Six Months of Grief
Long post alert…and it’s not about books so click back one for books if that is more your thing. It sure is more mine than #grieftown.
This week marks six months since we lost Dan and I still cannot wrap my head around how our lives have changed forever. I don’t understand how a 40 year old father, husband, son, brother, friend, colleague can go to bed after sharing a meal with loved family and suffer a catastrophic heart attack and not wake. How can that happen? Why did that happen? And why to us?
This is my ‘professional’ (who am I kidding?) space on the interwebs where I share my passion for children’s and YA literature and discuss all things literary. When people meet me, they often tell me that I talk the way I write (I suspect they mean that I write loudly and with too many words) and I always hope this to be so because I dearly seek to be authentic in all that I do. In being authentic, my blog readers have watched ChickPea and PudStar (as they are known online) grow and have been invited into aspects of our lives. Obviously the snippets on social media are not the total picture of our lives because there is an awful lot more mess and screaming in my actual life, but I have certainly welcomed my online village into our lives – with Dan’s blessing and with measures in place to ensure I don’t overshare the lives of the girls, because their stories are their own to tell.
I was raised in what I affectionately call ‘My Village’ (in Bardon, Brisbane…so not exactly a village but you get the idea). My village are all close family friends, now several generations of them, who know each other inside and out and know that they are loved and accepted unconditionally. They also talk. LOTS. So I grew up trying to get a word in edge-ways and thus think that I have ended up as a bit of an over-sharer (no?! really?!) but also as someone who seeks meaningful connections with others. ENTER STAGE LEFT…BLOGGING. Where I can share as little or as much as I like with no one interrupting me and with connections formed all over the place. It was pretty much made for people like me!
But sharing snippets of my personal life online has meant that you have all witnessed the grief and trauma in my life and sometimes I do feel like my life has been laid wide open for people to look into. One of my adored brothers passed away six years ago, my favourite aunt passed away this year and my beloved Dan joined her just weeks later. I imagine them all in heaven having a great old natter – the three of them got along famously and ribbed me mercilessly. My family and I have experienced just too many layers of loss and whilst I am now deeply grateful that my brothers divine children are the best role models possible for my own children, cousins should not need to share the bond of fathers who have died.
I was cocooned by shock for many months after Dan died and now at the six month mark I feel like all the Adrenalin has left my body and I am exhausted to my core. I did not ever imagine my life looking like this and I never imagined a time when Dan would not parent with me. However, the girls and I have been held high and help tightly by an army of supporters, online and offline and I am daily humbled and reduced to tears by the kindness of so many. Many, many times I have felt it is too much, that I can’t possibly accept any more random acts of kindness or ongoing assistance with food and washing and so much more, and yet it seems no one wants to see me fall and so they continue to quietly make my life more bearable at this time. On some of my worst days, when I really just want to curl up and cry, the most beautiful gestures occur. I can’t possibly express my gratitude and my counsellor (Dan’s lovely former chronic pain counsellor) says that I don’t need to keep thanking people because people want to help and one thank you is enough. But if I could, I would write my thanks in the sky and send fireworks of praise into the stars for those who stand by me week after week, month after month.
I slammed out my eulogy for Dan while scoffing chocolate macadamia’s…thank you for taking a photo of that moment Eden; apparently some moments in life need to be captured so we can look back and see how far we have come.
One of the things that helped me immensely when my brother died, was reading the blogs of people like Eden Riley, Rachel Nobel (read her story here and here) and Lisa King – who have also experienced deep grief. It’s a unique and lonely journey, but I found immense solace in reading their stories and, in some cases, the eulogies they wrote for their loved ones. In that same spirit, below is my abridged eulogy for Dan with names removed and my paragraph for the girls removed, because that was them and is their story. I reproduce it here in the hope that it may soothe the soul of someone else, because stories are the best way I know of to connect with others. My story is not over yet but my story is changed from the one I wrote in my head when I met and married Dan.
Thank you lovely online and offline village. For everything.
Daniel John Daley…
My beautiful husband of nearly 20 years is gone and I have no idea how to navigate the world without him. I met Dan when I was 18. I was wearing one of my many sets of fairy wings, purple Doc Martins and I had sparkly stars stuck all the way up my cheekbones. My first degree was a B.Ed of Early Childhood teaching so I could totally get away with wearing glitter and wings. I know that Dan thought I was really odd, because I heard it from several of his friends later, but I was struck by his immensely kind face and his Cherry Red Doc Martins.
Dan and I lived our twenties loud and live. I continued to wear wings, glitter on my face and stick Chupa Chups into my buns and braids for concerts and festivals, and he collected band shirts and hoodies at an alarming rate. I’m one of the most straight laced, conservative partyers you’ll ever meet and Dan would often proudly say, ‘yep. She’s just actually like that…all the time’. The only time he didn’t let me wear wings was to our wedding and I never really forgave him for this. We laughed, so much, we fought and argued about politics (I swayed him to my side), pulled each other through uni degrees and spent time with my family and family friends and his beautiful family. I know I am a strong personality, Dan tempered that and made me calmer and kinder. Dan did not always understand why I do the things I do, but he was always there, quietly cheering me on from the sidelines…and calmly telling me that I’d once again got all the facts on something wrong. He and my mum spent years pulling me up on the finer details of my stories, medical details and passing on of messages and now that job rests solely with my mum. Dan would want you to continue this role with gusto. And my beautiful dad. Dan’s adored father (less father in law thanks very much), cycling partner, pain hypnotist, mentor, uni assignment reader.
PudStar and ChickPea, are our finest achievement and they are feisty and complex and funny and intelligent and feisty and strong willed and feisty. Dan and I were a team…and in the trenches of the early years of parenting we’d high five when we slammed out a really impressive dinner, bath, bed routine. Our girls will grow into strong, independent young women…and they are going to be okay. We all are.
Dan suffered crippling chronic pain for the past six years of his life and his very limited energy each day was for work and for us girls. Dan fought pain with his usual quiet determination, but there have indeed been some dark times and my one consolation is that his wretched, pinned together spine is now pain free and he and my brother are able to run wild in heaven. My beautiful youngest brother has now lost two brothers whom he loved deeply and was loved by intensely. Dan taught him that reading was cool and so, so much more…not all of it necessary or wise.
Dan’s pain robbed him of his carefree nature and his ability to laugh all night long and make others laugh for days. Pain was etched on his face and some days every movement was agony. And yet still there was kindness, always kindness, always concern for others and a very wicked, sometimes just totally wrong, humour under the layers of pain. Dan was the epitome of kindness and the immense love which has been expressed for Dan has been affirming and uplifting, a true testament to his spirit and character. He was a good, kind man.
I will end with the words he often said to the girls at bedtime, ‘Good night. Sleep Tight. Don’t Give up without a fight.’
And for those that continue to ask and I continue to avoid the question…yes the girls education/extracurricular fund which was in lieu of flowers will always be open and the details are below. Dan’s ‘Fight Club’ fitness group donated each week for a long time, with a little ‘Fight Club’ notification and it makes me smile and would have made Dan laugh until he fell over. I intend to use their money for martial arts lessons, because as ChickPea says regularly, ‘daddy was a ninja’…and the girls will know all about daddy’s ‘Fight Club’ friends.
Account Name: Daley Education Fund
Account number: 312 562 19
And ALSO for those that to continue to ask …Dan’s Spotify list will remain. But of course it must! He wasn’t just known as Disco because his initials were DJ. It’s here.
And LASTLY…I couldn’t help myself…the best books to discuss grief with children are here and here and here and the best books I have read for me since Dan has died have been ‘Option B’ and ‘The Young Widows Book of Home Improvement’ and ‘Jean Harley was Here’ (fiction), thanks to UQP Books, ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ and ‘Small Victories’ by Anne Lamott (thanks Indie Treats!), ‘Epic’ (thanks Visited Planet!) and ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ (thank Annie!). And if you click through and buy any books (or anything from any of the ads on the blog), I get a small commission from sales which costs you guys nothing but helps our income immeasurably.
A million pretend hugs to Trish for the words she wrote about Dan below.