A year on.

I have to confess that I’m half cut. I’ve been out for a friend’s birthday party and drunk more wine than I’d usually go through so if there’s any spelling or grammar errors, I apologise. But I write better when I’m pissed. Or, more accurately, I write more honestly when I’m pissed. I wrote my dad a letter when I was pissed and he was dying. I’m much more honest when I’ve had a few and I’m typing, it feels like there’s just you and your writing there, no audience, no one you have to play to, just somewhere to write what you feel. And so here I am again, after a night filled with wine and other people’s problems to write it down again.

It’ been a year since my dad died at 58 of metastatic non small cell lung cancer. Well actually it’s been just over a year, May the 27th if you’re concerned with dates. The funny thing is that a year doesn’t seem the milestone that you think it will be. When someone dies unexpectedly and before their time, you grieve. This is the natural order of things. But in that grief, you look at ‘a year’ as some sort of pivotal date, like after that everything will be easier, you will no longer feel responsible for your mum, you will no longer feel like something is missing every time you go into their house, you won’t be hit with that sudden longing to go backwards to a time when they were there and you could see them. You think that at a year you reach some sort of acceptance with what has gone on. I don’t know why you’d believe that this marking of a calendar year would make the blindest bit of difference but you do. And the realisation that it doesn’t is pretty hard.

I still miss him. I still struggle to deal with my mum. I still find it the hardest thing in the work to ignore it when she says things designed to get at me and my brother because she’s hurting. Patience is not a virtue that has ever come naturally to me and the passing of a calendar year hasn’t changed this. I am a practical person, give me a practical problem and I will offer you seventeen solutions, stand a person in front of me crying and saying their life has fallen apart and I’ll shuffle about like a twat, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing and making everything worse. A year of people crying in front of me hasn’t, as it turns out, moulded me into Oprah Winfrey.

Tonight I went out for a friend’s birthday. She’s a very  old friend, in fact she’s my oldest friend, our mums made friends when they were pregnant and lived in the same street so we’ve been friends since before we could walk or talk. So inevitably our parents have been friends for that 32 years too. Since my dad died, relations between my mum and my friend’s mum have been more strained and less spontaneous than they used to be. I don’t know exactly why, maybe my mum resents that her husband died and her friend’s husband didn’t, who knows. But tonight, after we’d all had a few, my friend’s mum opened up to me and confessed that she felt hurt by the way my mum has acted, the way she’ s been avoiding her in recent times. She was also hurt that when my mum and me/ my bro had a bit of a set to the other week, we turned to another friend and not her for advice. And at that point my taxi arrived so I said I’d phone her tomorrow and arrange to go round for a brew and a proper chat. At which point my slightly more sober friend asked if i would please do that, so it must have been mentioned a bit round their house.

The upshot is this: A year on isn’t a magical date at which the grieving stops. It  isn’t a magical time at which any strained relations will suddenly be fixed either. All it is is the end of the ‘firsts’, first father’s day, first birthdy without him, first christmas, first 23rd December (his birthday), first anniversary. What I can say is that a year on I recognise that other people outside our immediate fmaily are hurting too. My friend’s mum is hurting, not just from the loss of him but the loss of her best friend and the potential loss of the closeness we all had before the lung cancer blew it all apart. I recognise that her husband has lost his best friend and that if you watch him at group parties you’ll see him wander aimlessly fron group to group, never settling, never quite fitting in because his wingman, the one he always chatted to, is gone now and you can’t replace 30 years of friendship and shared history in a heartbeat. I recognise that I now have a responsibiity to try and make  things easier for those I care about, which is why tomorrow I’ll do   what I said tonight I would do, I’ll ring my friend’s mum and go round for coffee to try and reassure her that everything will be ok. And it’s a lie. I don’t know whether it will or it won’t. All I know is that at some point around the diagnosis of cancer the roles were reversed and I became the responsible one, the one people round here turn to for answers about my family. I never asked for it, I didn’t want it but I’ve got it and now I have to try and make it ok for other people without any knowledge, training or aptitude. It’s not easy.

Disappointingly a year on isn’t a magic date. I wish it were. A year on and we, or at least my brother and I, have accepted what has happened and are trying to rebuild things but that doesn’t mean we don’t still hurt, or get angry, or feel like our foundations have been knocked. We do. But now we are starting to see that other people are hurting too and that brings its  own set of challenges and problems that have to be faced.



13 Responses

  1. I wish it did work that way… that after a year everything would feel normal and all right and acceptable. Sucks that it doesn’t. My father has been dead for 22 years now… and I still run into those moments where it feels like it’s just happened, and I can’t breathe or do anything but try my best not to cry.

    I am the same way as you when it comes to problems. I am pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) at finding solutions to anything that doesn’t have to do with PEOPLE (ie, emotions). When it comes to “sensitive” matters, I am complete shit.

    So I can sympathize, but other than that I have no idea what to say. I’m sorry you are hurting, and I am sorry that it’s been put upon you to help other people feel better when you aren’t feeling all that great yourself. I hope that there is some healing for you in the conversation tomorrow, too. xoxo

  2. Drunk or not, misspellings and all … this was very well said.

  3. Major life events change forever the fabric of families and relationships…..the sadness and reminders continue through life….my Dad died 40 years ago and occasionally something reminds me of him. The devastating sadness will diminish with time but the good memories won’t.

    • I hope not. I can’t remember what he sounded like, which bugs me, but I haven’t dared watch my wedding video with his speech on yet. I remember when my answerphone deleted the last voicemail he left me about a month after he died. I went ballistic! The good memories are gradually starting to take over from the sad ones, which is a relief but Father’s Day brought a few of the weird dreams back. I’m hoping that won’t be repeated next year.

  4. I’m still grieving for my daughter. It’s been more than 20 years since she died.

    I feel your pain and I know what you’re going through.

    • Losing a child must be unimaginably hard. In the bereavement top trumps that has got to kick everything else’s arse big time. I don’t suppose you’ll ever not grieve for her, you just get used to carrying it around and it gradually stops being at the front of your mind and gradually moves around so it’s behind the day to day shit. xxx

  5. I can’t imagine how unbelievably hard it must be navigating everything connected to your dad’s death but am sure your chat to your mum’s mate reassured her. xx

    • It’s a proper minefield. I can tell you. I didn’t imagine it would all get this complicated. Possibly because I didn’t ever spend any time imagining it at all, as you tend not to!

  6. A year. Yeah, that’s a tough one. Just this year, and it’s been several since my brother died, but just this year, I let the day come and go. I recognised the week, but not the day. It doesn’t hurt any less, but I think we just get better at dealing witth it. Worst part of it, yes there is a worst part to someone dying, it was a week before my wife and I celebrated our anniversary. We had his funeral on our anniversary. He was a right bastard, even till the end. 🙂

    • Ha! Like your sense of humour, see that’s the sort of thing that would make my dad laugh. So sorry about your brother, that’s awful, you never imagine your own generation going. I’m hoping that we’ll reach the point where the day isn’t such a big occasion anymore and we just spend that week celebrating what he meant and not the way he went.

  7. 4 1/2 years on and sometimes the loss of my Mum still takes my breath away – and I still sometimes think ‘I must call her … she’d love this’ only to remember again. But there are also moments of remembering the all good stuff, and the funny stuff and the quiet times. It doesn’t go away but it does get better. Anyway, I don’t really want it to go away altogether – that would feel wrong. Good luck with the friends and your Mum.

    • I also still think ‘ooh that’d make Adrian laugh’ and then remember that it won’t. Or see something and think I’d laugh about it with him. But it is getting a bit easier. I still get upset and I still miss him but the memories of the fun times and the laughs are starting to take over from the memories of the 8 weeks from when he was diagnosed to when he died. And apart from a few flashes, like me and The Brother sprinting down the glass corridor at Christies and tryinmg to stop him getting out of bed, and a proper cock up involving phoning his brother, most of the day he actually died has gone AWOL. This is no bad thing.

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