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Image / Editorial

Finding gratefulness in the grief


By Dominique McMullan
26th Oct 2022
Finding gratefulness in the grief

“How are you?” kind people ask. “How am I?”, I ask myself. It’s a tough one. I’m ok. And sometimes I am not.

I allow a few tears each day. I am still grieving the death of my beloved Dad. There are moments when I am blindsided by grief, moments when I cry in the car on the phone to my mum; grieving for her loss, grieving for our loss. I still can’t quite believe I will never see him again. As this season changes, as his last season on earth comes to an end, I feel sad.

They don’t tell you that grief is a physical sensation. I can feel the weight of it as I carry it with me each day. It builds over time and a big cry usually resets me. Sometimes a cry won’t do though, and the grief catches me off guard and slams into me – like a hard whack in the chest. It can literally take my breath away. Each day, I shuffle around the hole Dad has left in the world, but on these occasions, I fall in.

There is another sensation too though. And this is the bit I struggle to write about. The last few months have seen me happier than I have been in some time. In years perhaps. I think this happiness stems from gratefulness. Having witnessed Dad’s bravery, and his suffering, having seen the edge that we are all teetering so close to; I now, quite suddenly, understand everything differently.

I feel so lucky to have had him. But more than that, everything feels touched by this new gratefulness. I feel so lucky to have a job that I love. I feel so lucky to be needed in the middle of the night by little chubby hands.

The things that used to cause anguish – like being woken at 5am – I now understand slightly differently. Now don’t get me wrong, I still curse under my breath when I hear the 5am wail and have to haul myself from the warm duvet. But it’s followed by new sensations and thoughts. I get to see the sunrise. I bring Freddie to a local cafe that opens at 7am, but that lets us in early. I play beautiful music in the car on the way there, I sing to my gorgeous boy as he laughs and claps. I get to drink hot coffee with lovely early rising strangers. They coo over Freddie and we chat about our lives in the half light. They are gentle and kind women, so comforting and warm.

The thing is now, quite literally, no one is dying. For the last six months of my life, the person I loved the most WAS dying. There was nothing I could do to stop it, there was no way to ease his suffering. The pain in that was overwhelming – daily, hourly. It was a dark cloud, a black ink, that covered everything, that seeped into every moment. It was all we could see. And now it’s gone, now he’s gone, it’s like taking a blindfold off. The light is painful sometimes, sometimes it’s too much and I need to take a moment to close my eyes and remember him. But when I open them again, I am so grateful to see the sky. Of course there is still pain, there is still loss, I still hurt, we still cry. But I know that he is no longer suffering. That wherever he is, there is no pain.

I hope that I don’t sound holier than thou, I won’t be moving to the mountains and buying an orange robe anytime soon. Life still has all the ups and downs. But Dad’s death, and all the shitty events that came before in quick succession (a miscarriage, the death of my grandad, a pandemic, and my mum suffering from long covid) have all given me something. I am grateful for them. This one fragile and precious life.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova.