Grief Awareness Week

Grief is a hugely challenging emotion to process. It can be a long process where thoughts and feelings about a loved person or pet may come back and make you feel incredibly emotional.

Recently, I have found it challenging coping with the loss of my pet cat, Felix, who passed away on November 15th. On November 17th 2014, I also experienced grief for a long time as my grandma on my mum’s side of the family passed away.

Both of these experiences were incredibly upsetting for me. My grandma and my pet cat meant the world to me in different ways. I enjoyed many times at my grandma’s house playing cards, watching the football and hearing my favourite bedtime stories.

It wasn’t just my own times that I spent with my grandma that made me so emotional about losing her. It was also her huge impact on different communities. She did a lot of things for the Girls Brigade. She was also invited to one of the Queen’s garden parties. One of her best talents (possibly her best) was knitting, and she also spent much of her time making jumpers, hats, scarves and gloves for people in countries where people were less well off and couldn’t get access to these things.

Processing the grief was the most difficult part. With my own health challenges, I’ve sort of gone round in a continuous cycle without getting anywhere- and this was one of the things that I think most upset me about my grandma. It was a frustrating time for her living with different things that had solutions to them prescribed by doctors. And it was heart-breaking for me and my family to have to witness her pleasure in life deteriorating. I felt like more could have been done to make her life easier. I guess I always feel like that towards those I love- whether it’s naïve to think like that is another question when the reality could be a million miles away from what you wish to happen. Its because my grandma was such an inspirational figure that I had such a difficult time processing the event and then even during my eulogy at the funeral which I had to get the vicar to read out for me- the grief was just hugely challenging to experience.

I decided that the day after her passing, that I would attempt to go to school. After all, this was during the most important time of my school life as I was studying for my GCSE exams the following May and June. It was a decision that ultimately backfired and I went to my first class an emotional wreck and needed time out. Then, at my next class the same thing happened. I will forever be grateful for the intervention of my long-time friend who saw that I was distressed and walked with me to be picked up and taken home by my parents. For me, grieving in front of hundreds of people was what my gut instinct told me to do. To try and remain strong and get through the day focusing on the lessons and subject matter.

It was a similar scenario with my pet cat when he passed away. On the Friday before his passing, we found out that he was poorly- and when my parents announced the news, we all embraced each other and decided that the best thing we could do was to enjoy our final moments with him on the Saturday and Sunday. I noticed a rapid change not only in his appetite but also his vocals. He had an evident way he used to communicate- and his default sound became non-existent. I became very emotional just hearing his evident struggle during his remaining days. I wasn’t ready for him to go. Again, I had this mad feeling that after the last time we took Felix the cat to the vet, that he could’ve kept going for another 2 and a half years free of any real pain or anguish. Perhaps this kind of exposed my lack of understanding of how fragile a cat’s body is compared to a human’s body. It’s just witnessing his rapid change that was the biggest shock to the system.

I enjoyed so many times with him, whether he was watching the TV with me learning how to play football or whether he was sitting with us at meal times. Having that extra member of the family helped me to also feel valued if I was on my own if my family were on holiday.

For me, these times of loss had a huge impact on my mental and physical health. My eczema and skin problems always flare up due to anxiety, which has I believe become much more lead by my hormones nowadays as I have made a valiant effort to change my diet to remove eczema trigger foods. What I would say is that it is incredibly important to check in with people close by and in your local community. Whether it is going for a walk or stopping at a friend’s house or a café for a drink, these are ideas that could help someone come to terms more or be given a safe space to process their grief free of pressure.

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