Learning to Live with Loss

By David Bowmaker, Chartered Physiotherapist .

Despite feeling like I was prepared for the death of my dad as a result of a prolonged period of illness, with many heart stopping moments over the last few years, I have been amazed at just how hard the death of a close family member hits you. I thought I was prepared, I thought I had rationalised the impending loss, but when it happened I was hit by a tsunami of grief. Maybe you’re surprised that I’m surprised, it was my dad after all, and grief is a normal reaction to losing a loved one. However, I didn’t for one minute think it would be this hard.

The physical and emotional response is almost unexplainable, and most definitely uncontrollable. The power of these emotions forces you to stop and take stock, about who you have lost, but also who you have in your life. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by very supportive close family but ultimately this is my grief, my response, and I feel it is something I have to deal with within myself and by myself. Whilst those around me are there offering support, the key is acceptance of the fact that sometimes company and conversation are required and, at other times it is simply space, both physical and mental.

Finding balance with my needs and those of others such my mum, helps keep perspective. She is elderly, now living on her own and finding the loss of her husband of 53 years immensely challenging, as is the prospect of being on her own after so long.

I love being outside and exercising outdoors has always been something that I feel gives me great peace and the ability to think, but also keeps me going. I know exercise is a very powerful way to improve your mental as well as your physical health in theory, so putting it into practice was a deciding factor in taking myself off for a weekend for some ‘time out’ cycling and camping. The hard physical task of cycling with my camping gear then enjoying the peace and tranquillity of camping was definitely therapeutic and exhausting. It can be a challenge and requires discipline to take time out from the demands of running a growing business which, if allowed could demand time all day every day. If a death shows anything however, it is that life does go on and no one is indispensable.

Although the loss of my father is devastating, what brings solace is the fact that he was able to see both of his sons grow up, be settled in relationships, have children and see all of his grandchildren grow up into four handsome young men. Even death was kind to him in the end, allowing my mum, my brother and me to be at his bedside when he died. Great credit has to be given to the amazing medical and nursing staff throughout this time that cared for him diligently and in a caring way.

In addition to family I also have many close relationships with colleagues and patients alike. I am optimistic that with time, friends, family, colleagues and patients, as well as exercising, the heartache will pass. It is still early days yet and I know there is a long journey ahead, but as each day passes my memory of my dad brings a smile rather than a tear. 

I know it’s ok not to be ok and I hope you do too. I have no doubt that talking about your grief or actually writing it down is a great help, this was written on one of those nights when sleep just wouldn’t come. Should I feel the need I would have no qualms in seeking more professional assistance to help, such as a Counselling Psychologist.

In the meantime I’m going to keep on going, finding joy in my own family and life, making my own memories. If I have been grumpier than usual, I hope I’ll be forgiven! Normal service will be resumed soon.