Learning to look after yourself during grief

Luke talks about losing his dad to suicide two years ago, and how he adapted his approach to grief when the pandemic started. Initially, he focused on exercise and sport, but during lockdown he looked at alternative ways to process his grief, including blogging about how he was feeling.

Luke talks about how grief affected him and how he looked after himself through his grief.

Video transcript

Trigger warning: this video discusses suicide.

Grief affects people in different ways. Some retreat into their shells, and struggle to open up. Some feel like needing to cry every day. I definitely am the latter. Grief occurs in cycles but follows no set pattern. It is a horrible feeling and coupled with isolation with the current pandemic it can feel like the heaviest weight pulling you down. It has caused its ups and downs for me but I am in a much better place now.

When I lost my dad to suicide nearly two years ago, I struggled to process this feeling. It was completely unexpected and came at a time when I, myself, was struggling. The grief was so raw that I didn’t know what to do with myself or how to deal with it. I found myself constantly confused by the way I was feeling. One minute crying and feeling hopeless and the next feeling generally okay. I often felt so guilty when I felt okay. I always questioned myself - I told myself I shouldn’t be feeling okay.

When I lost my dad, I started to go to the gym more. I found it my “safe space”. I trained and played cricket every week. I played a game a week after my Dad passed away. I didn’t want to let it stop me from playing the sport I love. I am so glad looking back that I didn’t stop playing my sport and going to the gym. It was the best distraction to be away from the epicentre of the grief and to be with my mates playing the sport I love. It had served me so well… up until March of last year.

When the first lockdown came into force, I found myself isolated, and alone. Constantly with my own thoughts, leading me to spend most nights ruminating, my thoughts more than likely turning to self-deprecation. Not having that escape gave the grief a chance to overwhelm me. Most nights I was up until late, crying in disbelief at my current situation. To this day, it still doesn’t feel real.

I had become so numb to the grief; having university every day and playing two sports regularly, my body never had a chance to process the grief. This wasn’t a bad thing. This was just how my body processed. It allowed me to remain active. When I understood this, I turned to ways of healthily filtering through the grief. Crying and being upset was okay. We live in a bizarre world at the moment. I learnt to be proud of being around every day.

I looked at alternatives and new ways to process my grief. I began blogging. This is something I still do today, but I never once thought before the pandemic about doing it. It was an impulsive decision. This is what became important: being impulsive. Especially with my emotions constantly fluctuating and altering, I learned to go with the flow.

Blogging is a healthy way to write down and focus my grief. In doing so, I hope I have helped other people as well as myself. There was a moment I could feel myself becoming so overwhelmed. So, I sat down at my computer and channelled that raw emotion into a poem written to my Dad. It is so healthy for me to write down how I’m feeling and direct my grief. It feels like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders.

I tried to exercise every day. Getting that daily release of dopamine is essential for me. I go on long walks, and let my mind wander to wherever it needs to go. I welcome the grief, and sometimes I have a conversation with my Dad in my head. A key emotion in suicide grief specifically, is anger, and it's okay to be angry at the person. I experience anger a lot, so these long walks are so healing for me.

I started to do fundraising as well. The feeling that you’re making a difference in the world can really help with the grief. I learned to try and be proud of myself for it.

My relationship with grief has changed a lot during the pandemic. I don’t see it as a negative emotion. I welcome it. When my body needs to process emotions, I let it. Yes, I feel drained after but also a lot calmer and a feeling of relief. Changing my perception of grief along with developing strategies to channel it or distract myself has been key during this pandemic. Therefore, when closer to normality is restored, I will feel better equipped to deal with it.