Lara and her sister having fun with their dad

No right way to grieve

In 2020, Lara lost her dad to Bowel Cancer. Here, Lara shares her thoughts and experience of her grieving process with us. She takes a look at her personal relationship with loss and grief, what she’s learnt from her dad’s death and what she wants other people who are grieving to know.

In this blog:

Overview

Death isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It’s the one event, in a world of impermanence, that is completely, and utterly, permanent. As humans, we’re not used to it. As creatures of habit, we resist change in every form. We take a week to adjust when we get a bad haircut; let alone to what happens when, inevitably; our entire world is flipped upside down. Death is the (very large) elephant in the room that we often feel uncomfortable talking about despite the fact it affects all of us, and everyone around us. Sometimes suddenly, and other times with warning. Death, illness, or suffering doesn’t give, even the most honourable of individuals, the benefit of the doubt. There are no winners or losers. Our mortality is something we all have in common and a fate we all must face, head-on, at some point in our lives.

Losing dad

At the age of 21, I experienced quite a shift in how I viewed death, loss, and grief. Fortunately, prior to this rather poignant part of my life, the closest thing to me I’d ever lost was my hamster (RIP, Linny). Therefore, Linny aside, I’d always been sheltered from the need to dwell on the ‘sad stuff’. However, as my dad received a six-month prognosis with bowel cancer, reality hit – hard. I sat by his bedside contemplating how on earth I could possibly go on to live the full and happy life I had once envisioned. At that point, as I spiralled into helplessness, my future looked bleak. I ruminated over my (entirely hypothetical) wedding, and how my dad wouldn’t be there to do a speech or walk me down the aisle. I brooded on the idea of my children never being able to hear their grandfather’s voice, or sound of his laugh. And I moped about the man (a lucky soul, may I add) I’ll marry one day, who will never get the privilege of asking for my father’s blessing.

I had a one-track mind, completely blindsided by self-pity and despair. Until, of course, I expressed how I felt to the man who was in fact faced with the approaching death sentence. Ironic, I know. As my father listened to the weeps and desperate longing for our cards to be dealt differently, he was patient. He waited. He could see the pain, and he felt guilty. But he knew. He knew the strength I had within me to see the future in a different light. He could see me, in 10 years’ time, thriving. And he knew, that in some capacity, he would be there to witness that too. That’s the knowing I cling onto now.

Lara and dad

Dealing with grief two years on

Two years later, I can see the glimmer in my father’s eyes, and can feel his effervescent wisdom seeping through every pore of my body. That’s why, in those moments where I miss him inconceivably, I feel an overwhelmingly reassuring strength within me. It almost feels offensive to ‘miss’ his physical presence in the way of a laugh, conversation, or hug, as these things are fleeting moments in time and space. What isn’t fleeting is the momentous, timeless impact my father’s death has had on how I live my life, now. It has enriched every single aspect of my life – from my physical, to my mental, emotional, and spiritual being. It has made me feel the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs. It’s allowed me to tap into the technicolour of life.

Lara and her family

Finding joy in grief

My point is that death is not the be all and end all. It doesn’t have to cast a dark cloud of misery on the rest of your ever-so-short existence. There are gifts that come with death, loss, and grief that you must, and I emphasis must, capture like an innocent child chasing the most beautiful, delicate butterfly that has ever caught their eye. The multitude of emotions you feel, from the depths of your being, once someone you love dies is undoubtedly bittersweet. There are times you feel numb, and others overwhelmingly grateful and at peace. There’ll be moments you want to curl up and shut the curtains, and others where you want to share every piece of yourself with the world, with expansiveness and love.

All in all, there is no right way to grieve. There is no shame in feeling the lucky dip of emotions you may experience on any given day, week, or month. It’s become apparent to me, over the past two years, that my ever-increasing happiness is a shock to those who don’t know me so well. After all, my dad died. My sibling’s dad died too. My mum lost a husband. My grandparents lost a son. My aunties lost a brother. There’s a whole family of people who are grieving. However, to me, grieving isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For me, grieving has equated to growth, connection, and contentment.

Grief as a gift

Grief has allowed me to stop and think about what I truly value in life; and how I consciously want to exist in the world going forward. It’s given me permission to let go of what no longer serves me and embrace what and who I feel is worth spending my time and energy on. It’s gifted me with a divine authenticity and an increasing ability to not care about how others view my life. Most of all, it’s made me feel like I’m living the life my father would want me to live, and for that he’d be extremely proud. If that means I show up as ‘too happy’, or ‘too put together’ or driven, then so be it. I know. He knows. Nothing else matters.

So, my advice is, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Don’t waste your time dwelling on whether you’re ‘too happy’ or ‘too sad’ or whatever else you feel like you’re experiencing wrong. There is nothing, I repeat nothing, wrong with you or how you’re experiencing grief. You’re not different, or special. You’re just human. No matter how long it’s been, or how raw these feelings are, you’re exactly where you need to be. You’re feeling exactly what you need to be feeling, right now. Stay true to yourself, and honour your own, incomparably unique, grieving process. Trust that knowing within you, and you’ll find your way.

About the author:

Lara is an author who’s written a personal memoir: From Prognosis to Peace: Navigating Grief Through Discovery, Gratitude and Healing.

Buy Lara's book here

Found this blog interesting?

Why not share with your friends and family on social media

Share on Facebook