In October 2014, my mum sat my brother and I down, whilst my dad lay in bed upstairs. It is only now I realise how oblivious I was to the overwhelming weight she had been carrying on her shoulders.
It took about three minutes for her to tell us that my dad had cancer. That night, I cried so much that by the morning I had no tears left. The shock of receiving such news is indescribable and heart wrenching.
The next three months were challenging. Like with any illness, after the initial diagnosis, the hospital felt like home. Even though three months sounds like a long time those 12 weeks he had left weren’t long enough. In January 2015 my dad passed away in the comfort of a hospice with my mum and Nan by his side.
I was only 15 at the time, my brother a year younger. We were forced to mature so that we could deal with such a frightful situation. Being overcome with unfamiliar emotions, which we had no idea how to handle. We grew angry at the world and had to face the harsh realities of life.
Death often leads a person to exclude themselves from others. I changed from being a loud girl in my friendship group to being quiet and not wanting to talk to anyone. School was one of the many ‘burdens’ I had to face at this time. I wanted to sit at home alone, not complete maths problems using the quadratic formula.
However, my dad always encouraged me to study. So instead of giving up and sitting around, being consumed by the frequent thoughts of “what if they had found the cancer sooner” or “I should have spent more time with him”, I carried on.
The next year and a half of my fatherless life consisted of focusing on schoolwork and adjusting to my new, unwelcomed situation. I achieved ‘year 10 student of the year award’ for this perseverance and received 11 GCSES all A* – C. I figured there would be time to be upset after I had secured my qualifications.
Our happy, traditional family was turned into a troubled and broken trio, with arguments being a frequent occurrence. The smiles and laughter were replaced by frowns and shouting. My mum took on the role of both ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and succeeded in doing so.
It’s important to know that professional support is available to you as well. My brother not only lost his dad, but a best friend too. We are very different in how we deal with things. He found comfort in using our local counselling service. I used the guidance of friends and family to survive and having their strength was the best medicine and support out there.
Even if you don’t want to speak to your friends about what happened, I guarantee their company and humour alone will serve as a welcome distraction.
Surprisingly, our experiences have shaped both my brother and I into bold and courageous teenagers.
According to the Childhood Bereavement Network, 41,000 children under the age of 18 were bereaved of a parent in 2015. The figures are surprising. Yet, had I not experienced this situation myself, I doubt ‘the death of a parent’ would have come up in conversation.
I believe bereavement should be openly spoken about in schools so young people know the support is there before experiencing such torment.
Grief and bereavement is normal. Treat the passing of a loved one as a lesson. Love them, miss them, remember them and most importantly, make them proud.
It’s important to take things step by step and use a terrifying situation to benefit yourself and others.
If you are going through the death of a loved one, the NHS gives advice and further links to support available.