Grief; 7 months on

This Blog began as a MummyBlog full of pregnancy thoughts, childbirth and sticky finger memories. This year it has inevitably also incorporated bereavement and grief, and moving forward from such loss whilst mothering a toddler. My most read Blog post to date is the one I wrote on January 11th, the day after finding my Dad dead. I sometimes read it back, feeling every moment – pleased that I did capture those raw, horrific images so soon after they happened. Seven months on, I’ve realised that for me there are two traumas; the actual events of that Tuesday afternoon, and the loss of my Dad. Perhaps people don’t talk about these things; but writing is cathartic [I have a sleeping toddler!] – and I think it’s important to process and share the journey. You never know who else needs to hear it.

Last week a doctor phoned me from the Ambulance Service patient liason office. I had contacted them asking for the reports the crew made when they arrived at the allotment. I’d finally admitted to myself that something I really struggled with was those endless minutes before the paramedics arrived; when I was on my own with Dad. I felt a huge sense of guilt that in my panic and shock, I didn’t spring into the kind of Holby City CPR action that you might expect. Whilst my gut instinct told me it was already too late; how did I know? I remember every awful detail; and the truth is, I wasn’t very good at the CPR; I was a shaking shocked mess; scared of the man I loved most in the world. As the months have passed; it was those moments which troubled me the most. I let him down; I should’ve done more; what if I lost vital moments because I couldn’t get it together? He was only there helping me; he’d have done it for me; I know he would. The grieving mind plays a lot of tricks; and the moment of finding him remains an ongoing nightmare. I wanted to talk to the Ambulance Service because perhaps they could clarify; perhaps they could tell me if I’d fucked up. The doctor understood. He had Dad’s SATS and heart rhythm readings taken when the crews arrived, in front of him. He said that from those readings, Dad was most likely beyond help before I arrived, but the 999 operators have to start you on the CPR, and the paramedics have to keep trying. I should perhaps feel better; that my inability to help didn’t really make a difference – but I’m not sure that’s the point. I wish it could’ve been different.

I chew it over in my mind; being stuck behind a lorry on the way to the allotment; wondering if I hadn’t been held up – maybe I’d have been there when it happened; maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all. Initially the allotment was a source of huge comfort and a place to be close to Dad … but as time has gone on, all I see is the image of him lying on the decking. And this too makes me feel guilty; because surely he’d  have wanted me to be stronger than that? He was helping me to create the allotment dream I had for Freddie, when he died. And I’ve sort of given it up …. because on the way in I see that yellow defibrilator in the box and immediately I’m back to that day, running with it in my hands, feeling like I’m not moving anywhere, knowing it’s too late. The memories are too raw; too stabbing. There are times when I see an ambulance with its sirens on, and I’m back in the police car following the ambulance that day. And there are times this feels so unfair; why; why did he not only have to die; but why did I have to find him? You can’t not see it, you can’t not remember it.

Yesterday I wrote another measurement on Freddie’s wall growth chart, and instinctively counted how much he had grown since Grandad died. Sometimes I have to stop and think; did we have that chair when Dad was alive, or, did he see that toy of Freddies? Time is an odd concept. Dad never met my new partner; and I’m pretty sure he’d have liked her a lot. It’s things like this which make you realise life goes on, but is never the same. It still takes my breath away to think I’ll never see him again; that this chapter of my life is over forever. And it’s hard; it’s really hard. Last weekend Freddie and I were in Guernsey with my partner’s family; and Dad would’ve loved it. There’s part of me which automatically wants to phone him and tell him …

I go to Dad’s grave once a week; occasionally more … not because I feel close to him there [the engraved stone actually makes it feel surreally real] – but because I want it kept colourful and tidy; just like his beloved garden was.

“But where is Grandad Mummy?” is Freddie’s question of the moment. I hope both he and Dad know, that I’m doing my best.

My Dad, My Dad,My Dad

I  never imagined I would be writing this Blog post; the grief is raw, the haze is thick. I’m writing this now, as every Blog post I write; for Freddie. I need Freddie to know what a wonderful Grandfather he had; how much we loved him, and how much he adored his only Grandson. I need him to know how devastated I am that on January 10th 2017, the year he had professed would be “a really good year” just days earlier – he left this world; and left me bereft and inconsolable. I need to write every detail before it fades from my memory. I cannot be the same person today as I was yesterday. Cathartic?

Yesterday afternoon I was meeting my Dad at the allotment; he was helping me [okay, he was pretty much doing] the roof on my shed. It was a bright, mild day; he had phoned earlier and asked if I needed any shopping [milk and bread please Dad]; we agreed to meet at the allotment, and I looked forward to seeing him. I arrived, changed into my muddy work boots, and made my way down the path. I got halfway before I realised something was wrong. It was too quiet, something didn’t feel right. On the decking was something grey; it was my Dad’s anorak, and my Dad was wearing it; slumped there on his back. I think I screamed “Dad”, I pulled out my phone and dialled 999. I screamed that I needed an ambulance. This wasn’t good, I knew it wasn’t good. Was he breathing? I cried that I didn’t know, that I thought they were too late. Could I see his chest moving up and down. No. No. No. I remember the operator telling me to take a deep breath. “It’s my Dad” I screamed, knowing in my heart that he was already gone. His face, his expression – it wasn’t him anymore [yet now that’s all I can see; somebody tell me how to unsee it?]. Somehow, I tried to follow instructions; the zip was stuck on his coat, I couldn’t move it to reach his chest;my hands were shaking. I needed to be brave. I remember pulling his coat and jumper up and  thinking this was wrong. This was my Dad. I sobbed, thinking I’d be sick. And then I saw a figure  a couple of plots away; a man I’ve talked to on occasion about planting things and chickens. I screamed for him to help me.Next thing, he’s following the operators CPR instructions whilst I’m running to the local school for their defibrilator, repeating the code I’ve been given all the time. I’m wearing these big clumpy boots and I can hardly breathe for panic. I’m trying to run but I can’t seem to move fast enough;I’m cumbersome and flailing. I remember the dryness in my throat as I periodically yelled “help me,someone help me” until a teacher from the school came to meet me and fetched the defibrilator once I’d correctly remembered the code. The run back was longer, I contemplated ditching the boots and running in my socks. I’m back on the decking, with my Dad splayed there, his chest being pounded by dear Andrew, whose brow is drenched  with sweat. He tells me not to watch, to go and wait for the ambulance.

I run back to the gateway, yelling at the ambulance which has gone the wrong way. I’m really sobbing now, telling them they’re too late. “It’s my Dad” I keep saying, interspersed with “Oh my God”, “he was on his own” and “No,No,No”. I’m sitting in the mud rocking, willing it to all be a nightmare. A policewoman is there, tapping my shoulder, asking if I want to sit in her car. “He’s gone” I tell her, remembering what I saw. The paramedics  are working on him, Andrew returns my phone and says they are giving it 25 minutes. It can’t be real. This is my Dad; my beloved, kind, generous Dad. We were meant to be laughing and talking, and making plans for raised beds.

We have the blue lights flashing in the police car as we follow the ambulance. I feel sick. It’s mostly silent, other than a call to my aunt to check she’s with my mother; telling her the bare essentials; that I found my Dad collapsed at the allotment and we are on our way to hospital. I’m ushered into one of those family rooms with crocheted prayer squares and multiple boxes of tissues. I don’t know how long we were there for, but it seemed an eternity. When the doctor arrived, he didn’t need to tell me the outcome. I’m handed a book on bereavement, and I ask for my Dads things; his watch, his stuff, his £7.48 change in his pockets, his wedding ring, his keys. Did I want his shoes? I don’t know. Do I? I don’t think I want his shoes. I give this question too much thought,unable to quite take it in.

We don’t have the blue lights on on the way back. I’m trying to work out how to tell my Mum, who is home packing a hospital bag for my Dad, who she presumed had tripped on something and injured himself. The kind policelady comes in with me. I hide the booklet on bereavement and the envelope inside my jacket. “I’m so sorry” I said, “there was nothing they could do.”

I try to close my eyes and I’m  there, walking innocently down the pathway to the allotment. In my mind everything was perfect until I see the anorak, his outline;lying there. My Dad,my Dad,my Dad. I can’t yet cry; can’t yet think -it’s just the location; the vacuum of my discovery.

I find  a bag in the back of my Dad’s car with my milk and bread,and some juice for Freddie. He was always dropping things in for us; and it struck me as I carried the bag up the stairs to my flat, that this would be the last Daddy care package I would ever receive. Never again would I see my Dad, hear his voice, enjoy his company. I find myself looking at innocuous object thinking “the last time I used that my Dad was here, things were normal.” – and things will never be the same again.

This journey of grief is in its infancy. I don’t know how I will get through it; but my little boy – the apple of his Grandad’s eye, is my reason for plodding on in the fog. My Dad was such a good man; he helped me so much; to his last breath he was helping me. I couldn’t have asked for more,and whatever the future holds it will be lacking something incredibly special.