I wasn’t prepared for the anxiety that came with the death of my mum..

I recently done a live Instagram call with @neshamajourney and she asked me if I feel I have PTSD from my mum’s sudden death. This really got me thinking because I had never looked at it in this way because when I initial think PTSD I think about people that have gone to war or been in a serious car accident. In recent years I have realised and acknowledged that my mum’s death was traumatic for me to deal with at 15 years old, being a young girl that doesn’t know CPR or first aid and having your mum collapse and die in front of you, well yeah of course it’s pretty traumatic.

Anyway, I have been wanting to write a post about the missing stage of grief that is anxiety however I find it’s hard to put into words but after the live I got a lot of lovely comments about being so open with my anxiety so I thought its time to get this post done.

For the first two/three years after my mum died, I was still a teenager, getting my GCSE’S and a level’s during the weekdays and getting drunk on the weekends (well sometime weekdays we all loved a tiger tiger Thursday). I feel like I kept myself so busy and looking back now it was a coping mechanism. I moved schools because I didn’t want the constant pity from teachers, at the time just wanted to be known as Emma again and not the girls whose mum had just died. I was just on auto pilot and Its weird to even say this because I used to feel guilty for being happy so shortly after my mum died but my sixth form years where some of the best, I very much lived in the moment during them years.

And then I went to university and I think this is when things changed for me. Moving to the other side of the country where I knew no one was probably the best thing I could have done for myself but it also gave my space away from family and people that knew me all my life and this space meant my grief came at me like a tonne of bricks. I kept it together at home for my family and because I generally was ok, I hadn’t given myself the time to process properly, yes, I did grieve in them first few years but my grief never affected my mental health until I got to university and this is when the anxiety began. My anxiety came in waves and I do feel the stress of university deadlines, the constant drinking, partying and hangovers played a part in heightening how I was feeling.

So what anxiety am I actually talking about? It was about me or my closest friends and family dying. Which kind of makes sense if you have lost someone close to then you’re going to worry about it happening again because you don’t want to experience that pain again. However, my anxiety kind of got the better or me sometimes and kind of in the way of my life. Ill give you couple of examples:

  1. Every time I would drive to or from uni it’s a 3 hours journey down the M4 and M25 I would have it in my head that I was going to be in a car crash and die. Like this thought would be in my head the night before I drove and then the whole time I was driving home. You could imagine the anxiety and stress that came when my car actually broke down on the M4. I have never been the best driver and actually sold my car to go traveling so this doesn’t happen to me anymore but I’m sure one day it will pop back into my mind because your anxiety does just reappear at the most random times.
  • Another trigger for me and this still triggers my anxiety to this day, when people don’t answer their phone or reply to texts within a certain time. My sister has always been someone that faints easily and I remember a time she had felt dizzy and text me that while be home with lily by herself, so I have rung her to check on her and she wouldn’t answer the phone. Automatically my mind says ‘omg Danielle’s fainted and hit her head all in front of lily and lily won’t know what to do’ she would then ring me back like sorry the doorbell rang or I was putting the washing away, like something so little would put my mind into over drive. Another one would be if someone says to me ill text you when I get home and you don’t receive that ‘I’m home’ text I automatically think the worst has happened to them on there way home.
  • If close friends and family fall ill these triggers me because my brain says ‘there could be something underlying like there was with mum even though the doctors have said there fine. I remember a time at university a very close friend of mine at the time (his been mentioned in my mental health post) was strugglingly with anxiety and he had really bad chest pains and couldn’t breathe. My mind told me his having a heart attack but the ambulance came out and monitored him it was a panic attack but I was determined something more was wrong and worried a lot.
  • I think this is the one where I realised my anxiety was a problem and told my family was when my niece was born. I think it all got a lot more intense then because I was so anxious about anything happening to this tiny human that I loved so much. So, when Lily was born like literally just born my sister was exhausted from the birth so fell asleep and I was the only one left at the hospital with them. I sat and just watched this tiny baby’s chest go up and down for hours, if I couldn’t see her chest moving id touch her to make sure she moved and was still alive. Pretty mental really when we were in a hospital full of nurses, I should have been most relaxed.

Another came when my niece started eating real food, I couldn’t feed her or watch her eat because my mind told me she was going to choke on her food and the worst would happen. My niece is now 4 healthy happy and I can watch her eat now haha but yeah, the thought of anything happening to her literally sent my mind into overdrive and I guess that shows how much you care for someone cause its always the closest people to me that I worry about when my anxiety flares up.

  • This pandemic, what a wild year we have been living. Sadly, the grief community has grown a lot this year whether that be deaths due to COVID-19 or deaths of people that can’t cope mentally with the struggles or people that haven’t be able to have treatment. This year really set my anxiety off, honestly the start of the pandemic I was a reck constantly worried that someone in my family was going to get it and die. The constant reminder of death got to me and is still triggering but I am very fortunate that all my family have either been healthy through out or have got over COVID-19.

So yeah, I just really wanted to open up about the anxiety I have suffered since losing my mum so others maybe able to relate and not feel like there going slightly mad because I honestly did at the beginning, I hadn’t had any thoughts like this ever until that point and felt very alone in them thoughts.

I feel like everyone talks about Elisabeth Kübler’s theory the 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

And yes, I do feel over time we all experience these stages not necessarily in order but at some point, I have been through all 5 but like Claire Bidwell Smith wrote ‘Anxiety, the missing stage of grief’ and it’s the stage I was never expecting to experience.

For anyone that is struggling with anxiety follow a death or years on from a death then I highly recommend reading Claire’s book, its wonderfully written and gave me so much insight to how I was feelings and kind of answered so many questions I didn’t know I had.

So, to conclude on this post I was not prepared for the anxiety that came with the death of my mum and after reflecting on the Instagram live, I do feel I suffer slight PTSD since losing my mum and I’m not sure that will ever change.

Remember you’re not alone and talking about the impact grief had on our day to day lives and our minds means together we can make grief a more open and less awkward conversation to talk about.

Lots of Love the Girl with Grief x

Anna-Marie Shares her Story

The aim of this platform is to get grief spoken about in a less awkward and more open way, so I have reached out to some incredible people who all have a different story when it comes to grief, and have agreed to share it with the world through The Girl with Grief platform.

Meet Anna-Marie

Anna is wonderful person I have connected with via the online grief community. She reached out with a touching message ‘Your page is a great source of understanding and knowing I’m not alone’ I love hearing feedback like this because this is why I started the page to just help others. Its such a wonderful community and were all on the same mission to get grief spoken about in a more open and honest way.

Anna-Marie shares her story:

Who have you lost?

My Dad

How old where you when they died?

It was in September 2020, I was 31 years old at the time.

What is their name?

My Dads name was William, Willie to everybody that knew him. Although my mum called him Will.

How did they die?

My Dad died from Lung Cancer.

Tell me about the moment you found out and the feelings that comes with it?

We found out my Dad had a mass on his lungs on my Daughters 3rd birthday. He was in hospital at the time, he was gutted he wasn’t able to celebrate with us. I called him before we went out for dinner and asked him for an update – he said I have a mass. I said isn’t that cancer? He said no, don’t worry, that word hasn’t been used. I felt a little relieved but scared. The words mass/shadow in my head equalled cancer. But it was like I blocked it out, pretended he hadn’t said it, pushed it to the back of my mind.

Two weeks later, after further tests, my mum and brother took my Dad to the hospital. I waited at their house, they came home and told us it was lung cancer, stage 4, terminal. They said the doctors were confident he would be able for treatment to prolong his life, immuno therapy they called it. They seemed confident. I didn’t feel confident. 

I went in to Dad, he sat watching TV. I held his hand and he said ‘so they’ve told you then?’ I said of course Dad, I’m worried about you. He replied ‘don’t be worrying about me, I’m just thankful it’s not one of you.’ That was my Dad, always thinking of someone else.

I could see my Dad everyday, declining, lessening in conversation, lessening in eye contact, loosing the brightness that shone through his eyes and his smile. 

A week after that, he was ambulanced to hospital. They wanted to do something called the ‘Talc Procedure’. We were able to see him everyday through his window on the bottom floor. Until he was moved upstairs, no longer at a window… he wanted to come home. He barely spoke on the phone, he was distressed, he was lonely…. 

I went to see him, to take him some DVDs. The nurse wouldn’t let me in, she said I would make him too distressed. I was allowed to peer around the door window, his back was to me, he was sat up, he scratched his head and even by the back of him, I could see his sadness.

A week after first arriving in hospital, two weeks after finding out my lovely Daddy had cancer, we were called to the hospital after my brother rang for an update. 

I remember my brother saying don’t panic, we’ve called them, they haven’t called us. 

I got around three minutes with my Dad, lucid and awake, before he was put into a deep sleep, which he never woke up from….

Watching my Dad die in his hospital bed was heart-breaking. Praying and hoping he could hear us talking to him, singing to him, joking with him, crying for him, is something I hope for everyday. I wish I could have had more time with him, more of a conversation, a hug, a hand held, a kiss before he left us. Instead I talked nervously about jelly babies I had left in the car for him in our last conversation, Those last few minutes I had with him whilst he was awake…. All I felt was overwhelmed with concern when I walked into that hospital room. It overtook my whole body, it’s the feeling I most remember. Overwhelming concern and the utmost sadness.

How do you think losing your loved one has changed you as a person?

I feel like my heart is broken, and a piece of it has gone and it won’t ever properly fix back together. There will always be a part of me buried with my Dad. I feel an empathy with people who have lost, that I could never fully understand before. I don’t think you can ever understand until you have those feelings yourself. I feel sad for me, my children, my family, for loosing the head of our family – the man we all went to in most circumstances. I don’t think I will ever be the same, and I am trying to learn that, that is okay.

What is your happiest memory of them?

I have so many memories of my Dad. I loved my Dad being my Dad, but i loved more watching him be a Grandad to my darling girls who he absolutely doted on. He was a Grandad on earth to my oldest for three years and sadly only to my youngest for four months! But he cherished them… watching him share his food, tell jokes, give hugs, tell stories melted my heart all of the time. The nicknames he had for them were hilarious! He truly was a one of a kind.

Any bits of advice you’d give to someone who is currently going through what you went through?

It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be heartbroken, it’s okay to feel empty, it’s okay to feel lost, it’s okay to feel alone…. everything you feel is validated. 

When someone says ‘it gets easier’, smile politely and walk away…. no one can tell you it will get easier. Grief isn’t easy! I don’t think it gets easier, but someone told me recently, ‘you just learn to live with the pain and sadness’… I much preferred hearing this. I much preferred the honesty of knowing my hurt will always be hurt, my heart will always have a piece missing.

Also, if you need to talk to someone… Do! I reached out to the NHS and I have been talking to a bereavement counsellor. I didn’t think it would be ‘my thing’, but I can say to her things I don’t feel like I can say to anyone else. Share my thoughts, share my whatifs, share my crazy… and she’s okay with that. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Dad, not an hour goes by when your not on my mind. I look at the photos, read your text messages to me, think of the memories, visit you every week…. but it’s not the same. I miss my number one supporter. I miss the phone calls, I miss the laughs, i miss pulling on your drive & seeing you sitting in your chair, I miss watching Tele with you, I miss you making me a cup of tea, I miss watching you cuddle the girls…. I hope you know the hole you left behind in our hearts. You are so loved Daddy. 

Goodnight, Godbless.

Love always, Your Annie x

Thank you so much for getting involved in this little project of mine Anna, losing a parent is always hard and even harder during a pandemic so thank you for talking so openly. Anna advice on talking is key, please no one struggling silently my DM’s and Email is always open, I’m not a professional but I’m a listening ear.

Thank you,

Love the Girl with Grief

Lauren Shares Her Story

The aim of this platform is to get grief spoken about in a less awkward and more open way, so I have reached out to some incredible people who all have a different story when it comes to grief, and have agreed to share it with the world through The Girl with Grief platform.

Meet Lauren

Lauren is wonderful person i have connected with via the online grief community. Yes its a little mad that there’s this group of people who have all connected over social media to talk about there dead parents/children/friends/siblings but its such a wonderful community and were all on the same mission to get grief spoken about in a more open and honest way.

Lauren shares her story:

Who have you lost?

My Mom

How old where you when they died?

I was 37 years old when my mom passed away and she was 57 years old. Too young.

What is their name?

Diana

How did they die?

My mom was diagnosed with Leukemia in May 2019 and passed away on December 13th, 2019.

Tell me about the moment you found out and the feelings that comes with it?

I was truly blessed to be with my mom when she passed away. My mom went into the Hospice House on a Tuesday evening and passed away early Friday morning. Those last few days can feel like a blur at times. Many of her friends, colleagues, and family were coming and going to pay their respects and show their love. Things changed quickly overnight, as my mom developed a high fever and her breathing was started to change. I was told by a dear friend that my mom needed to hear me tell her I was going to be okay. So, I started talking to my mom and telling her all the wonderful things I loved about her, how I was so proud to call her my mom, how much I loved her and how I was going to be okay. I kept telling her I wanted her to be at peace. And within moments, as I held her cold hands, she took her last breath. It was extremely painful having to tell her I would be okay, because I there was no way I would be. But I knew it’s what she needed to hear to leave this place peaceful. She was so worried about leaving me. We had a very special bond and close mother/daughter relationship. I consider it an honor that I was able to take care of her when was sick and was able to by her side when she passed away.

How do you think losing your loved one has changed you as a person?

It’s changed me completely. I am not the same person I was before my mom passed away. And I’m still trying to figure out this new person I am becoming. What I do know is that with everything that I do now, I do in honour of my mom. I have created a memorial award in honour of my mom, I have started a grief blog and a grief project called “Cards for Their Memory.” I want to make sure her life continues on. Pages keep turning in her book. Chapters are still written about her. Honouring my mom is my way of keeping her memory alive.

What is your happiest memory of them?

There is just so many to choose from as we spent a lot of our free time together. My mom was my best friend and we did so many things together. We loved to travel and we went on an Alaska cruise just a few months before she passed away. It was one place my mom always wanted to go to and we had the best time together. Although we couldn’t do a lot of exploring and excursions, it was the quality time spent together on the ship that makes it so memorable.

Any bits of advice you’d give to someone who is currently going through what you went through?

Allow yourself grace and be kind to yourself during your grief journey. There’s no right or wrong way to do things.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Grief will change you. It will take you down a path you never thought you would see yourself on. Don’t be afraid to embrace the change and the opportunities that come with it. Your loved one will be looking down on you and smiling so proudly.

Thank you so much for getting involved in this little project of mine Lauren, im glad that the internet brought us together so we can share memorys of our mom and allow them to never be forgotten. If anything there more know now then before because we like to tell people all around the world there name via the internet.

For anyone reading Laurens story, really take in that final bit of advice. Grief will change you but embrace it 🙂

Lockdown Grief

Since march 2020 the world became a very different place that we were used to and due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the grief community got a whole lot bigger.

For me Lockdown really gave the time alone to sit with my feelings and face them all, everything came rushing back to me and I just had to head it face on and deal with it. So please if you are struggling during this lockdown please reach out. I have been there and I can’t bring them back but I can be a shoulder to cry on or an inbox to talk to. So this post is really about why grief is heightened within lockdowns and what we can do to look after ourselves.

Why has our feelings of grief been heightened since the pandemic started?

COVID-19 brought death and a reminder of grief and loss to the forefront of our lives. Multiple time a day, constant news stories on the tv, radio and internet were constant death figures. Over the last year there really has felt like there is no escape and I know I am not alone in this feeling.

When grieving you can feel very isolated and alone with your feelings, you can be in a room full of supportive people but feel like no one understands how you’re feeling. Being in isolation/lockdown makes all them emotions more apparent and can bring back feelings that you have felt as the years have gone on. I personally found lockdown 1.0 the hardest as I was living alone so it brought back all of them feeling id felt years ago of being isolated and lonely in my thoughts.

The pandemic can bring a great feeling of anxiety and grief anxiety becomes more frequent with the news covering numbers of deaths each day. I have suffered a great amount of anxiety since losing my mum and every time someone is sick or doesn’t answer their phone, I always think the worst is going to happen. So, you have lost someone or you have a family member that is dying the thought of them or another family member catching COVID-19 is a very scary and anxious feeling.

What you can do to look after your self during this lockdown

  1. Put your feelings to paper – My biggest advice to anyone that feels overwhelmed by there grief throughout this time or whenever in life is to grab a journal and write down how your feeling, honestly there’s comfort in getting you thoughts onto paper kind of like a brain dump. No one needs to read this journal it can just be a private thing to keep to yourself. If you’re not a big writing maybe try and draw how you’re feeling or paint your emotions onto a picture. Lockdown 1.0 made me realise how important sharing my story was so others did not feel alone and that is when the Girl with Grief blog was born.
  2. Be aware and in control of the news your consuming – Whether this be from the TV or social media make sure you’re limiting the amount you consume; it can feel very over whelming and do know good for your mental health and anxiety that can accompany grief.
  3. Stay in touch with friends and family – Lockdown can make us feel very isolated and being isolated can really make your mind go into overdrive so make sure you’re staying in contact with friends and family, facetime them, arrange zoom’s or if you feel you can talk to them my DM’s/Email is always open!!
  4. Get out in the fresh air – For me personally there is nothing better than getting out for a long walk in the fresh air, put a podcast on (there is a lot of great grief ones out there so you won’t feel alone) and just breath, take time to yourself. Being out in the fresh air on a long walk or by the coast always makes me feel closer to my mum. You may think that’s a little weird but I don’t know just walking and thinking brings me comfort that my mums still with me.

Learning to cope with grief is a difficult journey we all go on and we all do this in completely different ways, everyone’s grief is unique so feel all them feelings and do whatever you can to help yourself. Grief is a lot harder during a global pandemic and whether you were in this community before or since the pandemic started please remember to look after yourself, your mental health and physical health.

Lots of Love the Girl with Grief xx

Let’s talk Christmas…

You’re probably thinking Christmas? Were in January now, were over Christmas. However, I thought it was important for me to address why I have been absent on blog writing since November.

I started this platform to make grief a more open and less awkward subject to talk about but there was me hiding away from expressing my feelings throughout December and over the Christmas and new year periods. I had a lot of fellow grievers (some very new to the grief community and some that have been in it a while) reach out to me and ask me for advice around dealing with the heighted emotions the holiday period brings, I understand these people where reaching out because they wanted to share there feelings and they know I am very open with my experience with grief but I had to be totally honest with them and just say ‘honestly I find this time of year the toughest and even 10 Christmas’s later its never been changed’. I thought this wouldn’t be the response they wanted but, in all honesty, they were just grateful they were not feeling alone with this huge wave of grief surrounding the holiday which is supposed t be such a happy time.

Without sounding like a scrooge, I just don’t like Christmas, it’s the one time of year I really struggle with my grief. The stress and anxiety around Christmas being the most wonderful time of year kinda gets to me, you know I’ve just always kind of felt guilty I guess that its such a ‘special family’ time of year and the one person that meant so much to be isn’t sitting around the Christmas table and the thought of her never being at that table again really does play on my mind.

For many years I always drank for the majority of December, any Christmas occasion there was id just get drunk. I feel this was my way of dealing without having the ‘jolly’ feelings your supposed to feel at Christmas but during 2020 I spent the majority of it sober and due to lockdown, there was o forced fun around Christmas time to distract me from my emotions and tbh this is why I didn’t blog throughout December because I was just working and feeling these feelings fully without covering them up with alcohol and tbh it was the best thing I could have done for my mental health. I really just sat with my feelings, thought about the Christmas’s I did get to have with my mum and I do have such happy memories of these Christmas’s so it was nice to just remember her and feel rather than being drunk or hungover.

I feel Christmas is had for all those grieving because it is such a public celebration or joy and happiness, its not like the celebrating your loved one’s birthday because that’s private where as Christmas is just thrown in ya face from November even earlier and you feel guilty for not being happy like the rest of the world are. So, to all you grievers new or old remember its ok not to feel joyful, its ok to feel like you’re the sad one in the room surrounded by happy people, its ok to feel lonely but remember there are other grieving people out there feeling the same. You’re not alone and my inbox/DM’s/texts are always open for anyone struggling at this time because its more than likely were feeling the same.

I did share some advice on my Instagram page on Christmas day but I thought id share again here as it can be useful any day not just Christmas day. If you’re feeling like a big wave of grief is currently hitting you, even more so now where in lockdown, take a moment to yourself, light a candle, raise a glass or write your thoughts on paper. I did all of the above over the Christmas period and its nice to just feel like there with us in spirit on our good days, bad days, proud days and every day for that matter there always watching down and I’m sure forever proud of us and the way were living our new normal.

This Christmas was the first-year id spent a long period of time with my sister and niece, I headed back to London to spend Christmas with them and honestly seeing my niece so excited really does bring that bit of happiness back to the day. My mum would have loved to seen her excited face Christmas morning. On Christmas eve me and my sister visited my mums grave laid flowers and lit candles always an emotional time but this year was extra emotional because my sister had finally left a toxic relationship and I know my mum would have been there with us saying ‘well done, I’m so proud of what you have done this year’. Christmas day we spent eating lots and even raised a glass of buck’s fizz and gin to mum, she probs would have been disappointed with our choice of drinks because she was a vodka lover (sozz mum we out grew that now haha). And overall, we did have a lovely time just bitter sweet she wasn’t sat around that table with us.

I hope all of you had that time to yourself this Christmas to connect with your loved one and I’m forever proud you have made it through another holiday period and for the ones who experienced this for the first year, remember were all in this together.

Much love The Girl with Grief xx

Why I feel we need to stop shying away from talking about death and grief to children.

This week is Children’s Grief Awareness week, a week founded by childhood bereavement charity Grief Encounter and is designed to raise awareness of bereaved children and young people in the UK.

As you all know I was bereaved at 15, which is very young to lose a parent but did you know 1 child in every UK classroom under the age of 16 has been bereaved of a parent or sibling?

I felt very alone at that time because I didn’t know many people my age that had lost a parent, my friends around me didn’t know what to say because why would they? I wouldn’t have known what to say if it was the other way round. This is why I feel it is so important to get death, grief and bereavement spoken about to and around children and teens. To raise awareness so friends and family feel they can support them and so bereaved children don’t feel so confused and alone.

So, this post is firstly to keep spreading the word and raise awareness for a wonderful charity Grief Encounter and to add to my mission about getting grief spoken about in a more open and less awkward way.

Let me introduce you to my niece Lily, she is only 4 years old and has sadly never got to meet her Nan (my mum) or her Grandad (her dads dad). However, my sister has always taken her to the graves ‘nanny and grandads gardens’ as she knows it. So, from a young age she has seen photos, she has heard us talk about them and she has visited their graves, it was only in the last year that lily has started asking my sister questions.

‘Who is your mum’

‘Why is your mum in the sky’

‘Why is your mum dead’

‘Why do we go to nanny and grandads’ gardens’

When these questions first started my sister didn’t know how to answer and that is because as a society we don’t talk about death, we feel not talking about the dead protects children. However, I now feel this can do more damage than good.

Not answering a child’s questions can leave them confused, if we as adults find it hard to talk about the dead and grief then how can we expect children to?

My sister approached me with the questions lily was asking, time I was starting this blog so I have taken time to do some reading and research on how best it is to explain to a child. From this point I have made a conscious effort to talk to lily about mum and answer her questions as honestly as we can, we make sure she see photos and hears stories of her nan because her nan would have been so proud of the little girl she is, her laugh comes from my mum as well which is rather comforting at times. I think it is important for lily to understand that not everyone lives forever and people can get sick and die, there can be an accident and someone be taken from her.

Raising awareness around grief and death to children will teach them to think of others and be grateful for who they have in their life. There’s only so many times in school that children are talking about what they done for mothers/Father’s Day or what they brought there sibling for there birthday, to a child that has lost. That child may not know how to respond, so if I can make lily aware that some of her friends may not have mums/dads/brother/sisters then she will be able to understand and be a friendly face and that’s all I want from her, not to allow any of her friends to feel alone.

Let me take you back 20 years, I was 5 and my cousin Sadie only 4 years old. We were back round my nan and grandads house, after being flown round to a family friends while our parents went to the hospital to see my grandad. I remember we was all sat round and our parents must of broke the news to us (I can’t remember clearly how but anyway). Lauren and Danielle were a little older so they were upset straight away and then I soon started crying all while Sadie carried on collecting mars bars from the fridge. She returned from the kitchen and saw me crying when she said ‘why are you all crying for his only gone to sleep.’

So, this sparks a question why do we shy away from telling children that when someone dies, they don’t come back? Instead as a society it has become normal to tell them ‘His gone to sleep’ ‘Nanny’s gone on a long holiday’ or somewhat similar.

My personal opinion is because we worry about upsetting them but I feel confusing them can upset them a lot more. What if there still thinking that person is going to return one day and months go by and they are left confused and abandoned because we as adults was to scared or worried to explain to them that when someone dies, they don’t come back.

So, to answer the title of this blog I feel we should stop shying away from talking about death to children because they might frankly prefer to know, however sad it can be. I feel leaving a child confused and with questions in their own mind can do more damage. Talking about death can help them feel supported, they will feel more comfortable to ask more questions, they may have fears around the subject, they may want to know how to support a friend. Death is an inventible part of life and the more we talk about it the less awkward the conversation around it will be.

For anyone that wants to discuss anything in this post my email is always open but I am not a professional so for anyone that knows of any children or young people struggling to deal with grief or if you yourself as an adult need advice on supporting a child please guide them to the following charity’s: Grief Encounter, Child Bereavement UK, Childhood Bereavement Network, Winston’s Wish and Cruse Bereavement Care.

Sian Shares Her Story

The aim of this platform is to get grief spoken about in a less awkward and more open way, so I have reached out to some incredible people who all have a different story when it comes to grief, and have agreed to share it with the world through The Girl with Grief platform.

Meet Sian

Firstly, thank you for allowing me to share your story with the world and I’m honoured to dedicate to Kathy.

Sian has always been supportive of the Girl with Grief platform, so im so happy she has agreed to share her story on this platform.

Sian shares her story:

Who have you lost?

My Mother-in-Law

What is their name?

Kathy

How did they die?

Kathy passed away whilst out at the post office, suddenly suffering a huge heart attack aged just 54.

Tell me about the moment you found out and the feelings that comes with it?

I was at work.  I got a call from Scott (my husband) around 3pm in the afternoon and he was rushing back from working in Brighton as he’d had a call to say his Mum had collapsed outside a local post office.  My first reaction was to calm him down and reassure him that it would all be fine and she had probably just overworked herself and was run down (she was the true definition of a work horse)! Around 45 minutes later I received a text from Scott and all it said was “shebdead”. He was obviously in that much shock he couldn’t even type a message, but I knew exactly what it meant. I got up from my desk, walked over to my boss and said Scott’s mum has died and just turned around and walked out. I walked to my car just feeling so numb.  I didn’t know where to go, what to do, who to call or anything.  I called Scott, who literally couldn’t talk and just sobbed down the phone to me.  I knew that he had got to the hospital that she was taken to with his Dad and 2 brothers so I just drove straight to my Sister-in-Laws house who was pregnant at the time with Kathy’s second Granddaughter and we just broke down together and tried to make some sort of plan of action as to what we needed to do.

All I kept thinking was that at some point I had to tell Mollie that her Nanny had died.  She was 3 at the time and every time I pictured her face I just kept breaking down.  She was at nursery that day and I had called my Mum to go and pick her up. She absolutely idolised her Nanny Kath (especially the sneaky bourbons in Nanny’s bed on the weekends!) so telling her was by far the toughest, most awful part of the whole process. Myself and my Sister-in-Law headed over to the Taylor family home where the boys and their dad had returned from the hospital.  Scott basically just collapsed on the floor and I just got down with him and hugged him for what felt like hours and just sobbed together, no words.

We slept on the sofa sitting up that night. When we woke up, I just went into overdrive.  What needed to be done? How do you arrange a funeral? Who do we need to tell? Kathy was the leader! She was the one everyone went to in a crisis. She was the one that would know what to do in this situation, yet she wasn’t here.  The boys were, of course, still in complete shock and unable to talk much so I then had to take phone calls from the coroner, family members, her GP, the hospital.  To be honest it is a complete blur but one phone call that stands out was the one from the GP who told me that on Monday 14th January Kathy had visited the doctors complaining of chest pain and pins and needles in her left arm (on the same day I was suffering a miscarriage).  She never told a single sole she had been to the doctors.  I think because she absolutely hated any fuss but also because of what Scott and I were going through at the time she probably didn’t want to create worry.  She was booked in for an ESG on Thursday 17th January, but she didn’t make it to that appointment and was taken from us on Wednesday 16th January.

I realise I am rambling but it seems like so much happened in such a short space of time it is really tough to get it all on paper when trying not to miss parts out (which I am certain I have!) It was all just a huge blur, weeks of feeling completely numb.  When people talk about heart ache I now know that this is a very real feeling. It’s not just a saying it is genuinely a horrible dull ache you feel deep in your chest and to be honest I can feel it now just writing all of this. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

How do you think losing your loved one has changed you as a person?

I have always been quite an anxious person but this changed things not only for me but for Scott too.  Health anxiety has been added to the equation which can be so tough to overcome.  Any chest ache or pain turns in to “what if?”. We went through a year from hell in 2013 but eventually came out so much stronger. We have also realised we have to live life to the absolute full and do whatever makes us happy as things can change in the blink of an eye.

What is your happiest memory of them?

There are so many happy memories of Kathy.  She was just the best.  Everyone knew her (which explains why there were over 200 people at her funeral!) She was the life and soul of every party. One funny memory that will stay etched in my brain was her 50th Birthday when she was so drunk we found her asleep in the bath (empty bath and fully clothed!!) The happiest memory would have been when she came to the hospital to meet Mollie for the first time (it still hurts so much that she never got to meet her next 4 grandchildren)!

Any bits of advice you’d give to someone who is currently going through what you went through?

Ride the wave! Take everything day by day.  Actually, take everything minute by minute and when you feel sad, angry, confused, guilty or anything else keep telling yourself it is ok to have these feelings.  I remember within the first 24hours one of the boys made a joke and we all laughed then all of us burst out crying and felt so guilty for laughing!! Take in those moments, never feel bad for feeling the way you do. If you have a laugh, so what! There is no right or wrong!!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Everybody’s journey is different.  Acknowledge every emotion whether positive or negative because that is what is right for you.

Thank you for getting involved in this little project of mine Sian, it’s a big ask to let me write about such a personal experience all over the internet but I’m glad you can be part of this movement.

Together we can make Grief a more open and less awkward subject xx

Sophie Shares Her Story

The aim of this platform is to get grief spoken about in a less awkward and more open way, so I have reached out to some incredible people who all have a different story when it comes to grief, and have agreed to share it with the world through The Girl with Grief platform.

Meet Sophie

Firstly, thank you for allowing me to share your story with the world and I’m honoured to dedicate to your uncle.

Myself and Sophie met over the modern way of meeting friends, the big wide world of Instagram. We as brought together through fitness but it soon became apparent, we had a lot more in common and live in the same city. Sophie had reached out after seeing my grief blog so I thought it was a great idea to ask her to share her story with the world.

So, on my journey to get grief spoken about more openly Sophie agreed to share her story.

Sophie shares her story:

Who have you lost? My uncle

What is their name? Mark

How did they die? Cancer

Tell me about the moment you found out and the feelings that comes with it?

Mark had been fighting cancer for over 9 years. I became aware that it was terminal in early 2019. Two days before he passed, we were told that he had 24 hours to live. So, it was waiting for that dreaded phone call. But nothing could have prepared me for it. My dad called to tell me that Mark had gone. I remember not being able to breathe. It was a mix of hyperventilating and hysterical crying. I was in no state to drive, so I bought a First-Class ticket as it guaranteed more privacy than Standard. I remained numb until I later boarded a train home to be with my family. I remember crying the whole way home with no regard for the people that were staring at me, something I’d usually bottle up to avoid embarrassment. I will never forget that day and the feelings that came with it. It is something that will stay with me – the realisation that mine and my family’s lives were changed forever.

How do you think losing your loved one has changed you as a person?

There are many ways in which losing Mark has affected me. Thankfully, most of those are for the better. I no longer bottle my emotions up (something that I did in order to cope with the thought of losing him). I will cry if something upsets me. I will also cry if something makes me happy. My trip to Aus to visit my family was only 6 weeks after losing Mark. I cried for most of the trip, partly due to the grief, but partly due to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like seeing the Great Barrier Reef for the first time and being in the Daintree Rainforest.

Mark always taught me to live life to the full and that people who wronged me weren’t worth my time. I’ve stopped being a door mat. I’ve stopped putting myself out for people that would never return it. I’ve cut off toxic people with no regrets. I take every opportunity that’s given to me and make every day count. I no longer live for the weekend. We don’t know how much time we have left, so what’s the point in working in a mundane job from Monday to Friday, and drinking yourself into oblivion on a Friday or Saturday, just to repeat the cycle again? There is so much more to life. There is so much to be grateful for.

What is your happiest memory of them?

It’s hard to put my finger on a happiest memory. There were so many. I’m so grateful that an uncle through marriage was able to play such a huge part of my childhood and my adult life. My uncle, aunty and I had sleepovers right up until I was 19. So, if I had to choose, it would be the endless nights the three of us spent cuddled up on the sofa, watching tv, eating delicious food, telling stories and feeling grateful for the family that we had been blessed with. What I would give to experience one of those nights just one last time.

Any bits of advice you’d give to someone who is currently going through what you went through?

Speak out. Confide in your loved ones. In all honesty, the grieving wasn’t the hardest impact on my mental health. It was the knowing that I was losing him that was the hardest. I chose to bury my emotions at the risk of spiralling and not being able to obtain the First-Class degree that I was on track for. I set my emotions aside as I knew that once they came to the surface, I wouldn’t be able to cope. What I didn’t appreciate until therapy almost a year later was that suppressing these emotions had caused the panic attacks that I had been suffering from 6 months prior. My family and friends had no idea that my partner was literally helping me to breathe most nights. Once he had passed, I was able to be open and honest with those around me. Those months were dark, but at least my loved ones could support me this time.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I feel that grief comes in waves. I think about Mark every single day, but 15 months later, my life is getting back on track. There are those days where my heart feels like it’s been broken in half. Those days consume me, but I ride with them. I no longer try to bury my emotions. The worst part for me is those moments where you’re reminded of a memory of them and it feels so real. I forget that he’s not here. And that’s what hurts the most. It’s like losing him all over again. But I try to overcome this by realising that it makes me feel close to him. It gives me comfort. I know he’s still here with us.

Thank you for being so open and honest Sophie, I’m sure there is a lot of people reading this that can resonate with how you’ve felt and also how you have grown. The best advice Sophie shares is opening up and talking to family and friends, it relates back to my mental health post and I thought hiding my emotions from my family was a good idea because they wouldn’t have to worry but in the long run I should have always been open and honest but its all part of a grief journey and you will find your way of dealing with it, just remember its ok to cry and always be kind to yourself.

Thank you for getting involved in this little project of mine Sophie, it’s a big ask to let me write about such a personal experience all over the internet but I’m glad you can be part of this movement. I really do thank you and I hope you find comfort in sharing your story.

Together we can make Grief a more open and less awkward subject xx

Should we think about our own death? Is it weird to make your funeral plans known even if your perfectly healthy?

For those of you that don’t know me on a personal level I am currently doing a lot of reading and research into grief and taking part in a course to become a bereavement support worker. This course is teaching me a lot and allowing me to reflect on many different things when it comes to bereavement and my own death being one of them.

Reflecting on this recently got me thinking should we think about our death more? Is it weird to make your own funeral plans known even if your perfectly healthy? Some may say yes but I think it’s healthy to be prepared as you really don’t know what is round the corner. My mum never let us know if she had anything, she would have liked at her funeral, she didn’t even have a will. So as a family we arranged a funeral that lived up to my mum’s personality, filled with family and friends but she may have imagined it completely different in her mind.

So, during the height of the first strict lockdown my anxiety went through the roof, I was the one that was so panicked and thought it was this deadly virus out there. Due to me having asthma and on the vulnerable list I did think if I got it there was a high potential I would die. Anyway, the thought of me dying worried me so I wrote a letter on paper even signed it don’t judge I can overreact haha, this letter included of all the things I would want to happen with all my finances and the sentimental things I own.

A key message I wrote in this letter ‘Whenever you’re on holiday or on a plane think of me as I will be there travelling with you’. I have always loved traveling and being by the beach and sea so before the pandemic I hadn’t really thought about anything to do with my death other than I would like my ashes to be sprinkled in the sea.

A lot of people are scared of dying and rightly so but its inventible, were all going to die one day so why live in fear? It’s time we talk about dying more openly and please use this blog as a direction to let someone know what you would want to happen after you die, weather that be a set funeral idea, who you would want to leave things to, even if you don’t own much it maybe a simple jumper or teddy that you would want someone to have. The only thing that does concern me is how my family would cope. I have thought about my own death a few times since losing my mum but this was more of a ‘how would my family cope’ rather than what I would actually want at my funeral etc.

So, I thought it was time to share a couple of things I would like at my funeral.

· I would like the service to be a celebration of life, I want people to smile and even laugh at stories being told. I would like a fun positive atmosphere, all family tensions put aside just a celebration.

· I would like people to wear something green! (My family would already know this as everything I own is green, even had a lime green bedroom wall most of my life).

· I would want everyone to be invited, everyone that may have impacted my life or me impact there’s, family, friends, school friends, Uni friends, old friends, basically an open invite to all.

· I would like a plain coffin with a pack of sharpies next to it – I would like everyone to write a message on the coffin. Kind of like a final goodbye maybe they feel they couldn’t say this to anyone else, maybe it’s something they have always wanted to tell me.

· I would like to be cremated and my ashes taken on holiday and sprinkled in the sea, because travelling is a passion and the beach is when I feel my happiest.

· I would like a speech/reading from my auntie, my sister and my best friend.

· For the music – I would like ‘rule the world by take that’ a song that has so much meaning to my family and was also played at my mum’s funeral. I would like my family to choose a song that reminds them of me. When discussing this with my auntie she said she would choose ‘I did it my way – frank Sinatra’ My family have always said I am very independent, talk my mind and always do things my way so I think the song is quite fitting.

Reflecting on my own death has really made me think about the idea of family and friends not knowing how much I apricate them in life, it has made me open conversations with family members and get them thinking about their own funeral wishes and that we should make these known.

Remember to tell your family and friends how much they mean to you, start talking about any wishes you would want at your funeral. You never know when it may be your last day, so live life to the fullest!

Vaishan Share His Story

The aim of this platform is to get grief spoken about in a less awkward and more open way, so I have reached out to some incredible people who all have a different story when it comes to grief, and have agreed to share it with the world through The Girl with Grief platform.

Meet Vaish

Firstly, thank you for allowing me to share your story with the world and I’m honoured to dedicate this post to your mum.

Myself and Vaish met at University as we was studying the same course. Over our final 2 years we spent a lot of time in studio and it I’m sure it was one late night working when i found out Vaish had lost his mum. He was has always been someone to send me a message on any anniversary of my mums death which means a lot.

So, on my journey to get grief spoken about more openly Vaish agreed to share his story.

Vaishan shares his story:

Who have you lost?  Mum

What is their name? Ilanga Gajendran

How did they die?  Kidney failure which eventually brought on many health issues and led to a heart attack.

Tell me about the moment you found out and the feelings that come with it?

I remember the moment I found out and the moment I last saw her like it happened yesterday. I had just got back from school and my mum wasn’t feeling well, she was lying down when suddenly she started having a seizure,  my grandma screamed for help and our neighbours came and carried her into a taxi to be taken to hospital whilst she was still having a seizure, in that moment I felt something as if it were the last time I’ll see her. 

I heard nothing of her after she was taken to hospital and 2 days later I woke up in the morning completely surrounded by people/family, and I knew in that moment what had happened, no one had to tell me or explain, I just knew. To be honest at that moment I felt nothing. I was only a 6 year old, but I knew what happened and for some reasons my instinct had already known this was going to be the case so I felt nothing. I remember to this day that I never cried or expressed any emotion other than confusion at the time. My family told me that she had gone to god and for some reason I could just accept that.

How do you think losing your loved one has changed you as a person?

It has impacted everything in my life, every step I take has been shaped by my loss. I lost my mum at too young of an age to know how it changed me from who I was before my loss. But having experienced this, I go by life not taking anything or anyone for granted as things can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. Everything I do is with her in mind, making sure I don’t let her down as I feel she is always watching over me. I also think how life would have been if she hadn’t passed, I was a kid growing up in Sri Lanka, now I am in the UK living a complete different life, sometimes I think maybe I wouldn’t have got the education or life I do now without what had happened so I’m forever grateful for what I have in life. Sometimes it feels like a sacrifice my mum made in order to create a better life for me. But what changed me and my mentality of life the most through my loss is seeing how my dad got through it. He lost his best friend, wife and more and was left alone with me to take care of, but he promised her that he would bring me up exactly as she wanted to and that he did. He got through it all without ever making me feel the true loss of my mum or neglecting me, he stood by me through it all whilst fixing himself up. He managed to build himself back up, move me out of Sri Lanka to the UK, do well for himself and get me to the position I am in right now with a great education and a life filled with opportunities. It really taught me to be strong, to never give up on anything, there are no excuses to fail, you must keep trying. My dad’s suffering will never compare to any obstacle I will face in my journey of life so there is never a reason to give up knowing what he achieved after his loss. My dad has always told me if you have love for something as he did for my mum and I, that love is enough to drive you forward through all the hard times, and his love for my mum and his promise to her as she left is what drove him to create and shaped the life I live now.

What is your happiest memory of them?

Sadly, the memories I have of my mum are very vague and very few. I remember certain parts, for example I remember me and my dad would go out to play and my mum would have made some amazing snacks and tea for us when we came back, she was an amazing cook. I remember that me and her would make cakes together for peoples birthdays, she loved making themed cakes. Finally, I remember I would come home from school and the first thing I would do is look for my mum, so after a while she started playing a game where she would hide just before I got back and I would run around the whole house and sometimes just cry if I couldn’t find her and she’d come running out.

Any bits of advice you’d give to someone who is currently going through what you went through?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt from my loss is that it never comes without a lesson to take forward in life. The passing of your loved ones is never not a reason, there is always something they leave behind with you to cherish through your life and that is their way of living on with you. At first a  loss is too daunting to see the lesson but we have to embrace the sadness, and then seek the lesson to be learnt, and once we learn that we will find it easier to accept our losses, this goes to any form of loss in life not just the passing of a loved one.

The advice Vaish shares ‘At first a  loss is too daunting to see the lesson but we have to embrace the sadness, and then seek the lesson to be learnt, and once we learn that we will find it easier to accept our losses’ is a great bit of advice, grief is a journey and it will be with you forever, it will come and go and teach you things you never expected. There is a lot of people out there grieving and my email/DM’s are always open for anyone however far into your grief journey you are. If any of the stories hit home for you then please reach out.

Thank you for getting involved in this little project of mine Vaish, it’s a big ask to let me write about such a personal experience all over the internet but I’m glad you can be part of this movement. I know it brought up a lot of emotions you may not of faced before so I really do thank you and I hope you find comfort in sharing your story.

Together we can make Grief a more open and less awkward subject xx