All the things noone tells you

I’ve been lurking on this forum for a while. It’s been nice to read everyone’s stories and relate quietly. Today feels like a pouring my heart out kind of day though. There’s a bit too much bottled up inside me that needs to come out in a different way.

It’s three months to the day since I lost my dad to a sudden heart attack in his sleep at 72 years old. He was happy and otherwise healthy, had recently had his heart and health checked out. My mum and then my brother, when he arrived, had the support of a wonderful team of six paramedics who worked for hours to bring his heart rhythm back to normal before the end, when they tucked him back up into bed to await the coroners.

I didn’t know until the morning, until he was already gone. My phone was on silent. A part of me is quite glad I didn’t see all that first hand, I think that would be a different kind of trauma. Still, I remember every second of that phonecall with my mum in minute detail. It was like I was suddenly missing something at the very core of myself. I still feel that.

I’m incredibly lucky in the people I have around me. My family, even cousins, aunts and uncles, we’re all incredibly close. A few years back we lost my uncle and all three of my remaining grandparents one after the other over the course of four years. We’re old hats at this grieving together thing now! This was different though. Each of those had a build up and to a point because of age and declining health, were each somewhat expected. This was so sudden.

Covid, of course, complicated everything. I’d only seen my dad a couple of times since lockdown for some socially distanced walks. I had been used to seeing both my parents and hugging them at least once a week, so it had already been a struggle. As a family we threw the social distancing rulebook out of the window a bit when it happened and became one extended ‘bubble’ to support each other. Covid also meant that the funeral was different - small number of attendees in person and streamed over the internet to everyone else who wanted to join (and there were a lot of people - he would have been amazed).

My partner has been a generally wonderful human being through it all, just listens and holds me when I need it, took over a lot of the chores in the immediate aftermath to give me some headspace. Thing is, we were already struggling in our relationship before dad passed. He’s been finding lockdown particularly difficult, has admitted he has commitment issues and really wants to move back to where he grew up. I told him right at the start of our relationship that I wouldn’t move far from my family (been there and done that, I know how important it is to me now!) which he acknowledged and accepted. He’s even run through a course of therapy in the last couple of months to help him start to work through what he wants from life.

That’s all a bit of a longer and separate story but the shorter version is that I love him, he loves me but there’s a very real chance we won’t last much longer.

And that’s sh*t. This is the stuff that you tend not to realise until you go through it yourself. The initial trauma is obvious and people react to it accordingly. Then life moves on and people forget, but you’re still left with this gaping hole in the middle of your chest. Trauma utterly changes you. There is no ‘getting back to normal’ because normal doesn’t exist in any form you recognise anymore. It makes everything you have to deal with harder, even seemingly unrelated tasks and trials and sometimes I just want to scream and be selfish and demand because it just hurts that much.

And sometimes I almost forget and feel a new kind of normal. And sometimes I remember with less intensity and find myself chattering away to my dad in my head and wondering what he would think of this or that and find it comforting instead of heart wrenching.

I do wonder what advice he’d give me about my relationship. Probably, Life’s too short to settle. Do what you need to do to be happy, whether that’s staying together or breaking apart. Either way, I love you (and there’s always chocolate).


Hi. Nikki2020. Welcome. ‘A pouring my heart out kind of day’. That’s what this site is all about. So much relief can come from sharing. Everyone of the kind folk on here know exactly what you are going through. You do raise some interesting questions in your post. Being ‘bottled up inside’ is not the ideal state to be in. Emotions should be given full rein. They will out anyway, but if ‘bottled up’ can cause physical as well as mental problems.
Yes, you are very fortunate to have such good support. Not everyone has it, and if you read the posts under ‘Losing a parent’ or ‘Losing a partner’ you will find many lonely people. No, you are so right, ‘normal’ is gone for ever. We can make a different life where the pain is less, but nothing can ever be as it was. Chatting to your dad is good. So many of us do that because it means we are still in touch, and in my view we are.
I love what your dad would have said and he is so right. Happiness is a state of mind not a physical thing. (and being a chocoholic I appreciate that too). If I may say so, a very heartening and informative post. Thank you and Bless you. take care. John.

Hi Nikki,
I lost my dad 14 months ago exactly the same way that you did.
My dad was 77. He was fit and healthy, and also had just had his annual check-up and had his heart checked within 30 days prior. No issues found at that point.
He fell asleep watching TV and my mom found him after she woke up the next morning. He always brought her a glass of water during the night, which she would find in the morning as she was always thirsty upon waking. On that morning, there was no water.
I am so sorry for your loss. It is huge. You are only 3 months on. It is truly no time at all considering your loss.
Grandparents, when they live to old age, are easier to mentally process because you witness the decline and so it makes more sense in that regard. With your dad at a mere, 72, the doorstep of old age, but not quite old yet, its hard to make sense of it.
I find that component to this loss to compound it. You have ptsd from the suddenness, confusion as to how someone so healthy and living a normal life is gone, and the tremendous loss that is permanent.
It is lovely that you have a big family. At some point or another, each one of you will need the other. Meltdowns happen, stress is high.
I am coping better at 14 months, to give you some hope. But its a wave, grief can overcome you out of no where.
My mom is still a mess, so that isnt hopeful but I can see she is much higher functioning - some days, she looks normal and healthy so that gives me hope for her too. Its hard for our moms because they were with the same person their entire adult life, most of their friends still have their spouses.
Regarding your partner, he may say that he has commitment issues, but his actions of stepping up to do chores to help you have less stress, speak volumes otherwise. I hope you both are able to find a middle ground where you can both be happy in your location.