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The lessons I learnt from my uncle’s death

This blog comes from Bronte Price, Australia’s first certified Same Sex Marriage Celebrant and co-founder of The Equality Network. He writes about the three lessons he learnt after his uncle passed away, and why now is the time to seize life and the opportunities it provides.

It was a sunny Sunday morning when the news of a terrible incident knocked on our doors. I was in my Senior College when I saw my Uncle for the last time. Everybody around me was full of sorrow and I could barely manage to confront the fact it was my last glimpse of him. My grief did not allow me to react that very moment and I was numb, beyond words. While my father was strong enough to arrange the funeral for my deceased uncle, I could not even sit through it. It broke my heart into pieces to imagine a day without his love.

I still recall that day and although the grief is still a significant part of me, how I look at things has changed. Time has changed my outlook and I have learnt three things in particular:

We must count our blessings, and leave nothing unsaid

If there is one major thing that I learned from my uncle’s death, it is to be grateful. Only when I lost him did I realise how crucial he was in my life. The thought of his absence had not struck me before, and I had forgotten to be grateful while he was here.

So, be thankful for all the love and all the people who matter to you. Hold them close and appreciate their presence in your life. Do not wait to realise the value of something until it is gone. Seize every moment and every experience as a precious asset. Be grateful to the ones you’ve lost and the ones who are living with you.

Another thing that haunted me after the loss were the words left unsaid. So if you have something that has to be said, do it while you can. Never miss an opportunity to tell people how you feel about them. Do not hold onto anger, grudges or apologies for a long time. It is always better to say things when you have the chance, than regret it later.

Make time for those you love, and don’t take things for granted

I still regret not making it to his last birthday party due to my busy schedule. I missed the road trip, thinking that I could join him the next time. My biggest mistake was to believe that I had enough time with him, when I didn’t. Time taught me that it is a finite resource. The world’s obsession with money and power is meaningless – we need to value time. It is essential to spend time with our loved ones as and when we can.

Taking things for granted is another attribute that has changed me forever since I lost him. Tomorrow is unpredictable and not guaranteed. Hence it is important to live each day to its fullest. Live life to the full and make sure you fill your days with things that make you happy.

We can’t fix everything and life does go on

Have you ever wondered whether you could have saved your loved one from dying? Well, I did. Over time, slowly and steadily, I realised that this was not in my control. While you can love, support and help them, you don’t have the power to fix them. Each person has a different journey in life and though it may be unfair, we have no say in it. Blaming ourselves is only going to worsen the situation.

What about the unbearable pain of loss? Like I mentioned earlier, I could never imagine my life without my uncle. But here I am, writing this blog post today. Life inevitably goes on. However, it can never be the same as it was before the loss. During such times, it is essential to remind ourselves why we need to be living our lives again.

While it is tough to cope with grief, it is crucial that we don’t succumb to it. Everybody has different ways to heal, and they take their own time too – you don’t need to rush. Remember that hard times may test you and reveal your weaknesses, but if you can cope with them, you are already stronger than you were yesterday, and you are always emerging stronger than you thought you could be.

Bronte Price

Want to read more stories like that shared by Bronte? Check out our blogs for more inspiration and advice. You can also read more of Bronte’s blog here.

Grief like a bearhunt

This lovely blog was written by Kate, and perfectly articulates the journey of accepting grief in all its complexity. Leave a comment below if you enjoy it, and get in touch to share a story yourself.

I’m a loyal member of my local library. This week I went in and took out two books that I chose based on their authors (Sarah Winman and Celeste Ng), their front covers (I firmly disagree with the cliche we grew up on) and their placement on the shelves (the ‘recommended’ one). Getting home I opened the first one up, ‘Tin Man’ by Sarah Winman, and within the first few pages clocked that this was a novel around the theme of grief. Will it never leave me alone?

Admittedly, I do often go after things I think are going to give an interesting perspective on grief and have bought various resources this year to help me make sense of my grief (who knows – maybe one day I’ll blog about them). But, I sometimes get wary and feel like talking about grief has become my ‘thing’ and I really don’t want it to be. So, accidentally getting a novel from the library about a character struggling with the death of significant people in his life when I was just after a page-turning dose of escapism was less than ideal – is there no break from it all!?

The threats on the quest

Another book I’ve been thinking about recently is that classic children’s story by the legend that is Michael Rosen, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’. The recurring problem in this story is that the characters keep encountering obstacles which initially pose as a threat to them succeeding on their quest to find a grizzly. There is long wavy grass, a deep cold river, thick oozy mud, a big dark forest, a swirling whirling snowstorm, and a narrow gloomy cave.

What a dramatic list of unpleasant hurdles that the children have to overcome simply to go about their task of finding a bear. They do some fast troubleshooting and realise quickly that they can’t go over the hurdles and they can’t go under the hindrances. ‘Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!’ they exclaim before making various comedy noises to emphasise their plight (‘squelch’, ‘swishy swashy’, ‘splash splosh’ etc.). And they even say they’re not scared to do so!

Stepping around the obstacle of grief

And it’s much the same with grief, I’m afraid (but sadly without the comedy noises – more like drawn out sighs and your right to use whatever expletives help). When someone we know, love or have cared for dies, our gut survival instinct is to work out how to best avoid the feelings. How to move around them. How to push them down and step politely over them. How to duck them.

I’ve accepted that I’ve got to go through it

But as someone who can bottle things up quite well, who can tidy things into neat little boxes to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ (yeh, right), and has spent too long hoping to ‘beat’ grief rather than make eye contact with it and sit with the discomfort, pain and emptiness that comes from facing the loss of someone who rocked our worlds, I am much more inclined these days to go through it.

Through it, not around it

How have I done so? I am talking about the loss of my Dad much more with people – friends, colleagues, a counsellor and my brother. I have given myself space to not have it all together. I have let go of the fear that talking about my Dad will make other people uncomfortable. And most importantly I’ve accepted that we’ve got to go through it.

And it’s okay to be scared.

Kate

Email hello@letstalkaboutloss.org to share your story and follow us on social media for more updates. Together, we’re talking through the taboos.

My dad – my inspiring, brave hero

Rob wrote to Let’s Talk About Loss to share his story of dealing with his Dad’s brain tumour. We hope that this blog, like all of our blogs, helps support you if you are feeling confused and isolated in your grief. You are not alone. Contact us today to share your story or find local support.

My Dad had signed up for one gym class every day for a week (a 54 year old 6ft 8 giant on a mission). However, the first day he went he fell over and “twisted his knee”. I rang my Dad that night and he mentioned that he had fallen over at his first class and had to receive first aid. He laughed it off and said he would go to the doctors later in the week. On the 4th January 2017, he was diagnosed with a tumour in the left thalamus. It was a High Grade WHO grade 4 Globlastoma multiforme. At that point, deep down, we all knew it was going to be a long, hard battle.

Nevertheless, over the next few weeks Dad kept a positive mentality – something I will admire and remember for the rest of my life. No matter how bad the situation was, he was determined to give it a shot. He started his Chemo and Radiotherapy at The Christie in Manchester on 25th January and had daily working week treatment (Mon-Fri) until 7th March. Dad would go back and forth every day without fail.

My dad, my hero

Every day I spoke to him he would keep going, he would stay strong. My Dad was already my hero but now in this desperate time he became even more than that. In January me and my Dad went to a music concert at the Albert Hall in Manchester and to a Stoke City football match. All of this despite having started his daily treatment, when he was losing the ability to use his right side. He wasn’t going to give up and he was determined to do as much as he could.

After Dad finished his six weeks of daily chemo and radiotherapy, it was a waiting game for him and for us. Unfortunately, the treatment had taken its toll and he slept for long periods of the day. By April time, Dad went to Macclesfield Hospital where he was visited by close friends and family. This was such an important time for my Dad as it allowed him to say his goodbyes with dignity. A few weeks later, he was transferred to East Cheshire Hospice. A truly magical place that really did make Dad’s situation so much easier to deal with. The facilities were superb and the care he received was nothing short of outstanding. Dad eventually passed away peacefully on 11 May 2017.

My overarching lesson from my Dad’s death is that, it is important to remember how resilient and brave the person will be even as they face up to the reality of their situation. I will forever be proud of my Dad’s positive, determined outlook. It is a quality I will carry with me for the rest of my life. No matter how hard a situation is, maintaining an optimistic outlook will help you to stay strong.    

Rob Kruze

Have a story you would like to share? We want to talk about loss more – and we would love to publish your story so get in touch today.

Losing a parent – and what happened next

3rd April 2016.

Mum: I’m outside where we usually pick you up from uni, can you come to the car?

Me: What’s happened? You’re worrying me…

Mum: Just come to the car now.

I ran to the car as quick as I could, bearing in mind I was on the other side of campus. I rang several people, including my dad to see if anyone could tell me what was going on because I was freaking out. I rang him 3 times: your call can’t be connected.

I got to the car.

Mum: It’s your dad… he’s been in a motorbike accident.

Me: Is he alive?

She shook her head.

I was in so, so much shock and couldn’t get my head around what had happened, and this was before I even knew any of the details. Out of anything that I could have thought of at the time, the first thing that come to my head was, “I don’t wanna get depression.”

It’s been nearly two and a half years now, and I sit here and think to myself ‘how on earth am I dealing with this?’ I can’t believe I’m still at uni, still at work and generally getting on with my life and feeling like I’m coping relatively well. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of times when I have massively struggled and felt I would never come to terms with this, but those feelings do pass.

Everyone’s experience with grief is different and there is no right or wrong way to deal with things, but this is what I’ve learnt:

You never really get over it

There are situations everyone finds themselves in that you can ‘get over’, whether it’s breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, falling out with a friend or overhearing your colleague bitch about you for the copious amounts of tea you drink. However, after losing my dad I’ve realised that you don’t get over it, and you never will. You could see the same car they had drive past and for a split second you’ll wonder if it’s them. You could be out shopping and see a can of the deodorant they used to wear and it’ll remind you they’re not here anymore. I remember being at work once and seeing someone who had similar jeans to what my dad wore and I could not stop crying!

Trust me when I say it will hit you at the most random times, and as soon as you think you are getting over it, you feel like you are straight back to square one. But instead of getting over it, you just slowly learn to accept what’s happened and try to adapt to life without them. You will have those random reminders that get to you, but they do get easier and you do get used to them.

There’s no right way

Since the accident happened I have made a lot of friends and spoken to a lot of people who have lost parents, and I’ve learnt that everyone’s experiences and ways of grieving are different. Some people (me) will pretend it never happened and block it out, some will use social media to vent about how they feel and others might throw themselves into the gym or another hobby. But just because you aren’t dealing with it the same way as other people might, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it ‘wrong’. I was at university when my mum told me and I decided not to come home and just stay with my friends because I knew they would take my mind off it. At first I felt I maybe should’ve gone home, but my family understood I wanted to be surrounded by people who could take my mind off it.

After a year

Once you’ve gotten through the first year, you would’ve experienced many ‘firsts’ – your first Christmas and birthday without them, first Mother’s or Father’s day – and you will get a lot of people sending their condolences. As the years go on and more special occasions without them go on, you get less and less people who ask how you’re doing. At first it seems like because it’s been more than a year, people expect you to have gotten over it and be fine. It seems as if their life has gone on and therefore yours has as well and you should be okay. Which is not the case.

There isn’t a time limit on grieving. There isn’t a deadline in which you should be okay by. Just because your sibling may seem okay, it doesn’t mean you have to be the same. I had this problem quite a lot in the beginning and I felt like people had expectations of me to be fine to the point where I stopped telling people if I felt down about it, but I was just being stupid. My friends and family understand and will always always be there for me, even if it’s in 10 years’ time.

Jess Saunders

Jess writes: If you are struggling to talk to people about it, then there are a lot of people you can get in touch with. I’m part of a Facebook page called Way Teens & Pre-teens where people of similar ages who have lost parents can all talk to each other. 

Read the original post and more from Jess here.

If you need support, Let’s Talk About Loss is here to help. Get in touch today or find your local meet up here.

There is strength in weakness

It’s February – far past the socially acceptable time for me to write a reflection on 2018. This week was #TimeToTalk day but I’ve missed that, too. In fact, this blog has been sorely neglected in the last few months, and for those of you who have submitted pieces, or have been waiting expectantly for new posts, I am sorry for my silence.

The thing is, I have been feeling dangerously, scarily weak and unable – so I’ve slowed down. Not because I consciously recognised my suffering and decided to be kind to myself and accept my weaknesses (I wish!), but instead because I have felt completely unable to tackle the to-do list. To put in long hours behind the screen and work on Let’s Talk About Loss.

That is not because I’ve lost my passion (will I ever stop being ridiculously passionate about and dedicated to supporting young people who have been bereaved?) – it’s simply because I have had an incredibly hectic few months with lots of change, and I can barely catch my breath. In December, I got engaged, in January I moved to Bristol and started a new full-time job with the incredible charity The Prince’s Trust, and have been finding my feet with a new city, new friends, a new church, a new bus route – all at the same time as desperately missing those I have left behind in Nottingham. Oh, and the small task of planning a wedding!

The unending exhaustion

I am sure many of you who have experienced, or are still experiencing, mental health problems, know what I mean by the unending exhaustion. It’s so hard to describe. My colleagues ask how I am – can I really say “well I’m permanently tired, not because I’ve had a busy weekend but because my brain is battling constantly to process my grief that I still don’t fully understand, that catches me by surprise and sometimes completely immobilises me while at the same time making me more tired than I thought it was possible to be”… Can I say that? It doesn’t seem like a great conversation starter…

Instead, we hide how we are. We talk about our feelings on #TimeToTalk day but we forget to carry on talking, and we start bottling things up. We view everyone else’s 2018 highlights and we feel small, insignificant, like a failure in comparison. And most destructive of all: we think we are all alone. We make ourselves believe that no one else understands, or has ever experienced our feelings. We are weird, different, alone.

Of course that is not the end of the story. I cannot stop there, for it is fundamentally not true. However alone you feel, there are people who love you, care about you and want to listen to you. Despite your feelings of failure, you are hugely successful at being you (the best there has ever been and will ever be, in fact) and you are doing brilliantly.

At Let’s Talk About Loss, we know what it feels like. We’ve been there. We’ve experienced grief in so many forms – nothing shocks us, nothing is weird or strange, nothing is off limits. We’re a supportive, open, honest community of young people just like you who have been bereaved and need some friends around you to help you navigate the darkness and mess. We would love you to join us…

Looking back and moving forward

As I have said already – February is far too late to be writing a round up of 2018, but heck I’m in charge of this blog and if I want to write a 2018 highlights list, then I will! It’s only short though because I’m sure you already know everything that happened last year. Instead, I’ll focus on our big dreams and grand plans for 2019.

George Shelley: Learning to Grieve

When I first saw the email from the BBC about a new documentary they wanted me to be part of, I could not believe it. I was so excited, so terrified. I spent the next few days before the film crew arrived cleaning my house like I’ve never cleaned before. It was an incredible experience, and I am so thankful that Let’s Talk About Loss was profiled on the show in such a sensitive, positive way. George was the most incredible guy and I loved getting the opportunity to share some of my journey with him.

Hundreds of people emailed us after the show aired, and I’m still receiving emails to this day of people who have found Let’s Talk About Loss through the show. If you’re one of those people, welcome! We are so pleased that you have found this community and we hope that together, we can continue to talk through the taboos of loss and grief. As for 2019… BBC Breakfast sofa? This Morning with Holly and Phil? Another documentary? We shall see where life takes us…

Stories of pain, stories of hope

Thank you for all those emails I just mentioned. Thank you all for sharing your incredible stories with Let’s Talk About Loss. Sorry I haven’t been able to respond to them all yet – there have been thousands! I’ve been so inspired by people’s honesty and openness, and have felt constantly overwhelmed by how much strength and resilience young people have despite their weakness and brokenness.

In 2019, we want to think outside the box when we say we “talk about loss”. Not everyone is a natural writer – for many, writing a blog post is not their cup of tea or it feels really scary. So we’re thinking creatively about how we tell our stories of loss, and will be trialling different communication methods in three ways. Firstly, we’re holding a photography exhibition in Nottingham (we won funding from an amazing fund called Hard Heads and Hang Ups in 2018 to put it on!), where we invite young people across the country (and world?!) to submit images that tell their story of bereavement. There will be plenty more information about this coming really soon, so look out for that!

Secondly, we have big dreams to start a podcast! We’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline, and will be thinking about how this could practically could work, but we hope that in 2019, we will be able to start talking out loud, into your earphones and your airwaves, about what living with loss is like! And finally, we are launching our own range of bereavement cards! (eh up we’ve got a budding entrepreneur over here!) We know these cards will be an amazing way of supporting our friends who are really struggling, and need some genuine, heartfelt support – not a rubbish grey countryside scene or a cuddly bear with a heart eyes! Stay tuned for more updates as we develop (and then attempt to sell!) these bereavement cards.

Meet ups

Finally, because this blog post is getting quite ridiculously long, we want a little plug for our meet up groups! The Nottingham group continues to go from strength to strength, with new people joining every month, and in March they will celebrate their one-year anniversary (hopefully with a party!!). Our London groups, North and South, launched in style last year and held their first official meet up in January which was a roaring success. I am so proud of the amazing hosts, and can’t wait to see these groups grow! And at the end of February, a new group will be starting in Bristol, led initially by myself and hopefully by some amazing hosts as we grow. Exciting times!

We want meet ups everywhere in the UK. So many of you have got in touch from every corner of the country to ask for a local group, and some amazing people have offered to host. Could you host? Might you like to be in a meet up group in your local area? Get in touch! We will launch groups as soon as there are two hosts and two attendees in each area, so drop us a line today and let’s get talking about loss all over the UK.

Beth x

Thanks for reading this small essay and for sticking with me despite my inability to answer emails promptly. You’re all amazing and we are all in this together. For more regular updates from Let’s Talk About Loss, please follow us on social media – we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.