What 24 years without a dad has taught me

Updated: May 7, 2020

If you had told me a few years ago, that I'd be writing a blog about losing my dad at 13 and what it has taught me, I would have laughed. But guess what, here it is and Jesus has it been a difficult one to write. It seemed like a great idea last week, right up until Monday & that wave of grief hit me like a tsunami all over again.

You see, on 17th February 1996, my dad passed away and so it was the anniversary of his death on Monday just gone. To say his death was a shock would be an understatement. He literally went to work one day and never came home again. He collapsed at work after suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage on a Monday and passed away the following Saturday. I guess the good news is that at least he was surrounded by cars which were one of his Joy's and I guarantee he had a fag in his mouth or hand when it happened.

At the time I was 13 and youngest of three girls. The world suddenly seemed like a cruel and unforgiving place. Until then, my biggest worries had been whether someone had been talking behind my back, if Will Cantlie wanted to be my boyfriend or if my history homework was good enough. At 13 I was yet to ponder the fragility of life, the human condition, the meaning of it all or the psychology of humans but damn did I get a crash course, and my word was I angry about it. My favourite CD on repeat for around a year was Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill and it was played loud.

That album was played as the funeral directors came to the house. It was played when people wanted to talk to me about how I was. It was stuck on repeat. Is was as if Alanis had looked into my future and written an album only a year before, soundtracking and releasing my grief.

Seeing dad again.

As if the shock of losing your dad wasn't enough, I had always had a knack for seeing and knowing stuff I apparently didn't know before. I know now it's called intuition and clairvoyance but at 13, all I knew was I really wanted this whole thing to be a nightmare and for me to wake up from it. So when I heard my dad coming in the back door, checking the microwave for his dinner, opening the drinks cabinet to grab a John Smiths and physically hearing the can open as he approached the living room- I thought my wish had come true. It had all been a bad dream!

Alas, this was not the case and instead, I had experienced my dear old dad trying to show me he was okay from spirit. I was not amused as you can imagine and thoroughly freaked out! I chose to believe I had wanted to see him so badly that I had imagined it and I pushed those abilities down into the darkest corner of my being that I could. I chained the box I put them into, double padlocked it and forgot where I put the key for about 10 years.

I went to school, where naturally everyone was sad for me but couldn't really relate. It's amazing how everyone can feel so devastated for you while never really understanding. Grief is such a personal thing after all and although everyone was lovely, over the weeks it quickly became forgotten and people moved on and back into the comfort of their teen dramas and personal end of world scenarios over make up and having to be home early because they were late the day before.

It would be my first lesson in how you really don't know who is truly there for you until they're not. It was also my first lesson in becoming my own best friend, and what happens when you aren't. Although I didn't know it then. I still have 2 friendships from my childhood that I value deeply and we've seen each other through everything you could imagine. Although not in each other's pockets any longer, they are the people I know I can call at 2 am even now and visa versa.

Two other people who will always stick in my memory from that time are My RE teacher and my Tutor. I still have a letter that my tutor wrote to me telling me how amazing I was and how proud my dad would be of me. My RE teacher I will be forever grateful to, for his patience and care while I found my feet in this new world of having real-world experience of the hypothetical situations he would suggest in his teachings to our class. I so desperately wanted to make sense of this new world I had been thrown into. A world full of questions like where we go when we die, whether heaven and hell exist, who God is. But the more I sought the answers, the angrier I got. What kind of God would take a father away from his children? What kind of person must I be for God to punish me in this way?

This wonderful teacher listened with love seeing through the angry child and allowing that pain to be there, never wobbling in his own belief and faith, while keeping strong boundaries about not allowing bad behaviour from me in the process. It was the first of many lessons in compassion.

Around the time that my dad passed away, I began to get ill.