talk About Loss provides the safe spaces to do exactly that. Find your local meet up here.