A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
This is a guest post by Tanya Leary
Tanya is mum to two daughters aged ten months and two years and is the writer behind Mumaleary’s Blog. Here she shares her story of losing her father 26 years ago today when he was just 37 and she just seven.
I remember the night my daddy died very clearly. It is possible that my memories of the event are not 100 per cent accurate but it doesn’t matter to me, the results are the same. He died of a massive heart attack, having come home from work complaining that he didn’t feel well.
Our neighbours looked after my sister and me, and in the early hours of the morning our mum came home with a bag of possessions but without her husband. That was 3rd November 1987. That night my mum lost her husband, my grandparents lost their eldest son and my sister and I lost our daddy. Life was never the same again.
I know that it is weird for a grown woman to use the word daddy but I was never old enough call him dad when he was alive. I was only seven.
I have few memories of my daddy and some of the ones I do have are mere snapshots, possibly even imagined memories from the photos I have seen. But I do recall snuggling in his lap while he watched American football. I remember him ‘tidying up’ my ice cream in Parkgate and I remember him teaching me to ride my bike. I missed him dreadfully after he died and I still miss him today.
When I was 16 I had my hair cut short for the first time and I cried myself to sleep, worried that he wouldn’t recognise me when I got to heaven. When I went to uni I worried about my mum being on her own and at every family gatherings there is still a Daddy-shaped hole.
My mum took my sister and I to see a grief counsellor after Daddy died. I can remember a relaxation tape we used to listen to, which helped us to sleep. But mainly I remember us all clinging to one another; all girls together. We are a tight unit and it was pretty tough for people to break into that. I am certain that I would not feel the fierce need to protect my mum and sister if my dad was still here. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, just a different thing.
Hearing other friends complain about their dads during teenage angsty periods was tough, but telling people to be grateful for what they’ve got it life doesn’t always work. It’s a bit like telling someone to clear their plate because people are starving in Africa.
I have experienced two significant periods of depression in my life. Who’s to say whether or not these would have happened if my dad hadn’t passed away? But sometimes I think it’s a pointless question to ask because each of us has to play the hand we are dealt. I found a fantastic councillor who made me realise that there is no deadline for grief. It is not silly for me to miss my dad just because he died so long ago or because I have lived nearly 80 per cent of my life without him. It is ok for me to feel sad my daughters, my family and myself because we have to experience life without him. Equally it is ok to not be sad, to forget a specific date and enjoy what you still have.
I am now 32 and a mother of two gorgeous, beautiful, happy, healthy girls. I have a very happy life and I miss my daddy; the two feelings are not mutually exclusive.
I wish that my daddy had seen me graduate, I wish he’d met my husband, given me away at our wedding and made a brilliant speech. I wish he’d held my daughters, I wish he was around to celebrate my mother’s birthday and to share in her joy of being a grandma. But it was not to be. Instead, I have some beautiful memories and many more perfect imaginings of how life might have been if he’d been here. I suppose these musings are pointless but sometimes I still feel I need them and they offer me comfort.
Sometimes I imagined that my daddy had left us and that Mum had told us he’d died to protect us from the fact he’d walked out. Grief can do strange things to your head.
It is strange what the senses recall too. Even after all this time the smell of Brut aftershave and Vosene shampoo remind me of my daddy. The songs Silence is Golden and Walk of Life always make me think of him and my mum together too. I can’t see a wind surfer without thinking My dad liked that. I remember the day he shaved off only half of his moustache just to see if Mum would notice and I remember him taking my sister and I to his office to show us off.
I can’t ever imagine a day that I won’t miss him.
I love you, Daddy.