GRIEVING MY FATHER

EMOTIONAL, MUST READ

I struggle to know how to introduce a list as personal as this. Other than to say that Grief is the most complex of things to navigate, my experience of it is that it rarely follows a set path, part of what makes it so difficult is that it is full of twists and turns. One moment you feel like you are finding a way to live with it, the next it feels like an enormous weight you will never shift. Here  Afua Adom  bravely shares an account of  grieving her Dad:

  • Even though I left home when I was 17, my father remained my best friend, up until the day he died.

  • When I decided I wanted to go to uni in London (I grew up in Glasgow) he was so upset that I was moving so far away, that those last few months at home was a real low point in our relationship. But when I graduated he said he was so proud of me that it made up for the pain of us being apart.

  • We would call or text each other every single day. Silly stuff, important stuff, boring stuff. We would talk about football and politics and boys. We gossiped like old women. 

  • My favourite thing to do with my Dad was to drive in the car and listen to music. We would sing at the top of our voices and do different parts on songs to harmonise. We could have been a band. He had this rule that if he pulled in to the driveway he had to wait til the song ended before he would switch off the engine. 

  • I remember the day I told my Dad I wanted to divorce my husband. He said to me, “I knew he wasn’t good enough, I never liked him”. I’ve never rolled my eyes so hard. Why didn’t you tell me Dad? Could have saved us both about sixty grand…

  • I was the last person that spoke to him before he died and I told him I loved him. I am so glad I did. People always talk about the old adage of telling people you love them every day and I stand by that so much. If I hadn’t said those three words I would have really regretted it.

  • I often think if I had known that was our last conversation, what my last words to him would be. Of course, I’m so glad I told him I loved him. That does bring my comfort on those days when I long for some conversation with him. But I also wish I’d asked him a whole bunch of stuff, like, “where are the car keys, what’s your PIN number for your phone and your bank cards, where do you REALLY want to be buried, where the hell is the will, why do you have so many hideous jumpers that we now have to ship off to charity?”

  • It was those questions that burned our family the most in the coming days, not the usual biggies – those would come later. But a week of trying to find the car keys drove everyone a little bit more mental than was necessary. They were in his coat pocket by the way and his PINs were his date of birth.  And no – I don’t know why we didn’t think of that in the first place.

  • I couldn’t bear to tell my daughter that her Papa was dead so my aunt did it for me. She sat her down and explained to her that Papa had gone to heaven to sleep and he wouldn’t be coming back but he could always see her and was always with her. I will never forget the pain that flashed across her little face, and the big huge tears that rolled down her cheeks. She clung tightly to me and for many days afterwards did the same thing, with a look on her face that plainly said, “mummy, don’t go too”. I’ve often looked at her with the same expression.

  • Arriving at your family home when you know your father is never coming back is a strange thing. I kept expecting him to walk through the door, or drive up the driveway. Even now when I am in that house I still think he is going to return.

  • Like childbirth, there are so many things that people do not tell you about grief. Some of it is the same; the fact that you may end up crying uncontrollably shit yourself or want a mind-numbing cocktail all of the drugs available. But of course, the fundamental of it is so different. One brings so much joy and the other so much loss, though both can be associated with an unfathomable amount of pain.

  • Grief is palpable. You can almost taste it or touch it or smell it. It radiates off a person like terminal cancer.

  • The night after Dad died we had the TV on in the background and on came trailer for a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson movie called Skyscraper. It was a typical Hollywood big budget bonanza, where he manages to single-handedly save his entire family from the world’s tallest skyscraper that’s on fire, all while he has a prosthetic leg. I was incredulous and livid all at the same time. It was the most unrealistic story line, but somewhere in the back of my head I found myself wondering why my dad couldn’t survive a night in hospital whilst The Rock was hanging off a building by his only foot. I was furious with the both of them for that. I still am.

  • I don’t know what it is about death that makes people want to cook. When I was at home that first week after Dad’s death people filled the house with food. I didn’t want to cook – I wanted to sleep for about three weeks, but others, they hear someone has been sent to their ancestors and they whip out an oven dish, a rice cooker and go all Jamie Oliver. I’m sure there’s a cookbook in there somewhere – Death Dishes – or something along those lines.

  • Dad wasn’t even gone 24 hours and I remember someone asking me what casket we were having and which country we were having the funeral in. I think I might have given that person a bullshit answer of coffin in the shape of a cigar in Venezula. I can imagine Uncle Whoever-you-are was vastly disappointed at the normal mahogany coffin in the west end of Glasgow. Sorry Uncle.

  • There is something about the darkest situations that brings about some of the funniest situations. I remember getting into a really sombre conversation about my Dad and his funeral wishes with my mum and my aunt when all of sudden the stool I was sitting on broke. I was unexpectedly and quite painfully dumped on a cold kitchen floor. My ass felt like it had broken. I was gasping in pain whilst laughing at the same time. My aunt was doubled over at the counter and my mother could barely get out the words, “oh, I should have told you that stool was broken”, in between guffawing. It was classic. Dad would have loved it.

  • The all-consuming nature of grief means on some days I feel like I have a whole other job or child. Sometimes you really have to attend to it, show up for it; sometimes it just takes care of itself. No one ever tells you how much grief impacts every area of your life; physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have never felt so tired, or experienced such intense headaches, or PMT, or period pain since Dad left. I’ve heard read that grief is carried in your womb and I believe that 100%. I have never felt so desperate, or isolated, or alone or. So. Completely. Broken.

  • Have you ever tried parenting through a haze of grief? The day after Dad died I woke up and said to myself, “if you can get Naima up and dressed and fed that’s today’s win”. On those difficult days of maternity leave my friend and I used to say at the end of every day, “everyone’s fed, no one’s dead” and pat ourselves on the back that we had survived another day of teething and tantrums. Now, someone was dead, but I had to make sure Naima was fed.

  • Parenting through the grief fog is ironing school uniform in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep, it’s wishing your daughter would crawl into bed with you because you don’t want to be alone, it’s dropping her off for school and worrying that something will happen and she won’t come home to you so you call the receptionist, once, twice, three times, making up an excuse about a headache that she had (when it’s actually you that has the headache) just so you can check up on her. It’s answering questions about Papa, “when he was young did he like school, can he still see me, is he proud of me?” whilst trying to make sure she has the type of relationship she has with her dad, that I had with mine. It’s going to bed, every single night, and hoping that your Dad can see that you are doing your best, wishing that he were here to give you the advice you so desperately want.

  • Loss blurred the edges of everything, made everything slightly out focus for months. I was half of a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a partner.

  • I have spent hours avoiding and unsubscribing to Father’s Day emails. I would love to buy my Dad a mug with my face on it or a jumper or some Gin. I really would. The second anniversary of his death is three weeks after Father’s Day. That month is torture.

  • In this time, where everything is nothing that we have ever experienced before, I long for the steadfastness of my Dad. For those nightly conversations, video calls and virtual hugs.

  • In all my work I think of Dad. I know he has guided me to some amazing opportunities. But there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t wish he was here to see the wins. I can’t wait to tell him all about it when I see him again.

  • My father is my favourite of all men

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