1. Everyone’s grief journey is different
From talking to a lot of people it is very clear that we all travel our own individual journeys through grief. All the theories, stages and examples are all well and good but realistically we have to find our own way and there are no rules. There are common points on that journey and seeing others finding those and confronting them is helpful on your path.
2. Cooking is like riding a bike
In the past, long ago when the world was young, I used to do quite a bit of cooking, but Joy was so brilliant that I found myself doing almost none for nearly 20 years. So, when she died, I suddenly found myself in an unfamiliar situation… Not only having to feed myself but also the children. Now it would have been easy to rely on ready-mades and take-aways but I made myself go back to basics and rediscover the fun of food. It was tricky making the kids eat healthily, especially as they seemed to like different food but gradually I discovered tricks to get ‘stealth veg’ into their dinners (finely chopped up in mince etc), or finding that ONE veg they actually liked and having it with EVERYTHING! For myself, I got to experiment with healthy stir fries mainly as they were quick and didn’t get in the way of work.
3. Keeping fit is hard as a full-time dad whilst still working
With all the working and to-ing and fro-ing of the ‘dad taxi’ it was increasingly hard to find ways to keep fit. I’ve never been a huge gym fan anyway but even if I was, it would have meant either losing work time or having to get endless babysitters, neither of which was really an option. In the end I settled on two things: having a swim while they were in their (conveniently joint) swimming class, or nipping out for early morning runs as soon as the school run was over before work began. It’s still a struggle and a case of having to be really disciplined to actually do it (so easy to say “not today”) but so important in order to be able to do everything I need to for them.
4. Talking is so important
Not denying what has happened. Being open about your feelings, both with friends and indeed with the children. We talk about Joy all the time, never shying away from what happened but still including her in our lives on a daily basis. I sometimes worry I am TOO open about it all but generally people seem to appreciate that they don’t need to tiptoe around the subject when we are together. Talking about it takes away death’s sting.
5. Friends are everything
I couldn’t have got through without the incredible help I have had from my friend circle. A prime example was the support group they set up on WhatsApp. Within a couple of days of Joy dying about 20/30 of them were on a group keeping an eye on me and talking to each other. They also told me to message them if I needed anything – like sending a list of dates I needed babysitters. They would then pass the list around and send me back a message telling me who was covering what day! The casual visits armed with food for the freezer, and the way they would just do things like the washing up when visiting – small kindnesses that meant the world.
About Gary Andrews
Gary Andrews is an illustrator and animator with over 35 years in the business. In 2017, at the age of 56, he was widowed suddenly when his wife Joy died as a result of Sepsis (at just 41), leaving him with two young children, aged 7 and 10. He has documented his life journey since then in a daily online diary called “Doodle a Day”. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.