My new normal: How I dealt with grief through university

‘I don’t think I realised how much it would affect my life’

When a close family member passes away at such a crucial time in your life, it is understandable to be left in limbo, especially during one of the busiest times of your life. It makes you question: Will I ever get through this?

I was 17, enjoying my first year of A-Levels and loving life. Looking back to that time, I really did take for granted how lucky I was. I had no worries besides from what I was going to wear to Parklife or what my exam results may be. It was over that summer, of 2013, that my life changed in an instant. Everything I knew to be normal became distorted and my new life began.

On the 1st of August 2013, my dad passed away quite suddenly after being ill over a period of a few weeks. As I was on the cusp of adulthood during this time, I don’t think I realised how much it would affect my life. At the time I couldn’t understand why a few months later I didn’t start to feel better. I didn’t understand the process of grief and I found myself making stupid life choices, feeling angry and emotional.

Over the following three years I kept myself extremely busy with part time jobs, friends, volunteering, boyfriends and university applications – possibly to keep myself distracted from reality. I became more anxious and cared more about little things that usually would never bother me. I tried to be strong and carry on like normal, but over time such a fighting mechanism wore me down and I started to feel exhausted and low. As a few months passed feeling this way, I started to realise that I just wasn’t my usual self.

I could not understand why after three years I would be feeling this way. I originally put it down to other factors such as exhaustion due to my course and just needing a summer holiday. But one day near to the anniversary of my dad’s death, I realised that everything I was feeling originated from the bereavement.

As I felt some what embarrassed that after a few years I was finding things quite difficult, it took me several weeks to open up to my family again about how I was feeling. I came to the realisation that my grief wasn’t ever going to depart, I was only going to learn to live with it. Each year since my father passed away, I feel like I have changed. Each year I feel I become more aware of myself, even if that means revealing issues that have arisen from his traumatic death. I started to realise that it was ok to not be ok.

There are still times when I question why my father had to pass away so soon? Why me? What would I say to him if he was still alive? Would he be proud of me? Why can’t I move on? What would my life be like if such an event didn’t happen?  But then I remember that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be the person I was today, with the amazing people surrounding me if it didn’t happen.

Although I know that I most likely won’t be as care free as I was three years ago, I know my grief is a process. It is something that over time I will face more challenges with, but in a weird way I’m ready for the journey ahead.

It seems that even more so in today’s fast paced society, people move on quickly. When it is you stuck in the middle of a situation, we all know it isn’t easy to move forward and we can end up wondering how time has flow by so fast. It’s important to try to be open, kind, forgiving and honest to not only yourself but others around you. That is how I have got through the past few years and how I am slowly but surely moving forward.