My Dad died less than a week ago. His death was peaceful yet still a shock. I am glad that I got to know my Dad for fifty years. He gave me this compass forty years ago and also made the little wooden box for it. I wore it as a pendant to the funeral service.
Two days before my Dad's death, I picked up two birthday cards and held them for a while, wondering if I should buy one for his birthday. One was of a train, the other was of tools organised tidily in a workshop. He would have liked both. I couldn't decide and thought I might choose in a few week's time, so I put the cards back onto the shelf. Then Dad died, at home, during a nap, after he put the wheelie bin out. He was a month away from turning 82. I might go back and buy the cards anyway (it can be therapeutic to write in a card or journal).
I've wondered if he knew something was up, as he'd asked me about some medical conditions that could be relevant and he was binge-watching his old home movies, specifically with certain family members over twenty years ago. He also seemed more anxious and sad about some things that had previously not bothered him. He was also worried that his cat might not be feeling well (perhaps he was really meaning himself?)
I'd been very determined to publish my memoir in September, like an urgency about it. Then, I felt depressed (which I blogged about), then Dad died. Just a minute before I found him, I was checking some links on my blog. I was still in my pyjamas when the ambulance and police arrived (police were involved on behalf of the coroner as it was a sudden, unexpected death).
My Dad was a hobby home family video maker, back in the days of old film. I used to watch him splice and join film. Someone transferred the footage to DVD for him but it's all scrambled. Some of the footage is twenty to fifty years ago. One of our family activities was to watch the movies with an old projector on film.
I asked Dad at Easter if he would be okay if I edited some of the footage for extended family to enjoy. I was thinking of my Nana and how she has so many great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren now. To my surprise, he said yes. (I was surprised as he is a very private man). I'd already started editing, hoping to end up with a fifteen minute video from hours of footage.
Then, I felt the need to complete my book.
Then, Dad died, the same week I published the memoir. It's been a horribly intense time (triggering PTSD a lot). Family don't agree. I tried to speak up for Dad's wishes. There are cultural and personality diferrences in my family.
I shut down as a coping mechanism, which makes people think I'm fine. I just don't feel safe processing grief emotions in front of others. It can also be overwhelming so for me, processing a little at a time is best. Grief processing can take years for some people. Even decades.
My Mum asked me to film a little of the service (that I knew Dad didn't want). The memory stick was playing up but it decided to really play up, so I only got a minute or so of footage before the service. I'd like to think that perhaps Dad had something to do with that, rather than just a coincidence.
I did a speech. I said the truth in a storytelling way, so that people couldn't tell if I was joking or not. I swore in church but made it sound funny. Humour can be a coping mechanism. People smiled and laughed. Someone said I could be a standup comedian, which is ironic as I didn't talk when I was little. The feedback was that the reason it was so funny, is that everything I said was the truth.
I said the compass was a gift from my father and he had way more morals and integrity than the church. (I was raised in church).
I will probably have a break from this blog for a while. I have started a semianonymous account where I will share some of the video footage without naming people but put the connections. I won't link it to here. My family are behind the project. It's my way of processing grief plus I felt more urgency to do the project, starting with Dad and his grandchildren, when they were little, as his family on the other side of the world have missed out on that part of Dad's life. His siblings are elderly too.
Some extended family don't want to be in it, others are happy to. I can blur faces if necessary. As horrible as it is, it's the first time in decades that I've had contact with some extended family.
When I asked an aunty on Mum's side of the family about it, from when her siblings (now senior citizens) were kids, she said 'they'll feel like movie stars!'
I think what will make it extra special is it shows some snippets of everyday life including from my childhood in the 1970s. Way before people performed for social media. Also, I'm from two very different cultures, and Dad's videos documented that.
I have a visual memory and I can remember a few snippets I would like to upload, after extracting them from the longer videos. Video might be a nice way to process plus a break from writing.
I bought a new memory stick and the old one is with the compass.
The little video clip below is from a walk today, for some time out. I was listening to 'I believe I can fly' (James Ingram), chosen specifically because my young grandniece was singing it yesterday when she was on a swing. She was close to her grand-Opa (my Dad is from Holland). She was self-soothing a lot (such as rocking in the chair) and she wanted Opa's music played.
Even the cat was grieving (yes pets grieve too). Dad's music and lighting the fire for her helped settle her a bit. She was very stressed when a lot of people came to the home (so was I). I need a lot of space and peace and people overload and people I didn't know touching me (hugs etc) made me feel stressed.
Everyone griefs differently. Please don't force expectations on others on how to grieve. We're not 'cold' if we don't necessarily cry in front of others. I don't usually feel safe to. Grieving can be a very private thing for many people. I've had therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for nearly five years. Grief was tangled up with my trauma. I didn't process some of it for decades.
Music and nature are some of my coping strategies. Sometimes, I've hibernated under the bedcovers quietly listening to music. Other times, I've gone for a walk (especially if I had intense emotion like anger).