Today I decided to write about how to cope – how I am coping – with losing someone, because I found out some really upsetting news last week. Now I don’t have much experience, if I can call it that, with losing people. I have only lost one person during my short adult life so far, and all I can say is that it was – and still is – the most devastating and life changing moment I have ever experienced.
My grampa – Ronald James Sinclair Henderson – died on the 18 December 2014 at 6.45pm when his body finally succumbed to the stroke he had months earlier. I carry a piece of paper with that date and time scribbled on it in my wallet. I don’t really know why, yet.
The struggle was heart-breaking. My dad and Eulodie, my dad’s girlfriend, made the incredible decision to look after him at home along with a carer. A decision I thank them for every single day.
Shortly after my grampa had his stroke he improved quite a lot, sitting up in his wheelchair and tackling puzzles even I would find hard to start. But as the months went on he became weaker and weaker, we suspected he had suffered from a number of small strokes that were undetected. It was a steady decline from there.
While visiting in December 2014 there was mixed emotions. I was happy to be visiting a place that had been my home for most of my life, but at the same time I was sad because, I think, deep down inside I knew this would be the last time I would see my grampa.
I had not seen him for a few months and my dad had told me that he had lost a lot of weight and that I should be prepared for a drastic change since the last time I had seen him. He was right. He was now completely bound to his bed and was so thin, almost unrecognizable.
Everyday I tried to spend as much time with him as I possibly could, but because I found it so hard to see him like that I hardly spent any time with him at all – I was so scared to lose him and so upset. This man was my best friend, and the love he had for me was pure and untainted. He really loved me no matter what, and was the only person that never faltered when he found out that I was gay – one of the biggest and most defining moments of my life – and he never judged me. Not once.
Coping with his death has been a process, a long and hard process that I know will continue for a long time. I have learned, however, that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ coping method, but I want to share with you the ones that work for me every day.
- Try to remember some of the happy times you had with your loved one, and how they were before they fell ill. It’s so easy to get caught up in the worst moments that you tend to forget the better times you had with them.
- Face how you’re feeling. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry, and equally it’s okay to be happy and to laugh. Don’t tell yourself that you cannot feel, and more importantly don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel.
- Look after your physical health. I didn’t want to eat and didn’t sleep properly for days, but having no energy will only make you feel physically worse.
- Save items that remind you of your loved one. I went and found old photos, and even came across an old envelope my grampa gave me over a year ago that he wrote ‘I love you’ on. Those items are special and will remind you of the good times.
- Distract yourself, and I do not mean this in a bad way. By taking part in an activity you love – or taking up a new hobby all together – will help you to work your way back to some sort of normality.
- Take one day at a time and try to find something beautiful in every day. Table Mountain is the one thing I see every morning (besides Jeanne and the boys) on my way to work, and it’s a sight I do not take for granted as many people won’t ever witness its beauty.
These are just some of the ways I cope, and like I have said already, they may or may not help you. But I hope you will find comfort in at least one of them.