When I was eight, my family was “normal”, whatever that is. My life was sheltered, wrapped up in cotton wool hugs. Then disaster struck. On New Year’s Day my father died of a heart attack. Something inside my head jolted. Something dislodged.
I’d had him there all my life and then suddenly he was gone! It was as if I had been booted out of my innocent, naïve world where anything was possible, to a much different place that was dark, unfamiliar.
A lot of things didn’t make sense. I didn’t make sense. Meaning and purpose drained away. My dreams and aspirations had been shattered.
My cynicism kicked in. A pessimistic eight-year-old huh? I remember how I would dream about one day being an actress. I genuinely believed that I was going to be in Hollywood among all the celebs, glitter and glamour.
But like smoke, my fantasy vanished. I gave up on everything, the ambition dwindled; it was unimportant, like a cigarette butt flicked into the gutter. It wasn’t just my aspirations that faded away. I gave up on a lot of things so easily after my dad died.
For years, a typical week for me consisted of dance class, gymnastics, karate, ballet, swimming and piano. It didn’t take very long to lose interest in them all – things that I had previously loved doing.
Loss didn’t faze me anymore. I was hurt, of course, but my eyes had been opened. My childhood had been shortened and swept away, and replaced with the harsh realities of what seemed to be the adult world.
I liked this. It felt like I had a head start over my friends on what real life was like. Time had been wasted on fairy-tale books and toys, and although misery pursued me through to maturity, I found solace in it.
I preferred this way of life to my old. I missed my dad dearly but I don’t regret being thankful for how much stronger and bolder that tragic loss made me. People my age don’t tend to get a lot of advice on how to deal with situations like losing a mum or a dad.
Most people are grown-up when they first come face to face with the death of a parent; they have life experience to help them cope. However, when expecting help from those older than me, I only received vague advice of ‘talk to someone’, which didn’t really appeal or help me.
The best advice I can give is this: find your own natural coping mechanism that is the right one for you.
Distracting yourself is important. You need to occupy your mind. There is no one way to cope with it. It’s different for everyone, and it is difficult no matter what you do. But, as time passes, your pain will lessen.
Losing my dad was excruciating. A lot changed from that point, especially my family and the way I viewed the world. We were all deeply affected and a cloud of gloom descended on the house.
In spite of this disaster that bulldozed me I am now resurrected as a mature young woman, with a running start on the world.
The glittery fantasyland gibberish from my childhood has long since gone, and I’ve become a confident person who is looking forward to what the world has to offer.
Reality, even if it meant losing my dad, is better than any fairytale. In the thunderous cloud of my father dying, I found my silver lining.