Grieving process- mental wellbeing

7 Stages of the Grieving process

Shock or Disbelief can be the first reaction to news that a loved one has passed. Many people report numbness where they don’t feel anything in the first few moments. This experience can be surprising to many individuals because may not immediately sense the devastated feelings they would expect to feel with such news.
Denial doesn’t so much occur in the grieving process when the mourner “forgets” that their loved one has passed away.Denial is related to how one expresses their emotions surrounding grief. For example, a person who continually says, “I’m fine,” after a significant loss is likely denying his or her feelings.  It may also be true that the bereaved person does not know how to share their feelings with those closest to them.
Anger is not a universal emotion during the grief process. While it is not unusual to experience anger and many other feelings after a significant loss, it is not required. Some people become angry at themselves or the person who left them or simply at the situation they are left to face alone.
Bargaining refers to attempts to make a deal, often with God, to change the situation. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross noted bargaining in her observations of individuals dying from a terminal illness. Bargaining may not be so frequent when a loved one has died, but is likely present in other losses such as divorce, break up, job loss, home loss or other transition, where there is some hope the situation could be changed by an all-powerful God.
Guilt can occur when the bereaved have regrets about things they did or said before the loved one died or left them. There is a wish to turn back the clock and do some things differently.
Depression is often used to describe the profound sadness that is a natural human reaction to grief and loss. The symptoms of grief are very similar to those of clinical depression.
Acceptance and Hope. In the last stage of the 7 stages of grief one arrives at the belief that although life will never be the same again after the loss, there is hope that life will go on.

Grieving Process- mental wellbeing

Not everyone will experience these 7 stages of grief or like me it may take a long time.

A Fathers Love

On June 10th  2010 my dad died in hospital. Seven years have passed now, but it still feels like yesterday and I can honestly say I still think about him every day. The shock and devastation hit the whole family extremely hard. I had to deal with so many emotions at this time but the uppermost was complete disbelief.

I kept expecting to wake up from a bad dream and see him sat there in his favourite rocking chair, probably with a sarcastic comment about how long I’d spent in bed. It hurt me that I hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye and I was angry with God for robbing me of this opportunity. I also felt an unbelievable sense of guilt that I hadn’t told him how much I loved him. I guess that’s the cruelty of life, it all happened so quickly. He was taken into hospital with a suspected stomach infection and sadly never came out again.

I always viewed him as such a strong person, growing up I’d look up to him and even thought of him as invincible. For a long time after his death, all I had etched on my mind was a picture of him led in the intensive care unit with countless wires and tubes hooking him up to a machine. That was the only time I’d seen him looking so fragile and it wasn’t the way I wanted to remember him.

I never cried for my dad, not at his funeral and not anytime afterwards. At the funeral people who barely knew him were crying. I remember thinking there must be something seriously wrong with me. Was I some kind of emotional cripple, not to have shed a single tear on this day, of all days?This lack of reaction allowed me to continue to function properly and make sense of things. Inevitably I took on the role of chief organiser. At least this way I felt I was being in someway useful.

I was happy to be the strong one for as long as my family needed me to be. I believed I would grieve in my own time. The sad truth is I’ve never properly grieved for my dad. I’m desperate too, but don’t know how. I hope people realise, this doesn’t mean I love him any less. I miss him terribly every day and still feel a large emptiness, which will never be filled.

One thing that helps immensely with the whole grieving process  is that I’m able to wear his necklace. Every morning when I put it on I say ‘Good morning dad’ and tell him what we’ve got planned for the day. Every night when I take it off, I tell him I love him (Something I wasn’t able to do when he was alive). I take great comfort in knowing where ever I go, he goes too, and I’ll always wear his chain with pride.

My dad grew up as an only child in a strict family. I don’t know much about this stage of his life, as he didn’t like to talk about it, even with my mother. What I do know is he was treated harshly and unfairly disciplined, He was rarely praised and constantly put down, which is a lousy combination! Being a parent never came that naturally to him, which is not to say he wasn’t a great dad, but he did struggle with the emotional side of things, almost certainly because he didn’t receive it from his own parents. So we didn’t get much in the way of hugs and kisses or that much in the way of approval from him, but we had our mum for that side of things. We did receive a big cuddle from him every New Year. I know he loved us unconditionally, he just showed it in different ways. To put it simply, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his family. Having worked a fifty-hour week, most weekends he would find himself taking me to Table Tennis tournaments all over the country. We were often setting off as early as four o clock in the morning and not getting back home until late Sunday evenings. Even though I know that deep down he had very little interest in the sport. All he ever stipulated was that the guesthouse had a bar. As long as this was the case, he wouldn’t moan about anything. We could drag him off to anywhere in the country. I actually think he enjoyed some of our weekends away, especially twice a year when we got to go to Blackpool. Mum would come with us and we would stay in the same lovely little hotel on the sea front. Dad particularly liked this one because there was always a live music act on and he loved nothing more than listening, whilst unwinding with a pint in his hand. It was always nice to see him so relaxed and contented.

When he wasn’t away with me he spent much of his spare time watching my brother play cricket. This involved sitting on the side-lines, in often freezing conditions, and cricket can be a long game! If he knew it was important to us then it would be important to him too. He showed amazing commitment to his family.

Dad had no time for misbehaving kids; in fact they frustrated the hell out of him. He would soon lose his patience and blame the parents. He put it down to lack of discipline and found it unforgivable when they failed to control their kids. In his eyes there was no excuse for this. In contrast when we were out with our parents we always behaved impeccably. If in a pub or restaurant we would sit quietly and not move a muscle until we were given permission. Whether out on a bus or in a supermarket shopping, whilst other kids were screaming and being disruptive, we would remain quiet and as good as gold.

Although he never smacked us, he had a certain presence and a way of looking at us that would immediately demand his respect. You could call it respect or you could call it fear but either way we were terrified of the consequences of misbehaving, especially in public.

As long as we abided by his rules, he was actually a lot of fun and I have many happy childhood memories of him playing in parks with us, taking us swimming and clowning around on the beach on family holidays.

Dad saw Christmas, as another chance to show us how much he loved us, he always managed to make it a magical time. Even working on a shoestring budget we were always spoilt with sacks full of presents. He embraced the opportunity to bring the whole family together for a big slap up meal. We would all wear party hats, pull crackers and play silly games, and he would relish being the host.

As a child I wasn’t always able to relate to my dad but I always felt greatly protected by him. It’s only as I grew up into adulthood that our relationship became much stronger. We discovered we were very much on the same wavelength and had the same dry sense of humour. We both took high delight in winding my brother up, in particular about his beloved Manchester Utd. He used to refer to us as Laurel and Hardy, as we were like a comedy duo. I’d prefer to think of us as two peas in a pod.

I was able to see him in a completely different light as he used to take me to the club for a pint and a game of snooker. This soon became our Saturday teatime ritual. After a few beers he would let his guard down and I got to see glimpses of a more sensitive side. Every year in the weeks surrounding Christmas, I would become his drinking buddy in the house as well. He would wait for my mum and brother to go to bed and get the whisky bottle out. it was round about now that the philosophical dad would come out. He would look up at the night sky and start musing about how vast the universe was and pondered where we all came from. I learnt how fascinated he was with all the stars.

This was a special time that just dad and I shared and these are the memories that will always be most precious to me and help me with the grieving process.

Looking back, there’s so much about my dad that makes me smile, I could easily write a full book on him. I will try to sum it up briefly.

He was one of the most honest people I knew, he would tell people exactly what he thought, whether they were ready for it or not! This painful honesty could at times be construed as tactless, but at least you knew where you stood with him.

In over thirty years of marriage I never heard him and my mum have a cross word with each other, he loved to spoil her and would do so with constant romantic gestures. Even though he liked to adopt a tough guy demine he was secretly a big softy at heart.

As a child my brother broke his leg. He was given exercise regimes to assist with his recovery. Every night dad would get home from work and take him to the local swimming baths and help him with his exercises. Over time he could visibly see improvements, as the leg began to strengthen, until eventually he was able to walk again.

If my dad was still around today I think he’d find my illness extremely difficult to comprehend. He hated seeing any of his family suffering but I think he would especially struggle with the fact that with depression there is no obvious fix and he wouldn’t know how to help.

Right up until the end of his life dad was still protecting us. He didn’t want us to see him ill in a hospital bed. He made my mum promise to keep us away. It’s  testament to his character that even when in pain and at his most vulnerable, he was still able to put his family first.

2 thoughts on “Grieving process- mental wellbeing”

  1. beautifully written Shaun. I lost my dad suddenly nearly 3yrs ago now. He too struggled with my mental illness but will always remember when he asked me when I was last off sick from work how I was doing. That meant everything to me as I know how much it took him to ask xxxx

  2. Shaun I can relate to so much of what you have written.My dad died suddenly at work when I was barely 20.So much left unsaid.You have expressed yourself so well, so much credit to you. JohnV

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