It’s OK To Say: Coping with bereavement and accepting help

Stacey Turner and her dad Robert.

Stacey Turner and her dad Robert. - Credit: Archant

Anxiety specialist Stacey Turner gives a heartfelt and deeply emotional account of the feelings she experienced following the death of her beloved father, as part of our mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say...

Stacey Turner and her dad Robert.

Stacey Turner and her dad Robert. - Credit: Archant

Woken by my mother’s frantic shakes, it was the early hours of the morning. Her voice was shaky and desperate: ‘Stacey, you must get up’.

Fumbling for my dressing gown and rubbing my eyes trying to see, I stumbled into the kitchen finding both my aunties sat at the dining table. I knew immediately something was horrifically wrong, yet I never expected the words that followed – I was 13.

Growing up, I never really spoke about dad, his death and the impact. Suffocated with grief, I shut down following the funeral plunging into silence for some time. I guess I went through the motions of each day trying my best, suffering terribly on my return to school. I was in shock, feeling lost and really still a child.

I did reach out to my father’s family some years later having been close growing up, yet we never spoke about dad. It was like a taboo subject, it was unbearable and the circumstances tragic.

It wasn’t until my own children started asking questions that I felt able to breathe. I finally had the opportunity to not only talk about him, share our fond memories and muse over the grandad he would have been, but I could finally face that I did indeed lose my father and it did up-end my life.

Sometimes I catch myself sharing stories with my girls, describing his features. The ones I used to trace with my eyes.The wrinkles around his eyes, moles on his cheeks, but most of all - his warm smile. They might ask about him or it might be inspired; either way it takes me back to that little girl soaked in her father’s comfort.

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I never got to talk about the night terrors, resuming life after loss or the scary thought of the future without him. Or indeed, that we were close and had a beautiful relationship, or feeling so very scared I’d never, ever have that again.

I’ve been a daughter completely torn up by grief, I probably suffered with PTSD, nobody knew what to say or do and I covered it up with a smile yielding a mask unable to let people in and live fully. It’s easily done, but it’s the wrong thing to do and I have suffered over the years because of it.

I became extremely close to my dear Nan and together we bonded through our loss, but we suffered differently, me for losing my father and she for the loss of her son.

Sadly, she passed away six years ago, yet I hold onto her essence every single day, for she tried desperately to fill my emptiness, a struggle she wished I didn’t have to deal with.

Any loss is horrific, it depletes you and parts ache you didn’t even know existed.

Please don’t hide behind grief like I did because I didn’t know any better. By the time you read this, I will have just turned 40. I ask for one gift from you, an acknowledgment that It’s OK To Say - when you’re ready. My mask caused me such loneliness and I don’t want that for anyone.

His name is Robert, he built things. He was a creator and loved helping people. I know he’d be humbled and proud by encouraging others to create space, build a platform of their very own and fill it with hope and help with a shower of faith.

I urge you to reach out for help and accept it. While you may not feel like it at the time, trust me, at some point you will. You will find a way through the sorrow. Try and embrace it for the future you and your family.

While each experience is different and personal to us, grief is a quiet and consuming presence, its blur is gripping and powerful and requires nurturing. You will find yourself again, just differently carrying their glow safely within you. X