Three weeks to go. Instead of talking to him about the twins I was expecting, I was looking at him, lifeless. Without having the chance to say a proper goodbye, my dad (and soon-to-be-grandad) had his life cut short unexpectedly.
I want to say the days that followed, back in 2015, were all a blur, but they sure as h&$^ were not. I remember it all – the funeral service in church. My feet swelling up from all the walking. The crematorium. The sound of the coffin hitting the blazing furnace. The crackles that followed. My devastated mum, hardly able to function. It was everything that was associated with grief and so much more.
Fast forward, three weeks later. My C-section was over, and out came two healthy babies – a girl and a boy. I remember being wheeled back to my room, with my husband standing by the bed, looking over me. And then, it just happened. The grief I had been holding in. It all came rushing out. For 20 minutes, all I could do was cry. Maybe it was a mix of relief as well, as the babies were finally out with no complications. But mostly, it was just delayed grief waiting to come out and wanting to be processed.
We headed home three days later from the hospital. Grateful the babies could come with us. The pain from the C-section was unbearable at times. For a month, I was walking hunched over, but the pain had to be pushed aside because there was a greater good. A need to feed two living humans, who had just entered this world.
What was to follow was a challenging year ahead, with my own equivalent of an MCO, as I hardly left the house. But God had seen the big picture and sent the angels all ready, fired up to help. The first were my in-laws, who helped us the first three months of the babies being born, and the second was the most reliable, trustworthy helper, who stayed on for four years to help us out. Without them, I would have been a complete and utter mess. My husband was completely hands-on, doing the midnight bottle feeds in between his live football matches, and loving every minute of it.
The emotional toll
But it was the first three months with the babies – of having to fend for them and having to process my grief – which took a toll on me. I knew I was headed down a dark path, with all the emotions that were coursing through my veins. I had to do something. Someone randomly reached out to me, and recommended that I see a church counsellor. It was life-changing. When I conceded to speak and to pour out my entire checklist of emotions, I felt at least 80% better. I was a better mother and wife because of this. I followed this up with another chat, a couple of months later.
After my father’s death, my mum’s history of depression got the better of her. She took three weeks (after I delivered) to muster up the courage to visit me and the babies. It must have been excruciatingly painful for her to come and see them without my dad, but she did. I was told that the best thing I could do for her, at that point, was to continue to love her – as given her age and the trauma she had suffered, there was no going back to her normal self. The depression was here to stay.
I felt I had lost both parents.
This too shall pass
Now, six years on, I look back and I truly wish I could go back and give myself a hug. Say to myself: this too shall pass. Say to myself: your babies will grow up and thrive. To tell myself: you will make peace about your parents, and to continue to cling tightly to your faith. I say all these things, because I know them now to be true.
Without the benefit of growing up to know their grandad, I regale my kids about his zest for life. His love for football and Elvis Presley. His fascination with dogs, and being such a good pet owner, most days of his adult life. I tell them he would have been so proud of me, as I learnt to make thosai this year and now have a pet dog of our own. They look at me with wonderment, half-listening, half wondering when they can watch TV.
Grief is mind-numbing and spirit-crushing. Losing a parent is never easy. Losing them at such a vulnerable time is immensely painful. But I know – he was always there. Waiting for his precious grandchildren to arrive safely. Telling me “it’s okay to cry for 20 minutes”. Praying there would be no complications. And most of all, cheering me on these past six years of motherhood. (Cheekily, I’m sure he would also add to my husband: “Seriously man, why are you still supporting Manchester United?!”).
He was always there. Love never truly leaves us, after all.
by Hemala Devaraj
Hema loves spending time in the kitchen trying out new recipes. She also shares simple and easy recipes which have worked for her at her website, The Sudden Cook. Together with her hubby, she is parenting twins and living in beautiful chaos every day.
If you find yourself struggling with grief or requiring mental health support in any way, we hope our previous list of resources might help you along your journey. Please know you’re not alone, #makchicmumtribe.