Sunday Tittle Tattle: The Death Switch

I was going to publish this post last week, but then I realised that it was Easter Sunday and the title was inappropriately depressing. None of the post is overly cheery, I have to say; but keep going because there’s a (relatively) positive end to all of this grief and death talk.

Not that this is the last time I’ll mention grief, I’m sure, because even though I’ve started to feel awkward talking about it – as though my window for public mourning closed on the day of my Dad’s funeral – I seem to find the whole process fascinating. At least to write about. In reality, grief is a breath-snatching, eye-reddening bastard that sneaks up on you when you least expect it – a song coming on the radio when you’re in a taxi, the smell of someone’s soap on their hands as they take your child’s temperature at the health centre. A face behind the windscreen of a white van as you pull out of the petrol station.

So yes, fascinating on paper, and cathartic to write about, but not in the least bit convenient or practical when you’re trying to get on with life, with two small beings in tow.

Anyway, I wanted to talk today about what I’m going to call the “Death Switch” and ask for a show of hands from those who identify with it. The Death Switch is what I’ve named the feeling I had a day or so after my Dad’s death until just a couple of weeks ago (so, almost six weeks of feeling the way I’m about to describe) and it was the sensation that someone or something had flicked a giant switch in my brain and completely changed my way of thinking.

I’ve always been a very positive person, I think – up for a challenge (lost without a challenge!), enthusiastic, ready with a bit of humour when the chips are down, always looking forward and thinking about how things can be improved. I mean, I can also be a total grouch, a moody cow, impatient, stubborn, loads of other not-so-great attributes, but in general I think I’m usually rather upbeat and optimistic.

Not so after some power-that-be flicked the Death Switch: I’ve honestly never felt so despondent, sad, helpless and pessimistic about life. What is the point, I thought, of even becoming attached to anyone if they can be just snatched away from you? Without you having any say in the matter? What’s the point in falling in love if ultimately you’re going to be separated? Not “maybe”, but “definitely”? 

I got myself into a right old state. And it lasted for weeks. What’s the point in trying to work? I thought. What’s the point in WORKING? We’re all just going to die anyway! I couldn’t get my sad, confused brain to think beyond the negative – all it could see was the finality of death and also the inevitability of death. And it wasn’t even really a grief for my Dad, anymore, it was a grief for the people I love who are here, alive and well, and the total, crippling fear that anything could happen to them.

(Well, bloody hell, this is a cheery post so far, isn’t it? Thank God I didn’t publish it last week. You’d have all been choking on your chocolate eggs.)

Anyway, the flicking of the Death Switch felt as though someone had turned a light out somewhere in my brain. Whereas I’d always had this lovely, soft, welcoming glow inside my head – a bit like a lamp left on in a hallway overnight, just in case someone comes home late from the pub or wants to nip downstairs for a glass of water – it just felt dark. Like the plug had been pulled from the wall and the front door had been bolted shut from the inside.

Has anyone else felt like that? After a death? It was intense and worrying. I was jumpy, nervy, easily startled (even more easily than usual, which is saying something – my default state is like a mouse that’s been force-fed a packet of Pro Plus) and generally strung-out. I stressed about everything, couldn’t see the benefit in much at all and doubted almost every life decision I’d made up until this point.

And so what changed? I’m writing in the past tense, so it follows that I’m about to reveal some huge change of mindset. (I can hear you virtually begging me for that uplifting ending I promised.) Well…time changed things. It really was that simple. I’m by no means saying that I’ve come to terms with the idea or reality of death (and I still have a little niggle about “the meaning of life” or, what I’ve nicknamed “what’s the f*cking point of it all?”) but I’ve realised that death is nothing special. It happens all the time. It has to happen all the time. And although that was the sort of train of thought that set off the whole Death Switch pessimism in the first place, it was also what snapped the switch back to its reset position. Because if death really is that normal, and that inevitable, then we just have to jolly well get on with things, don’t we?

Discuss, if you can bear to. I realise I’m offloading and it’s not particularly attractive or fun, but I think I want to get back to beauty and happy things, now, so this might be the last you hear of my depressing inner thoughts!


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  1. J Smith
    April 8, 2018 / 8:03 am

    I really enjoyed reading this post and all your other posts re: grief. I went through the same thing with my Grandma 3 years ago and definitely felt the way you describe above. It kind of felt like auto-pilot mode for me, doing everything and carrying on with life as normal (because you just have to) but with no feeling or emotions as you cannot comprehend why life is so cruel and why his has to happen in the first place! Time is the only thing that will get you through those days. Still to this day a song can come on the radio and bring it all back but at least that feeling will stop once the song is over. Allow yourself to feel that way sometimes and being yourself back to the present and you just have to get on with things.
    Thanks again for these posts, Its nice to read in words what I’ve been feeling and been unable to describe myself.

  2. christina murray
    April 8, 2018 / 8:05 am

    so true…when my Dad died suddenly it felt like someone had taken my life ripped it into little pieces and thrown the whole lot up in the air. Bit by bit the pieces came back down to earth and i had to find a way of putting them back together…which i did but not how it was before! you then learn to live with missing someone but the intense emotion of ir passes. The death switch is a bugger!

  3. Bev Flannery
    April 8, 2018 / 8:08 am

    Did your dad die suddenly? Mine died after a fairly drawn out health problem which was awful for him (and us) but when he finally slipped away it was almost a relief. That was almost 30 years ago and he was only 52.. We still miss him but talk about him often with great affection and humour.

    On the other hand, my father in law, died very suddenly of a heart attack which was nicer in a way for him because he knew nothing about it, but for his family it was almost too much to cope with. The suddenness of your husband, son, father and brother just vanishing from your life was unbearable.

    Time really is a great healer and they IF they are looking down on us would want us to carry on and enjoy life.

  4. Jo
    April 8, 2018 / 8:14 am

    I completely understand this! My death switch has been switched on for years and I still can’t figure out how to turn it off ….

    • Wendy C
      April 8, 2018 / 10:10 am

      Mine too Jo. Mine too.

    • Nina
      April 8, 2018 / 3:17 pm

      Yup I’m still waiting. Been faking OK for over 10 years……

    • Denise
      April 8, 2018 / 3:39 pm

      Here too. Often for no particular reason.

    • DB
      April 8, 2018 / 5:49 pm

      Me too! It will be 9 years this year and I stil miss her as much as when it first happened. The faking part is true too!!

  5. Mary
    April 8, 2018 / 8:24 am

    I completely feel you, I lost my mum quite suddenly after a short illness (terminal cancer) at the same age as you and my daughter was 2,. You don’t mention the anger, I was so angry, that she’d left me, that she wouldn’t be a grandma to my little girl, that my dad was now on his own, that some rapist hadn’t died instead of her. These irrational thoughts go through your head and you can’t shake them. The best therapy for me was having a small child as you just have to get on with things, there is no other choice. I feel you come out stronger and are more compassionate as a human being after these horrific things happen to you.

  6. Karen Bates
    April 8, 2018 / 8:27 am

    Hi Ruth
    I am so sorry for your loss. I’m 37 and I lost my Dad in February 2015 after a 3 month illness and I lost my mother suddenly in December 2016. Yes it does change you, from my Dad being ill till around January this year I have had a constant video playing in the background of my mind, memories of my parents that I am afraid I will forget. It’s exhausting and even though you know they weren’t going to be around forever it’s bewildering and feels like a bad dream. I promise it does and will get easier but I think the only thing that really helps is time passing. I’m just coming out of the ‘what’s the point stage’. When I think of all the time I have wasted. I don’t have a family of my own and now my views on what’s important have changed so much. I really enjoy your beauty writing and videos, thank you for sharing about this. I think this post will resonate with many ladies x

  7. Rebecca
    April 8, 2018 / 8:32 am

    I felt similarly when I moving house ( I’m not comparing it to the grief of losing a parent – I really wanted to move, it is just when it happened). I was completely broken – my inner lamp was definitely off and I couldn’t understand how anyone could be behaving normally when everyone was going to die anyway. I’ll spare you the details but I was barely holding it together.
    I can’t imagine how horrendous this must be for you with the grief of your dad passing away. Sending you much love.
    I ended up going to see a lovely lady who hypnotised me (prob not normal treatment for this kind of thing, but as it had come on so suddenly and I’d never experienced any real issues like this before, I decided to try – I was scared to go to the doctor) and got my light glowing softly again. It took 6 months to feel ’normal’ and much more easily put out now though – though weirdly not directly by grief (so far). I will never be the same and that’s fine, I try to see the positives in it as far as I can.

  8. Wendy Joscelyne
    April 8, 2018 / 8:33 am

    Hello Ruth. I have not written to you before, but felt compelled to tell you my take on this situation you find yourself in. My father died six years ago from lung cancer and although it was expected, came as a huge shock when he did to experience the reality of knowing I would never see him again. Then three months later I was diagnosed and subsequently treated for breast cancer! Today, sitting here, writing this I can tell you your perspective on life does change, but mainly for the better and you will appreciate everything even more. I will be fifty three next month, have a large, happy, loving family, we are expecting our first grandchild any moment, have had the opportunity to travel and have wonderful holidays. Have a six month cockapoo!! And yet, I still have times when I think, why are we still improving and spending money on our house, because what if I die and don’t get to enjoy it!? So that’s the thing, it’s completely normal to occasionally question life, now that you have experienced loss, but trust me it will not stop you loving and enjoying the life you have now. Lots of love to you, your mum and all your family.

  9. Mary
    April 8, 2018 / 8:34 am

    Ruth grief is a bastard it ebbs and flows .
    I have worked in Hospice for over 20 years and thought I understood it! Until I had a three deaths of close family over a few years and I realised I knew nothing .
    I am not English and from what I have observed from
    afar you do death and grief very differently
    It’s very reserved and not really talked about .
    I think you need to give yourself a break you are doing what you can do . It is what it is so leave the judgement and be gentle with yourself
    The “ death switch “ makes sense to me
    I don’t see it as a linear process rather it is more like the tide coming in and going out it washes over you
    Take care

  10. Susan Reynard
    April 8, 2018 / 8:36 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on death and so very sorry for your loss. The “death switch” is real and follows any great loss, I’ve found. We’ve recently bought a book on death called “Staring at the Sun” by Irvin D Yalom, which is all about “overcoming the dread of death”. Not sure we can, but it’s worth a try and he has some interesting insights. Love your posts on all topics and appreciate how much of yourself you put into them. xxxx

  11. April 8, 2018 / 8:37 am

    I think the point of it all is that without creating bonds of love and memories, death would be ever so much more sad and scary than it already is. The memories you create with a loved one are there to comfort you when they’re gone… even though there’s a tinge of sadness to them and hardly an adequate supplement to flesh and bone. The death switch is a reaction to having that illusion lifted that death is far away/as capable. When the cold hard fact of the matter is it’s unpredictable, indefinite and inevitable. If it gets me down or anxious, I just concentrate on the here and now. No use worrying about crossing a bridge until you come to it right? Thank you for sharing Ruth, don’t feel bad for sharing your inner thoughts. They’re a comfort to others who are feeling the same :) xxx

    • Mezzogiorno
      April 16, 2018 / 12:07 am

      Oh Lucy, this is so beautiful, I’m a little choked up. You’re right, life without the love that makes loss painful…well, there would really be no point. Thank you. Love to you, Ruth, and all those who have lost someone.

  12. Lisa
    April 8, 2018 / 8:53 am

    Yes, your post resonated with me all right. My Mum passed away twelve years ago. I held her hand and stroked her hair as she left this world and although I was glad I was there, it completely broke me. It was over just so quickly, I was inconsolable and didn’t stop crying for months and my behaviour was rather erratic . It does gets better, time helps, but I still cry for her, and miss her so much, sometimes it floors me and it feels like it happened yesterday. It’s life, but it’s still shit. There’s a beautiful poem by Henry Scott Holland called Death Is Nothing At All. I read this at my Mum’s funeral and it always brings me comfort. Sending love & best wishes to you and your family.xxxxx

  13. April 8, 2018 / 8:56 am

    ‘What is the point in it all?’ is one of those questions that is just too big, too frightening to think about. All you can do is try to keep the switch turned off and find joy in the simple pleasures of life, of which there are so so many. Sending love from my house to yours. H x

  14. April 8, 2018 / 9:14 am

    Thank you for the post – I think it’s really important to talk about these things. I experienced something similar to the Death Switch after I went through a period of serious illness and came face to face with my own mortality in a very visceral way. I felt quite empty and bleak for a time. I jokingly called it ‘my existential crisis’ and while it’s faded as life has (thankfully!) moved on for me, part of it has stayed. It’s a kind of loss of innocence. But like you say, once you realise that, it does make life even more precious and gives me more urgency to get on with it! With love x

  15. Cassandra
    April 8, 2018 / 9:18 am

    From the comments your post has resonated with many people. I haven’t lost a parent yet but I imagine I will feel exactly the same. Hope that articulating things that this has helped you. A great post.

  16. Jen
    April 8, 2018 / 9:19 am

    I’ve put a different name below because I.. I don’t really know.
    My mum died when I was 21 and I always feel I hadn’t grieved properly for her. I’ve never really had a period of ‘grief’. I had a period of shock between the death and the funeral but as soon as the funeral was over I think I got back to normal pretty quickly. She was an alcoholic and I’d convinced myself between the ages of 16-20 that I hated her which I didn’t of course. We’d had a tough time growing up as the child of an addict but it wasn’t all bad. We had some really joyful family times and she was just very very messed up. Since I’ve had my own children I would say I’ve become preoccupied with both aging and death. It worried me how fast time is racing by. My dad had a terrible accident 6 weeks ago and nearly died. I can’t stop thinking about how I won’t cope when he does die. My husband has taken the children to Birmingham to visit his family for the night for his brothers bday, I stayed home because I’m 8 months pregnant, I nearly had a nervous breakdown until he called to say they were off the Motorway. I couldn’t cope with them all being together without me (what if something happened) I’ve never been anxious or a worrier before. It’s not quite the same as your ‘what’s the point’ funk but I do think it’s in some way related.

  17. Jenny
    April 8, 2018 / 9:26 am

    Ruth, I lost my Dad 2 years ago now and can relate to everything you say. I also had a feeling of being fragile and vulnerable, like my tough outer coating had been peeled off. For me, that feeling of ‘what’s the point’ that you describe gives way to a realisation that we are only in this earth for a very short time, so I want to see as much of it as I can, to live life exactly the way I want to, not how anyone else thinks I should. And that death switch you describe is very real, you will feel different, losing someone is a massive shock to the body, and it changes you as a person. I also wanted to massively thank you for talking about this subject which is so difficulty and bringing it into the open, I think you’re bloody brilliant!

  18. Claire Evelyn
    April 8, 2018 / 9:34 am

    Oh my darling Ruth…. I lost my dad very unexpectedly last July to an aggressive brain tumour and he died three weeks after diagnosis. We had no time to say goodbye. He simply went in for Chemo and never came home after suffering a massive fit straight after. The grief was so very raw and bloody that it completely consumed me for months. I pretty much lost my faith in life and my focus changed, much like yourself. For me, after 6 months came physical symptoms – exhaustion, stomach aches and forgetfulness. I couldn’t remember how to use the hoover or which way up a book went…. I went to the doctors as altzheimers runs in the family, as I became worried (I am 54). They told me it was stress – a follow up to the all encompassing grief. I wish I could tell you that everything is hunky dory after 8 months but, it isn’t… I think I am starting to accept that I simply cannot change things and that life carries on but I am totally washed up and so am going to try to give myself a bit of a break and allow myself to miss my wonderful dad and celebrate all that he means to me. Each milestone has been painful without him…. Christmas, Birthdays and the dreaded Fathers Day is still looming. Allow yourself time to grieve and accept it as part of the healing process. I wish you lots of love and light in this rather gloomy, unpredictable world xxxx

  19. Alisha
    April 8, 2018 / 9:46 am

    So sorry for your loss, everything in your post is so relatable

    Alisha xx |

  20. Lisa
    April 8, 2018 / 9:55 am

    Hi Ruth, thank you for writing this – I hope you will draw some strength from your readers, as many readers, including me, are drawing comfort from your words. I lost my dad suddenly in March, we held his funeral on Friday. There’s still part of me in disbelief that I will never see him again. I identify with waves of grief – coming over me at random times – grieving for what was and what will never be again. Lots of love to you and your family xx

  21. Anne
    April 8, 2018 / 10:00 am

    I had this realisation when I was 8 years old and I think that’s why I’ve basically been a pessimist my whole life! We’re all being hurtled towards an end point that we don’t want and have no control over, but what’s the alternative? The only conclusion I’ve come to is to live your life exactly as you want to and ditch all the crap. But then I worry that this makes me an extremely selfish person so there’s no winning!

  22. Anna R
    April 8, 2018 / 10:02 am

    Felt exactly the same Ruth when my Dad died. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and I remember (quite horribly) thinking I’d give the baby up to get my Dad back (imagine my husband having to deal with that lunacy).
    I used to see my Dad everywhere, it was awful. The pregnancy and birth then became the thing that helped me deal with the now but it took a very long time. This fictional ‘seemly’ window for grief can bugger off as well. It can come back and hit you at any time, triggered by as you so eloquently wrote, smells and half-glimpsed sights. I’m not sure whether you’ve read The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion but I highly recommend it, I think she describes the ‘madness’ of grief really well.

    “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. “

  23. Suzy
    April 8, 2018 / 10:09 am

    Hi Ruth I think it’s great you are posting about this. It’s real. It happens to everyone at some point in different ways. I lost my dad to terminal cancer 2.5 years ago and even now something can just hit me and take me right back to the darkest most painful times. 98% of the time I’m fine get along happy with life and everything I like to do. It takes a while to get to that point, and personally I don’t think times a healer because sometimes if I think about my dad the pain of losing him feels just as raw. But you just get used to them not physically being there and you get on with things. For me the experience has made me appreciate the little things in life more, it’s made me more compassionate towards other people but it has also made me worry more about the ones I love. There is no win win just have to do the best you can do because it’s all anyone else is doing. Speaking openly about death and grief is important and normalises it. So post if you want to post or equally if not. Xx

  24. Emma Moseling
    April 8, 2018 / 10:13 am

    Hi Ruth
    Everything you have felt/are feeling is totally relatable. I lost my father 2.5 years ago 6 weeks after a diagnosis of glioblastoma (aggressive brain tumour) and I had to deal with it all over on my own as a single mum with an 18 month son in tow, before that my partner left me a few days after I gave birth and a year before that I lost a pregnancy. Heaps of love being ripped away from you leaves you feeling like nothing is forever so what’s the point. When my father died though, he was my rock, my champion, my best friend and that hurt more than anything. I still have yet to even consider thinking about having a relationship with anyone since my son was born, as I can’t bear the thought of rejection or loss again. BUT I know I have sound friends and so much unconditional love from my little boy and that drives me on.
    It was my father’s birthday two days ago and whilst I wanted to hug him more than ever, my foot stamping and screams of “it’s not fair” we’re quieter than previous years. It gets better, slowly.
    Much love to you all.
    Emma xx

  25. Helen Inglis
    April 8, 2018 / 10:19 am

    Hi Ruth, this is the first time I’ve replied to you I think. The Death Switch… it’s definitely a Thing. It happened to me the first time somebody very, very close to me died – and I think this is when I really felt it for the first time and understood it. My beloved grandmother died when I was 23, and I felt exactly the way you describe. For a little while the world seemed to stop, just in the little space around me. Around me the world carried on doing all the things it does, but for me it froze, standing still on its axis. It was a little like a film effect – I was there in a hazy, soft-focus bubble while the world carried on rushing around purposefully round me and doing its thing. And I couldn’t see the point of doing all the little things that made up my daily life, because not a single one of them would bring Nanny back.

    The good news is that it does get better. With time I’ve been able to remember my grandmother with happiness and love, and remember all the joyful memories of the time I had with her. I’ve been able to see that she lived her life absolutely to the full, cramming it full of so many things and experiences (Of all the stories I have heard about her, my favourite was that she was evacuated during WWII in her very early teens, but decided she wasn’t having any of it, and took herself back home under her own steam! She was an absolute legend!).

    In the many intervening years, we have lost more people, I’m sorry to say. And each time the Death Switch is there, waiting. It does get easier to tackle with experience. My one observation on it really is that it is that much harder when faced with someone who has died well before their time rather than someone who lived a long life to the full and whose time has come. One of our closest friends took his own life at the age of 37, and it took a long, long time to hush the effects of the Switch into submission after that. Being able to celebrate his life and go on was so much harder than with those who we lost to nothing more than time.

    It gets easier. I promise. I’m thinking of you, and your family.

    Helen x

  26. Laura
    April 8, 2018 / 10:27 am

    Oh, Ruth. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your post is so beautifully written, and so are all of the comments, which are testament to how universal (but also how acutely personal) these experiences are.

    When you think about it, this post would have been perfectly appropriate last Sunday, too, since the true Easter message brings the intriguing promise of everlasting life. It’s all about idea that death has died and there is nothing to fear any more. But no matter your belief system, the Easter story can really be summed up in the idea that love conquers all. And, you know, that’s the point of life (for me, anyway) – no matter how bleak, how desperate, how dark – love WILL win the day, some way, somehow, eventually. Love will always win in the end. That’s the point of all of this.

    Much love to you and your family.

  27. Wendy C
    April 8, 2018 / 10:32 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dad, Ruth.

    Grief is a constant in people’s lives. Not always about the death of a person but THAT grief, the “final” grief as it were, is bound to make us question why we’re here and what’s the point of it all, if it will all ultimately be lost, in the end. I think it’s reasonable to question. I do it all the time about my son, who is disabled. It’s a different grief and I don’t sit rocking in a corner in the foetal position because I have to get on with life; his and mine. But from time to time it floors me, totally.

    All the things you describe are perfectly understandable.

  28. Julie
    April 8, 2018 / 10:44 am

    When the death switch hit first time with my dad, it was exactly the same as you described, “WTF is it all about and is anything worth doing?”
    Then time traipsed on and we all felt more able to cope..then bam, again this time with my younger brother, a real shock to us all especially mum..that’s when I looked to parts of thinking in Buddhism, which is what George Harrison (Beatles) & Tina Turner practised, and has now given me a totally different outlook on our precious time on’s not religion it’s just very comforting xx

  29. Sarah Kerrison
    April 8, 2018 / 10:50 am

    Dearest Ruth,
    I relate to every word, every feeling, every macabre thought you were also to scared to write down. I found myself almost obsessed with death, with the process, with the after process, with funeral directors, I could go on.
    I was staggered at the calmness and poise of my brothers funeral home, their daily deal with death almost making them immune to the horror that I was experiencing. Offering tea, a box of tissues, a comforting rub of the arm…. How was this making it better? How was I expected to accept this and continue with life?
    The actual funeral, which crippled my parents and made me behave detached to support them through their disabling grief, Forgoing my own, thinking it helped them.
    It didn’t.
    I spent weeks plodding along, trapped within my own head, trying to deal with the horror, the resentment, the guilt, the grief. Not saying a word.
    Supporting my parents, emotionally, financially, physically. Forgetting (pretending) that my own brain was actually spontaneously combusting and I was slowly losing it.
    I’d panic (internally) every time my husband went to work, every time my eldest son went out in his car, every time my daughter went clubbing, every time my youngest walked himself to high school… What if they didn’t come back? What if the universe decided to snatch them too? I drove myself completely barking and couldn’t see my life ever changing from the feelings I was experiencing alone.
    Here I am, four months on and a random Dr’s visit after trying to give a blood donation they didn’t want ( this mortified me at the time, I couldn’t even do that right) made the floodgates open. I didn’t even think about my brother, grief, going mental, I was having a blood test.
    All the nurse did was ask if I’d had a nice Christmas? How were my family? “Goodness, isn’t the year going quickly”….
    I said “My brother died just before Christmas”…
    And realised it was the first time I’d said it out loud…
    That was it. That was my turning point, I don’t think until that point I’d even properly acknowledged the fact he’d gone. Living in some bizarre limbo land, driving myself insane with weird internal musings, scenarios of “what if’s” and “if I’d done”….
    I’m not proud of my breakdown after that, what is it and the apology of grief? Of showing tears, snot, heaving uncontrollable grief?
    The nurse buzzed a Dr.
    The Dr took me to a room and sat in front of me, not saying a word.
    That outpouring, that emotional diarrhea I got rid of that morning seemed to cleanse my soul, made me realise I wasn’t dead, I had a life. I realised I’d never get over losing him but I’d learn to live alongside my grief of losing him.
    I suppose what this complete waffle I’m spouting is trying to say is, talk. Talk until your throat hurts and you have no more words. Talk until it somehow makes sense.
    Everyone has a story, everyone has experienced grief, you’re not alone, no matter how deep and macabre your brain goes, someone has gone deeper. Someone has clawed themselves back out of the abyss and made it. And you need to know there’s hope.
    Until you talk you think you’re the first.
    You’ve turned a corner and that’s just brilliant Ruth, you’ll never “get over it” but a part of him travels with you, always. Take comfort from the fact he’s on your ride.
    Much love and take care xxx

  30. Jules
    April 8, 2018 / 11:44 am

    Ruth, my Mum died on 12th Feb this year, and I’m still wondering where she’s gone. The day you posted about ‘misplacing’ your Dad, was the day of her funeral, and I was questioning everything about life and death. She didn’t die suddenly, she died gradually, slowly, naturally, and I watched her face it with fear, bewilderment and disbelief. That’s what I can’t get out of my head. She was looking at the end and, fully aware, there was no beautiful peace, no reconciliation or acceptance. Just fear. The only thing I can keep saying is how ‘weird’ it all is. Weird. Such a stupid word. My siblings are sick of me banging on about it being weird (so much so that at my brother’s birthday party a few weeks later, after a lot of alcohol, we swapped the word ‘weird’ for ‘moist’ (the most awful word). It gave us such a temporary relief, slightly hysterical, drunken ridiculous, laughter bordering on tears, relief.

    Now having no parents, I feel way too young to be orphaned, and I’m not sure what life is meant to look like going forward. Where is she? And what’s it like there? Is it good? Is there nothing? I’ve no idea. And that’s what’s tormenting me. Like you, I’m waiting for something terrible to happen again, lying awake at night expecting the worst. The world seems to be moving on, rumbling through every day, yet I’m still left with questions that no one can answer. The Death Switch sometimes pauses for a few hours of normality but I can’t seem to find the off switch. I hope I’ll find it soon.

  31. Karyn Tonkin
    April 8, 2018 / 1:08 pm

    YES, YES and a hundred times YES! You have described exactly what I have been going through after losing my Mum, to the degree that I couldn’t be bothered about my own health, why? What was the point? Luckily I’m coming through it now and taking it all in hand but I felt exactly how you described. I sometimes feel myself falling back into that way of thinking but catch myself before it goes too far. My mum lived with me and I looked after her for three years, it was always busy, running to various hospital appointments as she had a lot of health issues. I took care of the funeral and everyone else when she died and I thought I was coping really well and then, as you say, it was as though someone flicked a grief switch and I hit the floor. Hopefully very soon I’ll be able to think of Mum without wanting to cry, it’s the things that creep up on you out of nowhere, but I just try and think of the joy of having had her as a Mum and that I must get on and make the best of life as I’m so lucky to have one. Lots of love to you Ruth and I was so sorry to hear about you losing your Dad. xxx

  32. Angie guest
    April 8, 2018 / 1:43 pm

    I relate to everything you have been feeling Ruth, Im sure ive wrote this in a previous reply to one of your posts so please excuse me if I have…lost my dad 50 years ago still miss him dearly, lost my mum coming up 11 years in may and some days it still feel like it’s only yesterday, the grief feelings can creep up on you when your least expecting it and engulf you..Thank you for putting into words the feelings I still feel..lots of love to you your mum and your family Xx

  33. Alex
    April 8, 2018 / 1:55 pm

    Hi Ruth, my ‘death switch’ was triggered three years ago when I lost my grandad, and the following year when I lost another family member I cared deeply for. In the days and weeks that followed I was devastated, and although over time the pain has eased, my death switch still flickers every now and then like a broken lamp. I get sudden panicked thoughts that something terrible might happen my partner, who’s a little older than me, or I’ll have morbid thoughts about elderly relatives and aging pets. I’ve always felt like there was something wrong with me. That I’m a depressive with massive anxiety issues. And perhaps I am. But that’s ok sometimes. I don’t like to discuss it with other people, so thank you so much for posting this. Now I know that other people think this way, and feel much less lonely. Just be sure to enjoy the little things while the switch is off. Xx

  34. DeeDee
    April 8, 2018 / 2:02 pm

    First, I’m so sorry for your loss. The death switch is an apt term that I too have experienced. When my grandfather died in 2003, I felt it go off. While, by degrees, it has gotten better, I wouldn’t say that it’s completely gone away. It has moved from being at the forefront of my brain to lurking in the recesses of it and makes an appearance when I least expect it. I don’t have any great words of wisdom except to say that in my experience, remembering him at first was painful but now, it is not. I’m not sure when that switch flipped but it did and it may happen when you don’t expect it. xoxo

  35. Laura
    April 8, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    The meaning and purpose of life. The reality of death. Questions about life and death. Issues that come up when the shortness and fragility of life confronts us head on, when the awfulness of death and separation can’t be ignored, when the sense of “this shouldn’t be ” overwhelms us. Questions that religion seeks to answer, and only one religion, Christianity, can answer with sense and hope. Strength to you on this very difficult journey.

  36. Julie
    April 8, 2018 / 2:37 pm

    How wise you are at such a young age!
    Yes, death is a natural part of life and let’s pay homage to our loved ones and jolly well get on with things!
    Julie from across the pond

  37. Julie
    April 8, 2018 / 2:38 pm

    How wise you are at such a young age!
    Yes, death is a natural part of life and let’s pay homage to our loved ones and jolly well get on with things!
    Julie from across the pond

  38. Nicola
    April 8, 2018 / 3:31 pm

    Hi Ruth,
    What you are feeling is completely normal and it will be cathartic to write it all down. You are not alone, there are more of us just like you, feeling those same feelings, many more people than you realise. Death seems to be like one of those taboo subjects that you just don’t mention for fear of making people uncomfortable when it really shouldn’t be. It happens to us all. My dad died suddenly when I was 11 and I can honestly say it changed me as a person forever. As cheesy as it sounds, time is a great healer but it will take a long time. Grief doesn’t have a time limit. Even decades on now there are odd moments when I miss my dad terribly and the tears come freely for no reason but it will get better I promise. I’m not religious by any means but I found that his death made me spiritual as in I know that he’s still around watching over me in some form or another and was there to see me on my wedding day and when my children were born. I feel that life can’t be pointless, we have to meet up with our loved ones in some form or another once we’re gone or else there would be no point in anything. This is what keeps me going and putting one foot in front of the other some days. Much love to you Ruth. Thinking of you xxx

  39. Anita
    April 8, 2018 / 3:32 pm

    What an inspirational woman you are: brave, funny, intelligent & compassionate. Thank you for writing such a heartfelt piece. The cliché is true: time is a great healer and I know you will once more, find your inner glow and live a joyful life. Life is short, and death teaches us we need to value every precious moment spent with those we love. You will leave your mark on family, friends & readers just as your father left his loving mark on you. Our lives may be transient, but that does not mean they are worthless- if we live them to the best of our ability and love and care for those around us. Give yourself time to grieve, put one foot in front of the other and your father’s love will inspire you to rekindle the happiness and purpose you lack at the moment. I wish you well.

  40. Eileen Took
    April 8, 2018 / 3:39 pm

    I posted before, just after your Dad died, and I wondered how you were doing. It sounds as if you are going through ‘ the process’. I have experienced the death switch a few times now and it definitely depletes you and drains your ability to feel joy. I don’t think I will ever be the same, but I’m trying, and it does get easier as time passes. I promise. Think of your family and friends and remember that they love and need you – and are probably worrying about you. Live and love xxx

  41. Susan
    April 8, 2018 / 4:10 pm

    I lost my dad when I was 15. It was sudden and unexpected. Horrible and debilitating. In the lifetime that followed (am now 60) I have lost sister, friends, a wonderful step dad and others. Everyone processes grief in their own way. You get angry, scared and just plain pissed off. These steps are necessary. But time goes on you watch your babies grow and get married and give you grandchildren. Happy times replace the sad. You never forget those that have gone. Live your life to the fullest. Enjoy each day. It’s the best way to pay homage to those gone too soon.

  42. Cath
    April 8, 2018 / 8:09 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss Ruth. I never really thought of death as a switch but that is such a good way of describing it. My brother died very suddenly 11 years ago. I was 30, career driven, living a very cushy life, expecting my first baby, then suddenly everything changed. I lived abroad and was in my last trimester so couldn’t be with my family. My beautiful girl was born the very next day, too early (though she was fine), and my brain kind of imploded in a mess of confusion. What was the point of bringing a new life into this world if she would just be snatched away??

    Time is an amazing healer. I still think about him a lot, even talk to him momentarily when something difficult is going on. My kids ask about him, and have picked up little sayings that he used to use. But that’s ok – I actually like to think about him – he makes me smile. I’ll never “come to terms” with it, because that feels like I’m doing him a disservice. I’ll never be “ok” with it. But I’m at peace with that.

    Grief is such a personal thing, but however we process it, it forms a journey. And it isn’t a straight line – some days are easier than others. But after a while those easier days outweigh the difficult ones. The death switch does change you, but I think in the long term it gives you a strength and a real depth of love. Keep your loved ones close, and keep talking. Xx

  43. April 8, 2018 / 8:10 pm

    Hi, ah the death switch. Yes, I have experienced this very depressing and pretty horrible journey. Unlike you, it didn’t happen after a death of a loved one, it happened after I nearly died. I was 37, a working mum of 3 very small children, running a successful business with my ex husband (he wasn’t my ex at the time). I was run down, getting infection after infection, when I was suddenly struck down by an infection that almost killed me. And I do mean almost. Like 2 hours away from death and saved at the last minute by amazing surgeons who took a risk to save my life. I had sepsis, pneumonia and pleurisy, and a chest drain then nicked an artery inside and I had massive internal bleeding. This bleed turned into a haematoma (blood clot) the weight of a brick. It crushed my internal organs and collapsed my septic lung and I cannot tell you the pain of my heart being crushed, my spleen, my bowels, my lung. I was supposed to die. They brought people in to say goodbye to me. The surgeon in his 30 years of specialising had only carried out the lifesaving operation twice in his career and both times had ended in death. Clearly I was the first to survive the op. I had just been going about my life thinking about next Christmas, holidays, Makeup and boom, next minute a ventilator is breathing for me whilst I was in a coma. When I came round I was at the start of a journey that hasn’t ended that meant immense and chronic pain which changed my life and left me in a wheelchair. I lost my husband, my business and very nearly my kids and house. All I could see when I looked at everyone was death. It hit me hard thinking my kids could have been told their Mummy wasn’t with them anymore. It KILLED me realising that one day my kids would die and most likely I wouldn’t be there to comfort them at the end of their life like I’d want to. My parents, getting elderly now, one with Parkinson’s, I couldn’t bear to speak to them knowing that at some point they would no longer be there. But gradually I learned how to live again, adapt my life, take the smallest moments for what they are and cherish them. It switches on every now and then, I am on a hefty dose of antidepressants and anti psychotics as I was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when I ultimately had my nervous breakdown. But learning to become a disabled single mum gave me so much courage and determination, the harder the times, the more I was determined to make sure my kids had a happy life full of wonder and try to live my life to make it count. I’ve now gone back to university and am engaged to an amazing guy, brilliant step dad to my kids, we have a holiday to look forward to, pets, lives and happy happy times! The death switch pops back on every now and then, as though now we know about it it has to keep reminding us it’s there, but it’s becoming easier to simply ignore and exist alongside it without too much terror. I’m loving your writing about grief, you have an excellent way with words. It’s a sad thing to talk about but you don’t dwell on the sadness, you almost approach it with absolute interest in it, which I think is SO refreshing! Take care x

  44. Little Brown Bird
    April 8, 2018 / 8:25 pm

    Ruth, your writing is so beautiful.

    Death brings out all sorts of different emotions in us. My dad was ill for several years before he died so I saw it as a happy release and I felt okay about his death, despite it being unexpected and a deeply unhappy time for our family. I took solace in the fact that he had had a fulfulling and happy life and that mine was better because of him.

    Your feelings are natural though they can be discombobulating. After my dad died, I became interested in the idea of a good death, that it’s part of the cycle of life and while, it’s not pleasant and we all have varying levels of ability to cope with it, we can at some point reach acceptance, make peace with it and move on with our lives.

    I can recommend the book Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, both give different persepctives on death and those left behind.

    There isn’t a day when I don’t think about him, or notice his mannnerisms in my nephews or think of his silly sayings and I can only associate his memory with positive thoughts and good memories. As I say to my nephews, Grandy is all around us and with us. In time, I wish the same for you x

  45. My sincere sympathies
    April 8, 2018 / 8:38 pm

    Hi Ruth
    I nearly feel like its pointless writing a response to your post because I remember what it was like when my dad died. There are literally no words to fix things, and all I remember wanting to do was find a solution. It was like I had been catapulted into a parallel universe and there was no way back. The whole thing was so final and unchangeable it made the rest of the world feel like everything had hardened and solidified into being. In the days after, I would see something or think of something that reminded me of him or that I would want to tell him, and it was like running into a brick wall, or rather like the brick wall had slammed into me. My dad was 54, healthy and was on a bike ride with his friend when he had a massive heart attack. He wasn’t a smoker or a big drinker and the shock of his death sent a massive adrenaline rush coursing through me, and for those few days after, it sounds odd, but I had never felt more alive. The anger was fresh and the energy was like something I had never felt. All I kept thinking of was the horror of it all. I feel like I had never felt truly horrified or understood the meaning of the word horrifying until that happened. I cried every day. My dad was a quiet man and didn’t like a fuss, even when he was ill he was going into work like a crazy person. I remembered this about him and it helped me think how he would be telling us to get on with our day and get out there and enjoy life. He was always encouraging us to live our lives and go to the party or go for the opportunities offered to us, and in such a nonchalant way it made you feel like you were making a fuss over something easy. I’m rambling now, but when he died I found the stories of other people who had lost their dads young a comfort to me. Your grief is your own, it is probably vastly different from others and thats ok. Don’t feel like you should be doing something or shouldn’t be doing something to help your grief. At the end of the day your dad created you the way you are and is immensly proud of you I am sure, and he wouldn’t want you to behave how other people expect you to. My intention with this message was to offer whatever comfort I possibly can, and I don’t expect you to feel any different after reading this. I only hope you get your power back if you feel you have lost any. It won’t feel like the same power you had before, but it will be new and real. This is an odd post, so please don’t publish it.

  46. April 8, 2018 / 8:41 pm

    What helped me a lot when my sister died many years ago (she was 21 and it was very sudden and without warning) was being asked the question if I would trade the grief and pain I was feeling then against all the years I have spend with her and the memories I had made that were now part of the pain.
    Of course I wouldn’t have done that, and it suddenly gave everything back the meaning.
    Now, 14 yers later though, I have kids of my own and the grief tends to come back, because of course I tell them about their aunt that they only know from pictures, and because I suddenly realize how hard it must have been for my parents (both still alive and well) to loose a child. I think loosing one of my kids would seriously shatter my world.

  47. P R
    April 8, 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Dear Ruth,

    1 Thessalonians 4 v14
    ‘For if we believe that Jesus has died and has risen again, so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.’

    1 Thessalonians 4 v. 16 – ‘For the Lord himself with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord. So encourage one another with these words.’

    1 John 5 v.13 – ‘These things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God.’

  48. Vera
    April 8, 2018 / 9:03 pm

    I think I had something like this when my little sister got diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. I felt like my whole life changed in an instant. Nothing seemed to make much sense anymore and I didn’t see a real point in doing anything to advance my career, my studies, work on my friendships and health etc. I just kept going because I knew that my mom shouldn’t have to worry about two children at once and that my son deserved to continue life as normally as possible.

    And then time happened, but in a different way than you experienced it. We all began to learn to live with the tumour and made life as good as possible for my sister and us all. And for me and my son, as we were living close to my mom and sister, it felt like we gradually said goodbye as she slowly began to not be the little sister and not-so-big aunt that she used to be for us. So when she died in January, being just 22, there was no death switch for us. It was a sad weekend and then I went back to work and my son went back to school. Because my sister had been “gone” for some time before she was actually gone. It was and is different for my mom, though because she cared for her almost 24/7 in the last months. And it was difficult for my brother, I think because he didn’t see her as much as we did, so didn’t have as many little goodbyes as we had.

    I’m not sure if I can say that those things just happen, because I just still feel that it is incredibly unfair if someone has to die so young from an illness that can’t be cured and has no explanation or reason to it. But I do think that it’s true that we all have to carry on. I think that was what helped me the most. Realising that it’s not doing any good if I’m just sad and lethargic. And that by continuing to live life in a positive way, I’m actually helping myself and other people.

    I know that in some cases and for some people that is just not possible. But I think it is important for everyone to take note of those things and maybe seek professional help if they can’t continue a somewhat normal life on their own.

  49. Natalie
    April 8, 2018 / 9:29 pm

    As they (not sure who they actually are..!) always say, time is the healer. Loss and grief are the most intensely awful of emotions, wholly consuming and feel endless.. yet somewhere, somehow, the magic of time happens. There aren’t any rules, of course. And I think your posts (which are so beautifully honest, Ruth, so thank you for being honest) are so real for anyone who has lost someone close to them. You’re right that the funeral isn’t the end, and I think in many ways it is in fact more the beginning. Stay strong and take each day as it comes. Sending love xx

  50. Matrioshka
    April 8, 2018 / 9:31 pm

    Dear Ruth,
    Thank you for your post.
    I think it is important to give yourself time and space to grieve. It is difficult to do so with two little ones and a busy day-to-day life but it is so important that you cry, scream, sob, share or do whatever you feel you need to do to express your loss. It is early days yet and the grieve is still raw and it hurts like hell… Give yourself a break, be gentle with yourself – you lost your dad.

  51. Tanya
    April 8, 2018 / 9:32 pm

    My aunt died 4 weeks ago this week. I miss her every day. Completely agree with being affected by everyday objects, seeing someone that looks or acts like her etc. On top of that sorting out her will. It feels unreal bcos it was sudden and totally unexpected. Honestly i feel guilty, lost and scared. Scared bcos i dont knw if i can be strong enough without her. She helped everytime we needed her and what if these things happen again? What if yet another person i love is taken? Trapped because how do u not love those around u but scared of the inevitable loss again.
    Guilty for thinking maybe she wldnt agree with how her estate is beind handled, did she know how much she meant to me? Lost because she was/is so a part of my life and my families life and if shes not here…. i miss her constant presence and i feel broken.

  52. April 8, 2018 / 10:19 pm

    Welcome to this thing called “Life” – which ends inevitably in “death”. Enjoy every minute of it. Nothing matters but your own true happiness. NOTHING. Erase EVERYONE who gives you a hard time. Go on living. And enjoying. It is all that matters.

  53. Kate
    April 8, 2018 / 10:56 pm

    Ruth you are brilliant! I know first hand that expressing these horribly sad and exhausting feelings helps to move the grieving process along a bit faster. I, and all you other fans, want nothing but for you to recover and be happy so if you need to vent we will support you from near and far and read every post you want to write about your sadness and returning happiness

  54. Catherine
    April 8, 2018 / 11:39 pm

    I can tell you my beloved grandma died 17 years ago on 15th April, which happens to be my birthday. She was the most wonderful person and I can only feel lucky that she was my gran. You do move on, however there it always that special spot for them in your heart. Sometimes it can be happy memories with family but sometimes I listen to a certain song that to this day renders me to tears. You will never stop missing him and having your special way to reflect and cry has helped me and will continue to do so. The song I listen to is Zhane, For a reason. Sending you love and strength.

  55. Sheila
    April 8, 2018 / 11:54 pm

    Totally recognise those feelings Ruth. Lost my father when I was 21- the sudden shock, sadness and loss of confidence about life hit me… Same thing again when my Mum was seriously ill at 53 and given a 1 in 10 chance of survival. I had a 1 year old and 3 year old at the time.
    Dark times but things have got better…. a lot better. Sending you my very best wishes.

  56. jane
    April 9, 2018 / 12:55 am

    As we go on in life, things become more clear. From the get go, we are letting go. After birth, we leave the safe warm place we spent the last 9 months. And our mothers let go of housing us in this time. We let go of friend ships, jobs,homes and elderly relatives. By the time we reach our fifties or sixties, we are letting go of our children, so they can go out on their own in life, and letting go of our own parents as they get old and die. If all becomes very clear that we are only here for a short time. We enter the world on our own, and we leave it on our own. It is important to live every day to the fullest, and love deeply. It is only ours for a short time, then we let go. Thats life.

  57. Linsey
    April 9, 2018 / 11:34 am

    Ruth, (and so many others who are commenting after suffering loss)

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through but totally understand the feeling you describe. I lost my dearest Nan 3 years ago after a long fight. I can’t imagine the pain of losing parent and worse still those that lose a child.

    If you can stand too can I suggest you listen to and watch the song/video Moving On by James. My sister’s close friend died from cancer a few years ago and she fought long and hard to stay with her husband and 2 young girls. She was a funny, sassy, intelligent and beautiful woman and was able to plan her own funeral. She selected the song I have mentioned.

    I initially found it hard to watch but the more I have I hear it as upbeat and vibrant when I apply it to the people I have loved and lost and would love to see again. I think the video is particularly special as it’s quite right to say that those who have been a large part of our hearts will always live on in ourselves and for people that have them, their children. I have 4 year old nieces and certain things they do or say remind me of my Nan so she has obviously passed some special traits to them via my sister.

    It was your statement about a lamp being left on in the hallway that made me want to comment. Always leave the light on, Ruth as even though I’m not religious I know the people we love are always in someway with us through the things we think and feel and the lessons they have taught us.


  58. Vicky
    April 9, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    Yes, mine got turned on when I was 14 and my dad was killed in a traffic accident. It is by no means off now, I think once it’s been turned on it always has the possibility of being turned back on because you know these truths now that you didn’t before, and you can’t un-know them. It used to really irk me when people would say ‘that was close’ and laugh in the car when overtaking, or whatever, like look dickhead you have no idea what it was close to. I think until you’ve experienced it you think death is going to come along with a fan fair, you and the people you love are special so it must be a ‘special’ occasion when they die. But it’s not. Shit happens, every moment of the day. It can happen just like that. I think 14 was too young to understand all this so it’s kind of changed my life course dramatically, but not necessarily in a bad way. It makes me crap at small talk though, or caring about gossip and the like.

  59. Sookee
    April 9, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    Your thoughts, pen to paper, the cathartic process of trying to make sense of your grief – wow, it is so spot on! I lost my mum on my birthday in 2005 after caring for her for about 7 years after she had a massive stroke that stole her body, but didn’t steal her lovely mind and personality. I thought I was prepared for her death after the insidious results of that cruel stroke that left her in a wheelchair, but no, I wasn’t prepared at all. It was 13 years this past March and I still feel the despair and grief; all platitudes aside, it does get easier to go on with your life as everyone feels the need to tell you, but it never goes away, ever. I still will hear a song that mum loved and tear up, I will see a magnificent floral arrangement and think of her, I will make a decadent dessert and think of her, I’ll hear a story and desperately want to pick up the phone and tell her about it. Lately, thoughts of her come to me when I least expect it like reading about fashion icon, Iris Apfel and looking at her marvelously quirky and totally daring wardrobe and in her words that some how make me think that my mum would have loved every single thing about that lady and we probably would have been on the hunt so she could copy some of her outfits and she would definitely have donned those big round glasses and embraced them! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and know that you are not alone.

  60. Isa
    April 9, 2018 / 3:46 pm

    Loss can sometimes forever change you. It truly is a process, so let the emotions flow, and it’s ok to be confused, angry, and desolate. Give yourself time to grieve, to heal. I pray for God’s comfort to envelope you especially during this difficult time. Sending you love and light.

  61. Ekaterina
    April 9, 2018 / 4:47 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Ruth!.. <3 …and I totally understand what you are talking about now…
    After my ex-bf was killed (10 years ago) – and at that time we were not even dating any more- I felt smth very similar to what you describe… I felt absolutely helpless and sort of trapped in a small room of desperation and uselessness…. I could not come to terms with the idea that now I could NOT do ANYTHING about it. NOTHING can be changed. It was a vicious circle of thoughts like "what if I had done…" , "no, it is NOT possible ALREADY" and "what IS the point of all this now…" And it lasted for solid 4 or 5 months…
    And then came the realization of the fact that all this was my pure selfishness! I mean, in reality, I felt sorry for MYSELF not being able to talk to that person any more or do anything. And what I thought was that – in times like that – we should probably be less "greedy" and more grateful for all the moments we had been gifted with that person. Because we could have just never met at all, in the end, you know… But we did, and had lots of wonderful moments to share and to remember, moments that , maybe, changed us as a person… So it was a great, great relief for me! To stop feeling pity for myself and be just grateful for having had that person in my life at all (instead of being angry for having had him for so little).
    And it was at that time that I also realized that, maybe, the meaning of life was just the life itself – loving, being grateful for every little moment of happiness, enjoying the present (a nice cup of coffee, a breath of fresh air after rain, hearing birds sing for the first time after a long winter, a strong hug of a person you love, a sniff of a delicious perfume, you know…..). Just to give your love to this world, feel the love in return and be happy.
    I know it might all just sound too pathetic and unreal for you for the moment, but I ' m sending you lots of love and wish you overcome this difficult stage as soon as possible!

    • Rosie
      April 12, 2018 / 3:26 pm

      I hear what you are saying about the significance of not being able to do anything, Ekaterina. The first loss of a loved one seems like the first time something is completely 100%, undeniably, impossible to change. I used to agonise about this. Look at the night sky and wish that time would slip into reverse (as this would be the only thing that would work). The dark sky would race back into day, and again and again until my dad was there with me again. It is such a profound time grief. Not so dissimilar to motherhood in that sense. X

      • Ekaterina
        April 16, 2018 / 2:23 pm

        Agonise, exactly! That´s the perfect word to describe that situation, you are so right!
        And it´s so relieving when you finally manage to (sort of) find a way out of that vicious circle of thoughts, and be able to feel reconciled with the life….

  62. April 9, 2018 / 6:03 pm

    Hi Ruth, no I didn’t experience the same thing as you. I think there’s a big difference between people who lose their loved ones after a long cancer battle (or non-battle in my family member’s case) and those whose parent dies suddenly. For me, my dad died after months of intense suffering, and I had time to tell him things and ask him things before he went. This means that we all felt relieved when he went, relieved that he wasn’t suffering anymore. All our death prep was before and not really after. The after was full of admin and flat emptying (incredible how much people have in flats!) and I immersed myself in work. Living in another country, I am the one who had the least work to do on the admin and possession triage that followed. So yes, I immersed myself in work and was happy doing that, as I had been immersed in death, suffering and things I’d never thought I’d ever see or experienced in my life for months before his death. I was happy getting back to life. I also had a relationship that broke down a few weeks before my dad died and I still mourned that. Actually, my dad’s illness brought to light how little support I was getting from my then boyriend, which helped making a decision about my non-future with him. These life events really show you who your friends are and if your partner is the man for you or not, depending on the kind of man you want. Anyway, a different experience from yours. But now, 4+ years after, I rarely cry but I can suddenly cry seeing a flower,a CD, hearing a song or driving his car and remembering that the car I’m driving was/is his. Yes, sometimes I’m in tears because I suddenly miss him. We both used to talk about tennis, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the weather, and other things. He might be dead, but like your dad, he’s not, because they keep living through us, when we think or/and mention them amongst siblings etc. Sometimes facebook mentions him as if he’s alive and he just pops up on my screen, I think ‘bloody hell’, no warning. Lots of love. XX

  63. SoSuSam
    April 9, 2018 / 6:12 pm

    “The Death Switch”–wow, that’s the perfect description. I went through exactly that experience 8 years ago when someone I loved deeply died. It took me a very, very long time (more than a year) to stop feeling what you described so well: that my thinking had changed completely. I found even when I began feeling better some days, other days the grief was just as big and shaggy as ever. Grief just takes its time–it doesn’t care about our calendar at all.

    Thank you for talking about your experience so openly–in this and all your posts over the past few months. I think you’re enormously wise not to try to push down your feelings and present a bright, happy face to the world while still feeling broken inside. (I can say from experience that that approach doesn’t work!) All the best to you as you move through your feelings. And thanks again for your posts on this topic. They’re so important.

  64. Cas
    April 9, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    Grief is hard. I’ve had a few things over the years to deal with and over time I’ve got to a point of feeling lucky to have had enough love in my life to have felt grief. Though equally I have had moments of railing against the injustice of it all and howling at the moon. On balance Good old Tennyson was right about it better to have loved and lost: though it’s a total b’stard.

    I think it’s brillant that you are talking about this openly and it’s incredibly brave to share your thoughts. We are not often open about grief on our society and I think your posts are important. And I hope that by writing them it helps you and that it helps to read the comments here and know the solidarity and support of strangers.


  65. Catherine
    April 9, 2018 / 10:07 pm

    I can tell you my beloved grandma died 17 years ago on 15th April, which happens to be my birthday. She was the most wonderful person and I feel so lucky that she was my gran. You do move on, however there it always that special spot for them in your heart. Sometimes it can be happy memories with family but sometimes I listen to a certain song, that to this day renders me to tears. You will never stop missing him and having your special way to think about him and probably cry, I think helps.

  66. Julia
    April 10, 2018 / 9:00 am

    To me, death was always something that happened. You hear about it on the news. Witness it happening to the lovely elderly person living few doors down or experiencing it happening to your relatives.
    That was until my grandmother passed away. I mean, old people will eventually have to retire to heavens right and I knew it is going to happen, but ‘someday’ not suddenly and very unexpected. She was sharp-minded, full of beans and would very happelly turn to new things- reiki, dancing. She even found the love for God in her last decade.
    What I couldn’t t help but noticing was that seasons would still change- leaves would fall down in the autumn and daffodils come out in the spring. It’s like nothing ever happened and that got me thinking how insignificant our lives really are on the scale of things.
    After her passing I looked at the death very differently, I started to realise that it is very real, I started to think about my time on this planet and how I spend it. This time is not just given, it is borrowed and I must make it significant at least for myself, my loved once and those around me. It’ s a shame that such discoveries can be made only through pain of loss. X

  67. Helen
    April 10, 2018 / 9:13 am

    This post resonated with me. Once I came out of the darkness of the shock of my Mum’s death, I put my energy into living fully and really treasuring the fact I could enjoy time with my children and have wonderful friendships. I recently found my diary for the first year after my Mum’s death and literally every day had at least event in it!!! I also developed a bit of a f### it attitude to money so I went on the Mum and baby yoga retreat in Ibiza I had been hankering after and I booked a really nice family holiday too. My value system shifted : memories of time with people I love are what matters, not ‘things’. I would also recommend the book ‘Five Invitations: What death can teach us about living fully’ by Frank Ostaseski – this helped me to negotiate the different paths that grief took me along. Sending you lots of love Ruth. You will find your own way through this and you will find a kind of peace of mind again.

  68. Becca
    April 10, 2018 / 9:44 am

    I completely empathise with this. And as a few other people have said, someone doesn’t have to die for your death switch to be flicked. I’ve never been quite the same since my father was diagnosed with incurable cancer a couple of years ago. The uncertainty you live with and the inevitability of someone you love’s death doesn’t lend itself to optimism, and it has made me cautious and anxious. That said, the happiness you do feel when you live with pain like this in your life is so much the richer for it because it’s happiness ‘in spite of’. I’ve likened life post-death or post-life-changing event to life ‘with lots of salt and pepper’. Everything is more poignant, more heightened. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    And then, of course, there are questions of faith and the meaning of life…

  69. Rosie
    April 11, 2018 / 8:27 pm

    I was devastated when my father died. He hadn’t been in the best of health but walked into hospital laughing and joking (completely him) and 3 months later (following a call in the middle of the night to say he was on life support in intensive care and did I want them to try to save him – I did!!!) he died one night, still in hospital. I was there holding his hand and I was devastated. He bought me up single handedly and I adored him. I feel like I ‘lurked’ through life for the next 6 months. I spent the first few weeks looking at the night sky alot and wondering where he was? How could he possibly be ‘gone’ and where could he possibly be ‘gone’ too? I feel like I moved slowly (I doubt that I did) almost like I was afraid to come across something that would make me feel, set off the timebomb that was my grief and I would lose it and never come back. Growing up alone with him, it was the thing I dreaded most and it had happened. Immediately after he died I left my long-term partner of 15 years (in for a penny and all that!) and moved to Dublin where he was born – clearly I was on a quest. 6 months later I met someone new, from my hometown and very soon realised that rather than as I had been spending the nights not sleeping, haunting my flat, cautiously peering round corners at pieces of his inherited furniture and feeling delicate and empty and nervous inside – I had begun to wake in the morning with a smile looking forward to his emails. 7 years on I am home again with said partner and a beautiful son and life is good. I have a fairly strong sense of having experienced the cycle of life and feel it is what it is, but time has healed and I am more than OK. I hope you don’t mind me offloading my story. I have really felt for your loss.

  70. Bridget
    April 13, 2018 / 3:20 pm

    Thank you for writing about this Ruth. You’ve opened the floodgates. My Mum died four weeks ago and I’m finding the whole thing fascinating and weird. Which makes me feel like a wierdo. It wasn’t unexpected, but very sudden. I have been tearful, detached, logical, freaked out, calm, lost, bleak, and hit by squalls of grief that double me up, but which pass very quickly. I felt better when I shouted out for her to come with me, and realised that she is always with me.
    I describe it to friends as like swimming around a bloody great iceberg. I’m not sinking – though I still may – but I’m staying afloat, paddling around the iceberg, knowing it’s there, catching sight of it out of the corner of my eye, looming over my shoulder, but it’s too big, scary and ugly to face full on. I know it will catch up with me but today, I’m getting on with life. Because that’s what she would want.

  71. sarah
    April 14, 2018 / 1:19 am

    Yup. To all of it. I lost my mother at 22. I still have moments occasionally similar to Death Switch, especially now that I’m a mother. My imagination (or preparation, as you are probably now familiar with this thinking being in the Dead Parent Club) occasionally takes a turn of the dark and morose when I imagine the worst (losing my child) or the second worse (my child loses a parent… especially as a child). And then I wonder What the Fuck is the POINT. And….. then life calls. My baby cries, or the dog has to go for a walk, or the husband comes home early, or the library books have to be returned, or I forgot breadcrumbs at the market……. Life. My point is, it’s normal. It’s a natural side-effect of loss and grief. It’s part of the human experience.

  72. Kirsten
    April 14, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    I’ve not lost either of my parents but I know exactly what you mean. I lost my best friend when I was 18 to a very short struggle with an enormous brain tumour. I also lost my grandfather last week. I didn’t have any of the coping mechanisms then that I do now – for a start, I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about how I was feeling and I didn’t even think to write about it. I mostly cried and hid under my duvet cover for about a year. I felt like my future had disappeared with hers.

    All I can say is that you will get through this and you can talk about your grief here as much as you need – we will all still be here reading and supporting you.

  73. April 16, 2018 / 4:48 pm

    It’s so great that you got all this down and out of your head. I think it’s important to discuss our thoughts and feelings with others instead of bottling it up. Just being able to vent to people you don’t know can help massively.

  74. Donna
    April 20, 2018 / 10:47 am

    I’m sorry to hear of your dad’s passing.

    My wonderful mum died almost 8 years ago and for the first year or so I can really identify with what you wrote “[…]it was a grief for the people I love who are here, alive and well, and the total, crippling fear that anything could happen to them.” I became a little obsessed that one of my loved ones would die and was convinced something terrible would happen to my husband.

    Time has helped but I too get the whole “what’s the point” even though I’m a pretty positive person.

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