Join me on my quest…

Black and white photo of my dad

Dad in his Mad Men days.

I haven’t posted for a while.

It’s been a bit of a year so far to be honest.

As a writer I should find comfort pouring my soul on to paper, but actually, I find the opposite. Maybe I’m afraid of what it might unleash?

I lost my dad in January.

I got a call from my sister. “Are the boys in bed?”

“Dad’s very ill. They’re doing CPR.”

I knew in that instant he was gone.

It was like in films. A sort of out-of-body experience. Adrenalin surged through me and I started pacing around the room. I wailed down the phone. My poor sister tried to find comforting words about how lovely Christmas had been, all together.

Our last Christmas with Dad.

He had slipped away in his sleep, while napping in front of ‘The Chase’. My mum by his side.

A dream death.

He was 87. (But seemed 70 to me and in good health, or so we thought).

All the old cliches start tripping off the tongue:

“What a way to go.”

“It was his time.”

“Awful for you but the best thing for him.”

“What a good innings.”

And it’s true. I named it the ‘Rolls Royce of deaths’, which was so fitting for a man who never did anything by halves. If he’d written his death, it would be this. To the letter.

But of course, for us, it was brutal. Yes, we were spared seeing our dad fade away, or suffer in any way. But the suddenness of it was ferocious.

For weeks I had to keep reminding myself Dad was gone. It was like retraining my brain. I was in shock.

I just wanted one last touch. Although I am sure for people who have had that moment, it is never enough.

I managed to get down to Cornwall that night to be with my mum. I woke from a fitful disturbed half-sleep at about 5am and all I could think to do was lie down on the sofa – in the exact spot Dad had died. His newspaper was still there. Neatly folded. Just as he’d left it. I cuddled it, craving some kind of closeness to him.

My words on grief so far are desperately inadequate. This week I stumbled across this column in The Telegraph, which spoke to me. Jemima Lewis captures the loneliness of grief, which I hadn’t understood was loneliness until I read this.

“…the bereaved only really talk amongst themselves. Seeing a fellow sufferer, they gather shyly round to compare notes and offer solidarity.”

It’s not that I haven’t been surrounded by love and support – I absolutely have. But the nature of grief is that it’s so individual – you can’t help but feel totally alone in it.

So, this is why I haven’t been blogging about family life in Devon. Quite simply I feel a bit bruised and battered. My head is a whir of confused thoughts, and it doesn’t feel very honest writing about fun days out at the moment.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, which is what’s prompted me to write this.

This and a visit with my oldest, dearest friend today. At soft play, in between the general mayhem of entertaining two toddlers and a baby, we just about managed a conversation on how hard we found parenting a newborn and two-year-old (we’re both out the other side now). The constant feeling of failing. The battle against the chaos of feed, sleep, change, repeat while simultaneously appeasing a toddler. The debilitating sleep deprivation. My memories of this time are starting to fade now. Maybe they’re even becoming rose-tinted. But it reminded me how important self-care is as a mother, and – quite frankly – how bad most of us are at it (when we need it most). Especially me.

I know I need to be kind to myself. I need to book quiet time to process everything that has happened and comfort the ache Dad’s death has left. But for some reason, as a mother, I cannot make that time for myself without feeling guilty. Like I should be getting on with something else. And the niggle that I’m failing at…well, life and motherhood. “Pull yourself together” is what I hear in my mind.

I need to take responsibility for my own mental health. My excuse is always that I’m too busy (looking after others) to look after myself – but who else is going to do it, if not me?

So, I’m going to use this blog. It’s going to help me in my quest for contentment. And perhaps it might help you too…or anyone in need of reminding that they deserve a break.

I’ll continue my ramblings on Devon life, days out and stories on local businesses.

But I’ll also be pottering around the garden a bit, trying out some complementary therapies (acupuncture next week – pretty apprehensive about the needles!), telling you a bit more about Mumazing Success (business mums group in Exeter, which has taught me the importance of self-care when juggling work and family) and, of course, getting out and about with my boys. Probably the best kind of therapy there is for grief.

Like so many mums, I’m incapable of sitting still and not feeling like I’m ticking a box. So, here I am ticking a box. Not only will I be creating a website that (I hope) is useful for local parents, I’m also going to be making myself feel better. Win win. No guilt.

Wish me luck. I hope you’ll come join me.

 

My Dad and Laurie

Dad knew exactly how to make this one giggle.

5 Responses
  • Emma McKeating
    May 12, 2017

    I’ve been thinking of you so much since I heard the news from Lucy – and have been feeling guilty not to have been in touch. I think partly because I’ve been facing my own Dad dramas I’ve also struggled to find words. Please know that I’ve been sending lots of love your way though and hope that one day before too long we might be able to get together with our little​ chaps! Xx

    • Devon Mum
      May 12, 2017

      Thanks Emma. So lovely of you to message and think of me. I’m sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time. Sending lots of love x PS We should all hang out in Bude this summer!

  • Alice
    May 17, 2017

    I have just come across your blog. I am sorry to read about your Dad, he looks like he was a lovely Grandad/Dad. X

    • Devon Mum
      May 18, 2017

      Thanks Alice. He was lovely. A real character. He’s left a big hole. But he was always positive and lived in the moment – I don’t ever remember him being sad or grieving. So I need to somehow channel his positivity. I just saw your blog and could really relate to your “Anxiety and stuff” post. When I’m low, it tends to be anxiety that sneaks in and I feel on edge, like something awful might happen at any moment. You are absolutely right about giving up some of the ‘stuff’ – freeing yourself of a few jobs. I just gave up a volunteering role today – literally just pinged the email. We aren’t superwomen – we can’t do everything. Have you got a hobby you could take up that gives you an hour of headspace each day or a few times a week? I bought a novel for first time since my 2nd was born. Somehow I need to make reading habit again! And I’m going to see if I can sneak out for a half hour walk most evenings now it’s light. Little things like this can make all the difference – I just struggle to find the discipline to do it. I’ve also tried acupuncture this week – it was pretty amazing. Thanks for stopping by. Take care.

      • Alice
        May 25, 2017

        He sounds so lovely. My Grandad died before I was born but my mum talks about him so much I feel like I knew him, and you should do the same with your boys. When someone is larger than life they live on. Thank you for your comment on my post. A lot of what you have written about anxiety I can really relate to as well. I try to write about days out (and washing!) etc but sometimes I just need to write what is in my head. I love what you say about pinging off an email… I am planning to do the same (any moment now!). I do try and read every night as it helps me get to sleep but I read at a snail’s pace and often have to re-read what I have read the night before! It is a good escape though. If you want a recommendation, I loved Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld – it is in part about a mum of young kids. Walking every night is a great idea, I might start doing that too. Looking after ourselves should be on our to-do list! Anyway, glad I found your blog! Take care x

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