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Coping with losing a parent

New/expectant parents experiencing the illness or loss of a close loved one

July 1, 2019

In December 2017 during the busy lead up to Christmas my Dad’s behaviour began to change. He began to feel confused, struggled with word finding and became extremely tired. At first he put it down to a virus he was having difficulty shaking, yet his behaviour rapidly declined and early on Boxing Day we took him straight to A and E. Initially Doctors suspected a mini-stroke from the symptoms he presented and a day of scans and tests quickly revealed that he had a Brain Tumour. He was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme Brain Tumour and given just a couple of months to live. I was 34 weeks pregnant with our first child and couldn’t imagine a world where my Dad wouldn’t see his longed for grandchild grow up. The intensity of the shock was like nothing I’ve ever felt before and watching his rapid, daily decline was utterly terrifying. It felt like another part of him disappeared each day and with each new, horrifying symptom we lost him a bit more. Despite attempting treatment, the brain cancer was too aggressive and my Dad died aged sixty in May 2018 when my son was eleven weeks old. He was supported by an amazing team of professionals, including two Macmillan Nurses who worked so hard to enable his wishes to stay at home surrounded by his family.

We are a really close family and I was so lucky to have had such a strong bond with my Dad. He really was the anchor at the centre of our family, the organiser, the joker and the kindest person you could wish to meet. A testament to this was the overflow at his funeral, with standing room only at the back and out of the doors. My Dad was always there when you needed him, whether this be helping with a DIY project straight from work or rearranging his plans to offer support. He once drove from Manchester to Scotland and back in a morning to deliver a wedding dress for a family member before returning to work after lunch! His family came above all else and he would always go the extra mile for those he loved. Losing my Dad so suddenly aged 31 is something that I still struggle with one year on, yet losing him when my son was eleven weeks old sometimes feels unbearable. We’re all learning to live around his absence in our lives as we navigate our way through this unfamiliar landscape. Some days it feels almost impossible to separate a memory of my new-born Son or my dying Dad without untangling a memory or thought of the other.

I have spent the last year researching forms of support for my situation and so far, haven’t found anything which is tailored to new/expectant parents experiencing the illness or loss of a close loved one. The support I have found within Perinatal Mental Health is tailored towards baby loss, post-natal depression or post-natal psychosis- all incredibly valuable and needed support but not relatable to my situation. I have found that there isn’t a box for Health Visitors to tick for this set of circumstances and therefore the support needed doesn’t exist. I am passionate about creating this change and would be very interested in working with The Good Grief Trust to achieve this.