Bad Todays, Good Tomorrows

I know my friends, family and people I’ve grown up with have had days like today this year, so I wanted to write to you about mine. It’s been 3 years to the day since I last held my dad’s hand. That thought has pervaded my mind a lot today…whilst I was taking the register or waiting for one of my classes to settle down it came up and punched me in the throat. Coughing it back down wasn’t easy and being the fragrant crier that I am, I’d have much rather have had a sob (I’m not sure it would have done much for my street cred with the kids though).

My dad used to ask me to hold his hand when we crossed the road to protect me right up until I was 16….after that I think it was more for his safety. I’d spent years telling him it was embarrassing or begrudgingly making contact with an elbow if we’d had an argument. The last time I held his hand all I could think about was all the times I’d resented all the hand-holding. I’d have done anything to feel him squeeze back. And so, on the 16th of April, unlike many of the other days each year, disturbing and sad thoughts come to me, uninvited. Today’s not just the 3rd anniversary of dad passing, it’s also the 4th of his terminal diagnosis – I know…a huge bastard. I’d really like to have pulled the duvet over my head this morning and re emerged on the 17th but it’s also been the first day back after the Easter holidays at school – I must have been a massive shit in a past life to deserve this combination. That’s really the kicker with grief, it’s uncontrollable and difficult and you don’t always get to take days off as an adult to deal with it.

The more days, months and years that go by the more we forget the dates of those others have lost. I’ve found myself having forgotten the anniversaries of my friends parents passing. It feels so awful at the time, as you’d love to have been able to give them support. But from the other side, I’m really glad it’s been my piece of information for the day. I deliberately made it so – It’s given me time for quiet reflection with some really beautiful weather. That’s often the blessing the 16th of April bestows upon me.

Whilst I really cannot say enough, how important it is that we talk more about our grief, I take a lot of comfort from privacy. On my way back from my easter break with family, I had a nice long cry along a big expanse of motorway (It’s nice to have an ugly cry without worrying you’re making everyone around you feel helpless/repulsed). Still….I’m trying to strike a healthy balance.

By writing today, I hope I make it clear that once you have been through grief it does change your life beyond repair….but that doesn’t mean it can’t be healed into something just as meaningful and happy as it was before. By confronting the most horrible feelings of guilt and desperation on these days and reaching out to our friends and family we are not only serving ourselves – The conversation spreads. We will all be affected by this at sometime so, if you have been able to listen to someone who has been touched by bereavement, you may be able to forgive yourself on your 16th of Aprils.

Today, I forgive myself for nearly crying in front of year 8’s. I also forgive myself for thinking there would be anything wrong with that. I hope by sharing these bumps in the road, as they come, you find the inspiration to share your struggles with someone else. It’s like that pass on the kind gesture thing…but there’s no free kit-kat attached. So now that I’ve got all of that off my chest and taken a procrastination walk in the sun. I’ve really got to get down to lesson planning. I hope to write more regularly but as has already been the case this year, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I hope this post was of some use to you.

Enjoy the sunshine.
Prudence x

Father Christmas, the bottomless glass of port and ghosts of Christmas Past.

Merry Christmas! That’s right – The blog is back (finally) and just in time for a quick festive post before you all fall into your food comas or cheeseboard hangovers. It’s nothing too deep or inspiring but Christmas is not always the most wonderful time of the year and I cannot begin to explain the kind of therapy sharing good memories provides.

I haven’t written for a while because becoming a maths teacher is far more brain/body/time consuming than I had realised, though I won’t apologise  – that’s something I’ll be talking about in my next post. This term I’ve had the absolute pleasure of being a form tutor for year 7 so I thought I’d round off my year with some Christmas activities. The one that inspired this post was “What does Christmas mean to you?”. Some said Christmas was about the presents, others about family and one child after my own heart said “THE FOOD MISS!” – I quite agree.

Following our talks about this time of year and hearing about all of their hopes, thoughts and wishes, I haven’t been able to shake the nostalgia their excited little faces bought back to me. So what does Christmas mean to me?? and…I know…Where are we headed with this one?

Well… I have been blessed in my 25 years to have spent every one of my Christmas’ with some absolute crackers. When I was little my grandparents, aunts and uncles shaped the day. Particular memories to note are synchronising Furbies with Grandma – Peak 90’s fun; watching countless family members put away an absolute mountain of cheese and wondering why the red stuff made everyone so loud. But for all those who I have shared Christmas with, there is always one who comes to mind first. Let me present to you – My dad – The embodiment of my Christmas past, present and future.

My favourite memories of Christmas and the favourite parts of my-christmas-self are without a doubt a gift from my dad. He was by no means perfect and by no means the big merry man you might imagine would inspire such fond thoughts. He was merry…often on port…and he was a big lover of food, laughter and ME (a man of great taste). Dad introduced me to the finer things at Christmas 70’s revival Prawn cocktail starters, Only fools and horses Christmas Specials, Morcambe and Wise, The Royle Family, port, Blackadder, really stinky cheese, The Vicar of Dibley, opening a cheeky present on Christmas eve and retiring to bed after cooking so you don’t have to be sociable. Okay so…maybe we didn’t have the classiest Christmas’ but Christmas memories are absolutely my best memories with my Dad. Even in our worst years  – when I was a grumpy teenager and his health was declining, we’d eat like kings and sit on his bed watching some inappropriate comedy Mum definitely didn’t approve of. I particularly remember his face as I opened presents – especially the one he’d handpicked for early opening. I think he was more excited for me than I was for myself and it’s moments like that where I felt whole and loved and absolutely ready for a whopper of a selection box.

On the 25th December every year I try to become everything dad was. I hope one day I can be half the cook he was, have half the sense of humor and be able to hold down half of the port. When mum heads off to Midnight mass, instead of sat next to him laughing or snoring…or eating – I will remember him…and I will miss him dearly.  This time of year is especially hard when we cannot spend it with those we love most. It is hard to laugh fully, eat heartily and share merrily. Christmas can be desperately lonely – whether you are surrounded by many people or otherwise. I believe those we grieve for are only really gone when we stop remembering them. An almost impossible feat. So if you feel sadness this year – you are not alone. Allow yourself to feel it without judgement. Give yourself some time to grieve if you need to; to cry, but then remind yourself that Christmas is about the food, the laughter and those you love. So laugh without reason, eat without consideration of that waistband and make memories without guilt. I would give anything to hug my dad tonight and watch something ridiculous on TV but I will settle for the wonderful memories I get to keep and now that Santa mysteriously doesn’t visit anymore I guess i’ll treat myself to a carrot and a tipple.

My dad’s parting advice for his grandson’s at Christmas is something I like to remember and something I will tell my kids in Christmas’ future – One of life’s most valuable presents – True wisdom: Brush your teeth. Be lucky. Be happy.

So there you go…

If you need to talk this Christmas reach out to your loves ones, they want your happiness as much as they need their own and if you can’t face talking to those you love… you can always chat to me. I promise to listen as best as one can with a snowball in hand and cry with/for you – I’m really very good at that given the opportunity.

Hope to write again soon. Best wishes for a happy, hearty and peaceful Christmas to you all.



It’s just that time of the Mourning

You may have noticed a large void in the shape of missing posts throughout August AND now part of September. So why the long wait? Is this to be the normal schedule now?! Well…maybe but I certainly hope not.

I’ve truly missed this. Writing and creating this blog is something I’m genuinely proud of (no matter how humble the fruits have been so far). But the truth is that I’ve just been too content HOW UNBEARABLE OF ME!! So there’s the headline Hold onto the hope of happiness —  Nothing stays the same forever, no matter how bad things get. I believe that when happiness comes your way you should grab it with both hands and try not to let it go.

Writing The Good Grief Blog is, in part, a product of some wallowing. When I have been stuck in rough patches, writing notes for posts has been a wonderful kind of therapy. For now though, life is offering me a large platter of things to be grateful for and I’m thoroughly digging in. This means I’m not really in the right frame of mind to put these notes together. Anyone in need of this project; it’s resources and my very limited experience, deserves more than a quick half an hour of typing to make up the numbers. I’m aware that moments of vulnerability are only ever around the corner. Imminent changes in my life are sure to evoke new thoughts to reflect upon.

This period has proved to me that through grief normality can be recovered. Moreover it reminds me of how we may learn to talk more openly. It is really all about timing. I remember “saving up” conversations that I wanted to have with friends, sometimes just for 24 hours, to avoid rehashing the same problems several times over.There are very few times you can repeat the nub of the problem: “I’m irretrievably sad” before the person that’s gracious enough to hold you whilst you convulse runs out of things to say. That definitely doesn’t mean that you should pass up the opportunity to drench their nicely ironed apparel with your salty tears spread the misery. In fact, It’s imperative you do. However, I found saving some thoughts for later, when I could better put into words how I was feeling, gave me much better closure on some topics and made my friends feel somewhat more useful.

We cannot always choose a convenient time to share our  struggles. I was offered bereavement counselling by the hospice that took care of my dad in his final days. As I needed this support so soon after my dad’s passing to prepare me for sitting my finals, I did not have the full glory of hindsight to cover everything. I feel that I would very much benefit from more counselling in the near future  to reflect more completely.

Talking to you, my family and my friends has without doubt accelerated me past the very raw stage. I now feel it’s time to celebrate the positive parts of my life with the people that make them so. I no longer feel regulary talking about the past is productive. At this point, I feel everyone in my life knows where I’m at with the most recent loss of my dad and I’m more than happy to talk openly with them. A counsellor is trained to help you develop your thoughts as they come to you and I feel when I have enough saved up, both financially and in terms of material to talk about, I’ll take the opportunity to uphold the happiness I’ve been blessed with.

I guess the issue of inconvenient timings may begin to explain why grief is still kept behind locked doors, though I’d urge you all to be more open about your experiences. It can feel a bit pathetic to cry into a cup of tea, lamenting over  the loss of your favourite goldfish but the feelings we have for anything/anyone who gave us love are far from “pathetic”.

So there we go, a very short and thoroughly unsatisfying TGGB fix. By their nature, grief, sadness and vulnerability cannot be plopped onto a calendar. As soon as I can organically share I will, but I clearly cannot promise a constant schedule.

If you would like to see more from this project please do get involved and write. I am only too aware that my experience cannot offer everything to everyone. Take your time with memories they are precious and they are yours before anyone else’s. Only give up what you feel ready to, because taking those first steps into the irrationally “taboo” can be rather scary. You are completely at the mercy of this audience, but I have been showered with love and respect since beginning this project; a gift that I am so humbly grateful for.

Prudence x

Lifting the Lid

This July will see me begin my migration across the country. New home, new career, same old (but exceedingly lovely) boyfriend and a lot to look forward to. The excitement is, of course, mixed with quite a lot of fear. Whilst packing up as much of my life into boxes as possible, it’s only too easy to think of those that cannot share in my successes. They have after all played such a heavy role. It’s maybe harder to accept, acknowledge and grow with that fact. Momentarily all progress with recovery and, indeed packing, is lost.

The notion that grief can or should be hidden away; that it is an emotion so scary we should pack it away in a box and place it to the back of our consciousness is so easy to hold on to. Shutting out our feelings, however, is not a solution. At some time or other that little box, bulging at the seams with confusion, anger and hurt will eventually break open, flooding uncontrollably into every part of your life. Prince Harry opened up in an interview only months ago about the grief that had engulfed him in his 20s – a torrent that he had kept at bay since he had lost his mother at the age of 12.

One memory in particular highlights the struggle that I had with opening up around grief, even as a footloose and fancy-free crier. Whilst I was studying towards my degree, I vividly remember learning that someone I had gone to school with had passed away. At this point my dad was in-bed-all-day kind of ill. I used to go into his room and make sure he had everything, whilst I was taking breaks from exam revision. We’d usually chat about something fairly inane because quite frankly, acknowledging that he was dying wasn’t something either of us was really up for. That day in particular, boxing up all of the worry and emotion finally backfired. I took him the obligatory 1000th cup of tea of the morning and a pile of chocolate digestives, hoping I could do a quick drop and leave. My eyes were red and stinging – god forbid I should cry in front of my dad. A true sign that my thoughts weren’t really in order. Luckily, my emotions betrayed my warped judgement. I started to have a good old cry into his tea and curled up on the bed beside him. I told him that a buoyant, bright and brilliant boy from school had his life cut short, unjustly. My dad with what little energy he had left put his head on mine and cried with me. I’m not sure either of us really knew the complexity of the grief we were going through or who we were really crying for most, but nevertheless we let it happen. That is one of the purest memories of grief I have. Sharing pain, regret and sorrow with someone I loved and not having to hide whatever was going on inside. Before and after that day I found myself stalling outside of his bedroom door. I was half hoping I’d find the strength to go in and talk to him about how I didn’t know what to do anymore, ultimately knowing that I’d just drop in the cup of tea and sit down to watch another friends rerun.

I guess none of us really know how to cope with grief.  I can’t honestly tell you now, having been through it umpteen times, that I’m much more clued up. I certainly know that when the emotions start to build you have to let them out. Learning to recognise grief, and allowing yourself time to deal with it, is vital. I’d always suggest that you find a trusted confidant, whether they be a family member, friend or cousellor. Occasionally you may want to take time alone. Not necessarily because you want to hide, but because you need to find your own way to process all of these new feelings – resigning yourself to the fact that maybe you can’t always be that successful, fun-loving Adonis that’s painted in the self help books. That resignation is not a bitter one for me though. I feel it’s not always beneficial to seek self improvement. Grief has given me as much as it has taken from my life. I’ve embraced my strengths and weaknesses over the past few years and learnt to love myself.

To paraphrase the last person I heard use this cliché, the great philosopher Ru Paul, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love anybody else?”.

A friend recently spoke to me about the analogy of the flight safety demonstration. The flight attendants always remind you to affix your own oxygen mask before proceeding to help others. I drew comparison to my own struggles with grief. Whether it’s been for someone very close to me or a classmate. I always felt like it was my duty to be strong for the person who was suffering, or for those who were closer to the deceased. Packing away my grief into a box at the back of my mind was only useful for a short period. As others begin to rely on you and turn to you for answers, the box becomes less sturdy and you have to acknowledge that you have your own unpacking to do first.

Prudence x

Good Mourning

If there was a loyalty card for funerals I’d be onto a winner. At twenty-five years old I now feel I truly know loss. But more than that, I feel I have a very honest relationship with it. I live happily most days now, but it is never too far from my thoughts. As countless stories of destruction and chaos have been shown in the media, I think most of us have felt like holding our loved ones a little tighter. With this I would like to talk about grief head on. I don’t intend to make this, or any of my posts, an entirely depressing read. I do intend to strip away the veil of mystery for those of us that are still yet to lose anyone close and talk frankly about my experiences for anyone who is going through grief now. The feelings of grief, after experiencing loss, will always be with us in one way or another. But, whilst it persists, we may still enjoy the present, look forward to the future and let the past carry us through the hardest of times.

For a few years I have wanted to open up about some struggles that I have been going through; the extent of which I’ve kept hidden from many who know me well. Blogging will no doubt be therapeutic there is no selfless act but I have really begun this project to share with others and to give to others. I have set a goal of posting for a year, maybe monthly, maybe as the mood takes me. But in that time I hope to create a place where we can come when we feel alone and know that there is light ahead.

I have no paper qualifications in counselling, bereavement or writing actually (CAN YOU TELL?!?!) but I do have my own experiences and I hope they are enough. I would like this to become a “community project” without wanting to sound too happy-clappy!! I think many of my friends have had a valuable insight into the ways we can cope in dark times. Grief does not just cover the feelings of loss after death – It can begin long before that. We may even go through grief after our lives become irretrievably changed.

If you feel you would like to contribute to this blog, I’d ask that you first think on it for a few weeks as I release my first post. Sharing something so private is not for everyone and now is not always the right time. If you do come to the conclusion you’d like to contribute (anonymously or otherwise), please get in contact. If you just want to talk privately about something I’ve written, that’s fine too!

But finally…a first glimpse into what I will be posting about. I should say first, I won’t be talking in depth about any illnesses or personal struggles of the deceased. I do not have their consent and I do not feel it’s respectful to the people who have given me so much. I did get consent for certain struggles though and if I can find a way to write about them I will. SO back to today…
Today, 18th June 2017, is sunny. It’s a little too sunny for me. And so, as others run around celebrating Father’s Day with their bronzed fathers, I silently curse my “English Rose” genetics. This heat does give me chance to sit down though and think about those who aren’t here to down a cool beverage with me in the shade. The 18th of June 2017 marks the 31st anniversary of my parents’ marriage. It is also my grandparents’ 68th wedding anniversary and so, above all else, I’ve got to celebrate enduring love today. My grandparents passed away when I was still fairly young but their legacies have shaped me no less than were they still here. We also lost my dad 2 years ago. Everyday I look in the mirror and see more of him, more of all of them actually and I’m glad for that. Big forehead, insipid complexion and all! Today I will raise an ice cold glass for them all and for all the love they show me. Today is a very happy day! Happy Father’s Day!

Prudence x