Everyday Life On losing a parent

I never thought I would be writing this kind of post. I never thought I would be getting this personal online. But the truth is I’ve been bottling up different feelings and emotions for so long I feel it is the right time to let them all out, purely for my own healing and processing with these emotions.

My dad became ill in May this year. What started off as a rather inconspicuous case of shingles turned into a debilitating illness, deteriorating heart condition, followed by various complications and essentially terminal cancer. He’s been in and out of hospitals over the course of the last few months. We have seen him getting slightly better, only to get much worse soon after. We have seen him crumbling and asking for help, only to be faced with his worst demons materialising in verbal abuse, delusions, accusations  and paranoia. He has been through hell. We, as a family, have been through hell. We know that his delusions are part of the illness and we should not take them personally, but they sting and hurt as deep as if they were real and reasoned.

At the beginning of my dad’s illness I was fine with sharing about his condition with friends and relatives whenever they asked about him. We really thought he was going to get better. And then I remember the moment when I realised he wasn’t. The moment we saw his test results came back worse than they were before. I remember feeling as if was hit with a tonne of bricks. I felt a knot in my stomach and went numb. It was actually when I was staying in Poland with my husband and kids over the summer holidays. It was Monday and we were leaving to go back to England on Friday. I realised I had less than four days left with my dad – during this trip and maybe forever.

We all know our parents will die at one point – that’s the nature of life. But when you witness your father wasting away in front of your own eyes and knowing it will happen soon – how do you deal with it?

You essentially anticipate the worst to happen any minute. And when you think it is THE end – it isn’t and you are back waiting.

You try and spend every minute you have left with him and remember the good times.

You relive some of the memories with this person and think about all the things you could have done different, said different things.

You start to regret things that happened.

You spiral into this cycle of guilt, remorse, overflow of affection, and then back to sadness, anger, guilt and anything else in between.

I am typing this on the plane, on my way to Poland as I am heading there to see my dad one last time. The prognosis is not looking good – we have days left with him. It could be two days, five days, 10 days or 20 days. But it’s days, nonetheless. Death is palpable and weighs you down. On one hand we know his suffering (both physical and mental) will soon end and it will be a relief for all of us (especially him). But at the same time we know that in short future our lives will change. He will no longer be with us. I will lose a parent. We will have to deal with all the things you have to deal with when a person close to you passes away.

Obviously, grief is one of them. But as strange as it sounds, I have already been grieving for him. Ever since that particular Monday when I realised we reached the point of no return. I never even imagined I would be in this position – grieving for a person that is still alive. But perhaps that has made me more mindful of the short time we have left with him. More mindful and appreciative of my own family. Of my own health.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post. I find it quite cathartic to put into words what I have been feeling over the last few months. If it helps anyone who’s been in a similar situation – that’s great. If you feel you’ve been struggling with a personal problem of your own – please know that you are not alone and there are other people hurting at the same time.

To all of my friends and relatives that I neglected this summer – I apologise, but now you know why I have been very quiet and not responding to your messages or not reaching out to you more. I cocooned myself in this combination of grief, sadness and heaviness that’s been hovering over my head. I hope you understand and give me some time whilst I try to navigate this tricky and difficult season of my life.

And for those who have been supporting me during this time – thank you, I appreciate all the signs of love and kindness you have given me.

empty armchair in living room

Alina Clark - A family and lifestyle documentary photographer based in Essex

A little bit about me

My name is Alina and I am a documentary family photographer based in Essex, United Kingdom. I love capturing everyday life just the way it is – unscripted, a bit messy and extraordinary in the most ordinary way.

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