A story by Michael, Across the UK
What challenge does this story focus on?
I lost my dad very suddenly in August 2018. He collapsed at work in his office, and I phoned an ambulance. I remember it all so vividly. He went into hospital on Wednesday 22nd August and passed away Friday 24th August. I didn’t sleep for 3 days; I didn’t want to leave his bedside. I didn’t know how to process this loss. I had experienced death previously in the year (my dad’s dad) but it was expected. Losing my dad was a shock for everyone. I felt that I had lost a part of myself when he died.
How has this challenge affected you?
I lived and worked with my dad, full time. So I also lost my manager and business partner the day he died. It was a challenge for me day-to-day as I was trying to process his death, support my family emotionally while working full time as myself and as my dad. I struggled a lot with anxiety, I was having daily panic attacks before going into work and I really struggled with my sleep. I felt like I couldn’t break because so many people were relying on me. I needed to be strong.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
It took lockdown for me to finally take time for myself, to be alone with my thoughts and feelings and accept them. I had to slow down which made me focus on his death and the great loss I experienced. I still get consumed with grief; I cry a lot! (I’m one of those ugly criers where your nose gets snotty, my cheeks and eyes get puffy and red. It’s not cute). Also, supporting the amazing causes that my dad did has brought me a lot of pride. My dad was a pillar within the community; he managed a charity, sat on boards of trustees, supported so many people around the world day-to-day. I felt like when he died, I had to continue this. Now I realise I can do this, but in my own way. By supporting others, it helps me look forward with hope.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
To be a bit more open with the people round me. I am slowly becoming more open about talking about my anxiety and sleeping problems. My friends and family that I have shared this with are very understanding and empathetic. I’ve learnt that I am not my dad. While I am half of him, I am still my own person. I wouldn’t be letting my dad down if I didn’t do things exactly how he did them.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I feel that I address things a lot quicker now that I used to, life is too short! I am now able to articulate how I am feeling a lot better than I used to. It’s been 3 years without him and it scares me how I have adapted to life without him. Without his cheesy smile and the way he’d always have a coffee ready for me in the morning. But I’ve been able to adapt because he taught me so much over the 24 years he was in my life. He taught me to love life; travelling, music, films, food, people. It took me a while to realise that I needed to help myself before I could help other people.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
That it’s perfectly ok to admit to yourself or others that you’re not ok. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with death. I use a lot of humour when talking about death which sometimes makes people uncomfortable, and that’s ok! Humour was very important to my dad. The last thing I ever said to him when he was conscious was “you’re such a pain in the arse, but I love you”. And I love that. It sums us up perfectly. I love the little smile he gave me when he said “I love you too”.