Getting by one day at a time. And not pushing old people off pavements.

You’ll have to all excuse the fact that this post is utterly disjointed, it’s more an attempt to work out what’s going on in my head by writing it down than any sort of cohesive point.

And so now the funeral is over, he’s interred in the churchyard and the headstone has been ordered. I’m back at work, as is my brother and my mum. It’s funny how quickly life gets back into the old routine and to be honest, this is the problem. It feels like the world is going on exactly as it did before, as if nothing has happened at all but it has. Once people have asked you the inevitable ‘how are you?’, with the pitying head tilt and sympathetic voice and have established that you’re not about to burst into tears every 3 minutes, they carry on exactly as they did before. This is not unnatural I suppose, their worlds haven’t been rocked in the slightest but mine has and it jars that they can be so contented and complacent when there’s a big hole in my world.

I think numb is wearing off. This is a shame because as it happens I was right, numb IS better than what comes after numb. What comes after numb is nasty and catches you at any moment when you’re not concentrating on something or keeping busy, when you’re driving somewhere and a song comes on the radio, when you see another stupid marketing email trying to sell you Father’s Day tat, when you’re trying to get to sleep. On the plus side, now the grief has started to kick in, the weird dreams (and believe me, some have been disturbing) about my dad dying have started to subside. This is a relief because I was becoming a little concerned I might be mildly insane. The really nasty ones are the ones where you dream that you thought he was dead but then he actually wasn’t. The disappointment being that you then wake up and for a moment think everything is fine, then the realisation dawns that it was just a dream, he IS dead and everything is still shit.

I feel like my brother and me were cheated. Mum told my brother that it’s not the same for us because losing a parent isn’t the same as losing a partner and she’s probably right, it most likely isn’t but her experience of losing her father isn’t the same as ours at all. Her father was 88 when he died, ours was 58. That’s 30 extra years she had, twice my lifetime and more than twice my brother’s. Think of all the things you can learn from your father in 30 years, all the advice you’d get, the support, the family dinners, Christmases, laughs. 30 years worth of father stuff that thanks to cancer, we won’t get, 30 years of watching my baby niece grow up that he won’t enjoy. Does that seem fair to you? Because it sure as shit doesn’t to me. I find myself looking at people like my stepfather-in-law, an odious 72 year old man that no one likes, who drinks like a fish and brings nothing useful to the world and wondering why he gets to live on but my dad, a man who everyone liked and respected and who did a job helping the people in society that no one wanted to see, gets taken. That fair? Nope. I find myself with an unreasonable dislike of anyone my age who has 4 grandparents and 2 parents left because I’ve got no grandparents and only one parent. And let’s not get onto my not terribly honourable urge to push old couples off kerbs simply because they managed to make it to ‘old’. I should point out now that I haven’t actually pushed any old people off kerbs, I just want to. Which granted, is not a great deal better.

Then we get to the stupid things that people say to you.

“Your father wouldn’t want you to be sad” – well firstly, I think he’d probably be at least a little bit hacked off if he kicked the bucket and none of us gave a shit. Secondly, if what he wanted was that easy to bring to pass then he wouldn’t have died in agony of metastatic lung cancer 8 weeks after diagnosis would he? Now fuck off.

“Your mother is still young, she’ll be able to find someone else” – he’s been in the ground less than a week so I have to award you full marks for utter insensitivity. Well done. Now fuck off.

“He’s with god now” – well that’s lovely but I don’t want him with god, I want him with us. And given that a good man who was loved has just been felled like a sodding tree in a matter of weeks, culminating in a death to rival anything I’ve seen in films for unpleasantness, what exactly makes you think that I am currently receptive to ideas about god’s greatness? Now fuck off.

“It’s a blessing that he didn’t suffer” – wrong, he did. We just told you he didn’t because it was easier than ploughing through the same crap time after time and then spending an hour trying to assuage your sadness when we were tired. It’s lung cancer, a quick trip onto google would have enlightened you that it’s no walk in the park. Or walk anywhere in fact, given that the tumour in his spine compressed the spinal column and another one ate half his pelvis. Now fuck off. Before I grace you with the rest of the stuff we didn’t tell you.

I think I might have reached the stage of the grieving process that they refer to as ‘anger’…

I suspect we’ll get more trite and insensitive comments over time. If I get any particularly good ones I’ll put them on here.

In the meantime, we’re trying to get by one day at a time and it isn’t easy but keeping busy seems to be the key. And to that end, I shall now go and do some work before I get fired and am then left with all day to ponder death and unemployment.

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16 Responses

  1. Know that you are in the company of sympathetic friends, Vicola, who know that this is one of those times when true friendship is shown just by being there to listen, and saying nothing, because there is nothing to say that will lessen the pain. Only time will do that.

  2. Lordy I remember that bloody head tilt so well. No platitudes here love – am thinking of you.

    • The head tilt is a nightmare. As is the fact that the woman on reception keeps looking at me pityingly, smiling in a ‘you’re bereaved and delicate’ sort of way and asking me in a soft voice how I’m doing. The urge to poke her in the eye is almost overwhelming.

  3. Some of the things people say are really, really idiotic, aren’t they. The worst/best thing about them is that the people thing they’re being all nice and sympathetic, but then they come out with literally the only things that would make us want to hit them over the head with a brick.

    I got a super specific one when my dad (a doctor) died. “He did God’s work when he was alive, now he’s doing God’s work at his side.” I’ll never forget that one. 1. My dad was an atheist through and through. 2. I’m sure there are a lot of sick people up in heaven just gagging for a doctor. 3. Wouldn’t that be like, the opposite of heaven for a GP? Seriously, WTF.

    Looking forward to hearing more dumb-ass ones, but not pleased that you have to listen to them!

    • I didn’t know your dad had died too. I’m sorry for that, it’s really shitty. I truly cannot believe some asshat said that to you. Really, that’s something really special and I think possibly takes the ‘crassest comment EVER’ award. What the fuck would he need to be working for in heaven, if indeed heaven exists? Surely everyone’s fixed by the time they get there? Why would it be heavenly for him to not even get to retire if he’s there? And what kind of mindless tit even contemplates saying that to someone’s daughter? Honestly, sometimes people amaze me.

      • Hey Vicola – yeah, my dad died when he was 68 (back when I was in grad school in 1996) – completely unexpected (like within a week) and i wasn’t there (being in grad school at the other side of the country) – and nobody told me until the day before (my family is all messed up) and i couldn’t afford to get to his funeral on time – i would have given everything to have been there, but every year, on his birthday, i write him a letter and read it out loud (it helps…) – i even dream i’m talking to him in my sleep and i’m at his house – i’d like to think he’d like my life, but what i don’t want to think is that he’s somewhere working his ass off in some sort of heavenly clinic for eternity!

        i really can’t believe somebody actually said your mother will be able to find someone else! – did you have a drink if your hand? you should think about perfecting your acting skills *oops, i just got pushed by someone behind me, which accidentally caused me to spill my red wine all over your top* response – at least you could get a giggle out of it! – have a think:)

  4. Some of those comments are unbelievable. I’m just sorry you didn’t get another 30 years or more with your dad.

    • Me too, there were things he hadn’t had time to teach me yet that I wanted to know and things we hadn’t done or seen or laughed at. Sometimes life is horribly unfair and cancer is no respecter of whether a person is good or bad.

  5. I understand. Probably. I can’t begin to describe how I felt when my daughter died although I can vividly remember how I felt. Even now I wouldn’t be able to describe how I feel about it. Yes, the numbness does wear off. And it feels… unjust, that life carries on. I understand grief and I’m here if you need a shoulder.

    • I didn’t know your daughter had died, I’m sorry for that, that truly is utterly utterly shit. No one should ever have to bury their child. I guess my loss is different to yours in that although Ade died before his time, he was a parent and it is more in the natural order of things than your daughter’s death. The thing that really annoys me is the world moving on thing, it’s like the workd hasn’t noticed that something has gone badly wrong. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this ‘everything is as it was’. I feel like the entire universe should be taking time to acknowledge that something bad happened and it hasn’t. It’s making me angry, or as angry as you can get when you’re tired all the time. I didn’t realise until this happened how many people I know have been hit by an unexpected death, it’s far more common than I ever realised. All these people out there hurting and I didn’t even realise. My friend has informed me that Father’s Day and Ade’s birthday will always be bad days. Ade’s birthday is 23rd December. Christmas is going to be a real sack of wank this year. Thanks for the offer of a shoulder, it’s comforting to know that there are other people out there who understand how bad it is that I can speak to.

  6. I don’t blame for wanting to smack people in the head. I want to smack them in the head on your behalf.

    Can I?

  7. Some people are just plain stupid. Most of the time they want to say things to make themselves feel better with no thought to the effect it will have on you. My dad’s favourite came about a month after my mum died, “I suppose you’re over it now?”. I think his response ended with something like your “Now, fuck off.”

    I hope the head tilting and the banal comments end soon. My offer of someone to chat to is always there, if talking to a ‘stranger’ will help at all.

    • Dear god, after a MONTH?? That’s truly insensitive. Well done that asshat. I’m amazed your dad didn’t lamp them. My mum has already been told that when she chooses to move someone else into the house me and my brother will have to just live with it. He was only interred a week ago today, and that comment came from her brother. Who to be fair is no stranger to the tactless comment. He’s nuts, always has been.
      Thanks for the offer to chat, next time I’m down in the wilds of South London visiting the brother and his lovely family I may just take you up on that.

  8. sorry for all the human stupidity all around you Vicola. and that I only caught up with your life now. I will drink a shot of something to your dad tonight. I hope he was not a teetotaller, but if he was, then I’ll drink it to you. I know I’m safe there at least.
    Seriously, my condolences. On a separate note, if you do get to London at any time do say hello if you want, I’d be happy to get you and the hubby a round of drinks.

    • Cheers G, I shall let you know the next time I’m kicking about. My dad was not in any way shape or form a teetoller, in fact quite the opposite. He’d cut down a bit in recent times but for quite a while if he wasn’t a high functioning alcoholic he was certainly borderline. He was always quick off the mark to get the bevvies in. We quaffewd a bottle of his eye wateringly expensive red wine as a toast the night he died. As we hadn’t eaten much and the adrenaline was wearing off it’s fair to say we were all a bit pissed. …

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