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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Act as if

My Dad died exactly one month ago today and this past month has been one of the hardest I've ever had to endure. 

Losing my Dad so suddenly and unexpectedly has really knocked me sideways and I'm now taking some very much needed time out to rest, recover, and reflect. I'm not working at the moment thankfully so I have a little breathing space in my life while I try to come to terms with what happened. 

Lately I have been feeling exhausted and, at times, totally overwhelmed. Waves of sadness and nostalgia overwhelm me one minute, and then the next minute I feel somehow able to cope and rays of sunlight manage to filter through into my soul. There is a feeling of hope and strength deep within me that I want to harness and nurture. A feeling that I can't and simply won't let my grief defeat me. 

I have had difficult times in the past when my emotions got the better of me due to some sort of quarter-life crisis brought on by my own inability to sort my life out. However, this time it's different. I have a very real and serious reason for feeling down and I could easily completely give in to those feelings and allow a cloud of depression to float into my world and settle in for a while. 

But I really don't want that. 

Over the past few months, before this happened, I was feeling happier and more settled than I have in a long while and I was really loving the positive vibes flowing through my world. Life felt so good! It's amazing how quickly things can change - a blissfully happy time broken suddenly by something tragic and heartbreakingly sad.

I have been fighting off depressive feelings and a pervasive low mood for a few weeks now and I'm sure I will need to continue to do that over the coming year or so. Lately I've been reading a fair bit about grief and talking about my feelings with friends and family. Everyone seems to agree on one essential fact: you can't get around grief or avoid the darkness and the unwelcome feelings, you have to experience them and go through it to come out safely on the other side. 

Unfortunately it seems there are no shortcuts around the grieving process. But while I grieve I don't want to become a mess or allow my life to be mired with blackness. 

And so to the title of this post... "act as if". I have been trying to cultivate this important skill for a few years now and it's not easy. It's a variation of "fake it 'til you make it" and the idea behind it is that action always generates inspiration - inspiration seldom generates action. In simple terms, if you don't feel happy, act as if you are happy by doing things that you normally do when you're having a good day. It will surprise you how much more cheerful you feel if you act as if you already feel cheerful.

Since my Dad died I have been feeling unmotivated and sluggish, I'm finding it hard to get up in morning and get on with my day. I don't really want to see anyone or do the things that normally make me feel good (cooking, listening to music, seeing my friends). But I don't want to allow the circumstances and situations in my life determine how I feel, I need to be stronger and more resilient than that. 

I know that now it's more important than ever for me to "act as if", even though it's really hard. I need to get up at a decent hour, have a shower, get dressed instead of slobbing around in my PJs all day, eat something nourishing instead of comforting myself with unhealthy 'treats'. I must get outside for a walk, spend time with my best-friends, call my family, make plans. It's essential that I stay positive and remain active.

It feels as if without my Dad here time is standing still, but I know that's not true. I can see the world outside my window continuing on around me and without me. Somehow I have to muster up the strength to carry on with my own life. It's what Daddy would want more than anything and I must use that thought to inspire me. Wherever he is now I want him to feel proud of me and to know that I am ok. His life was taken too soon but I'm still living my life and it's vital that I really live it to the full and make the most of each special day.

Someone wise once told me that the only certain things in life are change and death. This is incredibly scary but true. So I have to learn not just to cope with these things but actually embrace them whole-heartedly as a natural part of life. 

Today I'm getting out of the house to meet my good friend Gemma for lunch. Her first baby is due in just a few months and that is the best reminder of all that life really does go on. 

I would really welcome your thoughts and reactions on this post. Leaving a comment is really easy: type your comment below, include your name, then select "Comment as: Anonymous" and click "Publish". I moderate all comments so it may take a day or so before it appears on the blog. Thanks! x


  1. Beautifully written dear, Ceals, Your strength, as much as your grief, shines through. Interestingly there are other cultural examples of your "act as if..." strategy, one of which I saw in Madagascar. I was at a "turning of the bones" ceremony where families reconnect with their loved ones who passed away, some a long time ago, others much more recently. It sounds ghoulish but in fact its rather beautiful: The rule is very firm: you are not allowed to show grief. Parts of the ceremony involve much dancing and singing. Of course there was sadness, almost unbearably so, especially at the beginning, but I remember how as the ceremony progressed grief was increasingly replaced by smiles, forced at first but becoming more natural. By the end the transformation was complete and the mood was wildly celebratory, everyone sharing memories and enjoying each others company - there were even a few drinks, if i remember! Anyway, the point is, I suppose, that we can do what you're doing and help transform our grief into something altogether more positive, living each day to the full with the happiest of memories to look back on, the best possible memorial to your dear pa. Not easy, clearly, but I have no doubt at all you can do it xxx

  2. Having lost both of my parents, I appreciate the importance of accepting the grief yet finding some way to continue to experience all of the beauty life brings and the happiness that comes with it. We all miss your dad. Every time someone post photos of him, my reaction is always the same, exactly the same: I just can't believe he is no longer with us.
    Allow yourself to experience the grief, it is important, but remember the things in life that bring you happiness.

  3. Thanks for sharing this - often just writing about it can act as therapy and hopefully helps you feel stronger.
    So sorry to hear about your Dad but no doubt he is smiling down on you.