Dealing with Grief: The Effects of Not Doing So

Below is an article that I believe will help many of you. Grief and loss are terrible things and  I myself can tell you that the death of a parent is one of the hardest things you can go through. I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine called Ashley and I would like you all to read his words. I believe you will be touched as I was by his honesty. 

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I’m Ashley, a 23 year old male, a lad that likes all of the better things in life, the typical “hard man, emotionless”. Two years ago my life changed for the worse. My father, aged fifty-eight, was diagnosed with lung cancer and less than five months later he was dead. The effects this had on me and the others I loved around me were devastating.

So it all started on the way to work in November 2010. I had a phone call from my mum to tell me Dad was on the way to hospital for an X-ray because of what the doctor had said to him minutes earlier. He had been suffering from a cough for a few weeks which wouldn’t seem to budge and after a coughing fit he had a sharp pain which resulted in this trip to the doctor to try and get it all sorted out. I thought it was going to be a routine job and 25 minutes later he would be out. How wrong I was.

Suspected TB was the initial diagnosis– not great but treatable. A week in hospital and then he would be home, all nice and well again. Unfortunately, as the week went on, this didn’t seem like the likely outcome. Negative tests and inconclusive X-Rays discounted the chance of it being something so simple to treat. He came out of hospital six days later after an MRI to then return later to see a consultant. Little did I know what was then to come.

Monday, 6th December 2010, was the day that my world started to fall apart. Driving home in the dark after a long day at work I thought to myself how slow the traffic was and what would I be having for dinner. I got home in a pretty good mood, walked into the kitchen to find Mum and Dad just standing there chatting, but stopped immediately as soon as they saw me. Then the bombshell dropped. Mum said Dad had something to tell me. He said, “ I’ve got cancer.” Great, I thought, treatable but we could do without this. “It’s terminal,” he followed up straight away before starting to cry. This was a knife straight through the heart. I was full of anger almost instantly, wanting to tell him it was going to be OK, but not wanting to lie. I went outside to hear Radio 1 playing Our Song by Ellie Goulding. “How wonderful life is now you’re in the world” all of a sudden had a more poignant meaning. This was the start of me not dealing with the grief and anger I had.

The treatment started pretty quickly after the initial diagnosis and was pretty brutal. The toxins used had an effect almost instantly, and the dad I did have had changed from being the carer to being the cared for almost overnight. On 10th April 2011, he died. I was upset and yet at the same time I was full of anger. How could he just go like that, so soon, so young? However, being able to see him still and peaceful was a wonderful thing after seeing him struggling to breathe and being in constant pain.

The first couple of months after this seemed to be OK. I was basically emotionless, in a state of disbelief that this actually just happened to me and the family. A lot of people asked if I wanted to talk, the answer was always no. At the start of July I started to get into a relationship with a girl that was a friend of my cousin. Blonde hair, pretty blue eyes and the perfect body, I thought to myself that this is the start of something good and that all the shit that has just happened will sort itself out in the next couple of months. Come September our relationship was made “Facebook Official” and was the start of what was to be an amazing relationship.

This is where things started to fall apart very slowly. Every so often I would feel like the world was so unfair to me. I had found the girl I would marry for sure, yet my Dad wouldn’t see that. I was the happiest I had ever been, but Dad couldn’t see that. I had the girl my Dad would have loved, he couldn’t see that. After all every major event in my life, moving out, getting married and having children wasn’t going to be seen by the person I most wanted to impress.

She was showing me nothing but love and yet sometimes I turned into a selfish monster. The smallest arguments would end up blowing up into a full blown shit storm. We would both say things we didn’t mean. After every one of these she would say to me to speak to her about how I felt, but why would I want to tell her that really I’m not the hard man I try to make myself out to be? Long story short, I rejected the advances of help from her and other people. I mistakenly thought I could sort all of this out myself; after-all, I was always right.

The final argument came and she decided that she wanted a break. She suggested that I should talk to somebody about everything. I didn’t respect this and kept trying to sort things out myself, only to have her push me away more. I would try harder, but ended up pushing her away more.

In my own self-delusion I thought I could still sort it all by myself, but I couldn’t  After realising that I had just lost everything I had ever wanted, I went to speak to somebody. It was the best thing I ever did since Dad had died. I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to be the boyfriend I wanted to be at the start of the relationship; I was frustrated and angry that Dad had gone and at the things he wouldn’t see; I was frustrated at the fact that my own stubbornness had just ruined the trust of the number one girl in my life and ruined the relationship we had. Within two days, I felt the weight of all the anger fall off my shoulders, the stomach cramps had gone, and I felt truly happy apart from the fact that I no longer had her.

Is the relationship salvageable? Probably not. While I would love to think it could be in the long run, I know the stuff I did would be hard to forgive. The trust would need to be built again.

What are the takeaways from all this? No matter how much of a rock you think you are, talk to somebody, and don’t wait until is too late to do anything about. Anger and grief will ruin any relationship no matter how much you love the other person. You need to start the conversation about it– people won’t ask you how you are or if you want to talk as they don’t want to upset you. When you get the chance grab it with both hands and be 100% honest with the person you are talking to. It’s hard to tell people your deepest emotions, but it pays massive dividends. Since then, I have been able to speak openly about my life and my feelings towards it.

The reason for writing this is to help even one person avoid the issues I went through and caused– the heartbreak of the breakup and the feelings of losing two things I loved most within the space of two years. After-all  I have nobody to blame but myself and the fact that she was willing to walk away for me to sort my life out has given me a lot more respect and love for her.

By Ashley H

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7 thoughts on “Dealing with Grief: The Effects of Not Doing So

  1. Nick, the way you express yourself is inspiring to me. Having read “Rose among the thorns” I am witnessing a truly great man That can tell of a father whom he really loved in spite of all the heartache you suffered coming up. the toll of all that should have completely left a shell of a man. But you are far from being destroyed by it. Good for ;you brother. I love this post also. Never hold it in. You must have a way to let it go. T very best way is to have someone you can trust to talk to. Never fear brother, I see a shrink every two weeks or so. He has become a real friend and we share so much. I have a confused life but sharing with him makes it livable. Keep that special one to talk to and release that anger ans desperation. You are blessed not o be in the grip of deep depression. God bless you and Loriann.

  2. Hi Ed, this is actually the story of a friend of mine who wrote this article for my blog. He really went through a hard time and I thought his story deserved to be told. I believe that he has a lot to share with the world and could actually write a book about dealing with grief. Thanks for reading Ed and I’m glad you enjoy my blog so much. God bless!

  3. Pingback: A Story I relate to | Apron Strings

  4. Wow…this hit home. I never went through this as my dad passed fairly quickly but we were not close. I had lost respect for him and kept him at a distance. I do miss him and am trying to use this as a springboard to stay close with my kids (son and daughter). Thanks Nick and tell your friend thanks for sharing this, it probably wasn’t easy.

  5. Hi Rick, I will be sure to tell him. I think it was probably one of the most honest articles I have ever read. I am just glad he found the strength to share what he was going through. I hope this article helps all those people going through similar struggles.

  6. Ashley H, if only you had written this 31 years ago!! My father died December 23, 1981 suddenly of a heart attack when I was 20 years old and a junior in college. Disbelief, shock, anger, rage. It began this way.
    My mother made me return to college even though I didn’t want to go back. I was 4 hours from home and my mom would be alone.
    Sadly, I did not receive any help with my grief. I drank it away. This was the beginning of my alcoholic life and the escape from the pain of losing my dad. I also began to abuse drugs, mostly pot but coke, if I could get it, and prescription drugs. I began to realize that if I had a man pay me attention and sleep with me, it further stopped the pain. Sex, drugs and no pain.
    I went to rehab in 1989. A 30-day inpatient stint and then a few months of aftercare.
    I married a wonderful man and had 2 terrific sons.
    In 2004, I lost my brother to lung cancer. He moved in with me and I was his caregiver with the help of hospice. I was with him when he took his last breath.
    The drinking began again. The pain was incredible.
    In 2006, I developed a neurological condition similar to MS. I quit drinking.
    In 2011, I became my mom’s caregiver with hospice help. She had congestive young failure.
    She died April 13, 2012. I was with her when she took her last breath. She was my very best friend. I don’t know how to live without her.
    I am still sober. However, the pain from my grief is almost unbearable. I am seeing a counselor and attending grief support groups.
    Get help. Don’t wait. Oh, yes, my husband stayed with me. My oldest son now attends my college alma mater. My youngest son is a junior in high school.

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