My Sister Molly was three when our dad died. I asked her to share her experience, as it differs to mine quite a bit. Molly is now 19 and is working as a dancer/actress/singer professionally in Mamma Mia the Party at the O2 in London. This is her experience.
‘When my sister asked me to do this blog post for part of dying matters week I was a bit hesitant as I don’t speak about my dad’s passing very much, especially to people I’m not close to. However, as I grow older I am becoming more aware of my own response to his death and how it has affected me in my adult life.
Our dad died when I was just three years old, so due to be being so small I definitely reacted differently to my sister who was eight. When I was processing his death at that point, my mum says I used to think he was in the sky but didn’t quite understand the principle of death. I have absolutely no memories of him as a person, or of him being ill; I have always struggled to work out whether it is better to not remember any of it or whether I’d still rather remember him despite it being a sad experience. As a child my mum didn’t date a lot but if she was ever seeing anyone I used to become very attached to the father figure and definitely found it disappointing when it didn’t work out between them. It wasn’t until I was about 10 that I acknowledged that I had done okay without a dad up until then, and would probably turn out alright without one. When I was at school, I never got upset about not having a dad and found that because I didn’t have much memory of it, I didn’t speak about it often, which I still don’t. If any of my school friends spoke about their fathers I wouldn’t feel any different so this just became the norm and my friends didn’t tend to touch on it either. To be honest, I don’t think the experience affected me growing up nearly as much as it did my sister.
It wasn’t until a family member got cancer when I was around 8 or 9 that I became fully aware of how my dad had died really. Luckily she got over the disease and made a full recovery, but I remember getting into bed one night after visiting her in hospital and getting really anxious that I would get cancer too. Then after a few years, my grandfather passed away from bowel cancer. By this age I had more of an understanding of it as a disease, but it didn’t seem like any of my friends were experiencing the same things which I found hard to understand. Now I’m older I realise these things are always going on behind closed doors, and have found a lot of my friends turn to me now that they may be going through these experiences as an adult. The main effect the loss had on me as a child was definitely an anxiety that crept in the older i got. I developed a phobia of being sick at about the age of 10 and would constantly worry that I was going to get ill. It all stemmed from my dad but I understand it is also really common so that helped as I grew up. I used to be really scared to see anyone in hospital and it became quite consuming for a number of years. It’s interesting that despite us being sisters and going through the same experience, Rosie decided she wanted to be a doctor and deal with all the things I hate. I also really struggled with homesickness and being very attached to my mum, which is normal for a kid but was definitely heightened for a number of years. If my mum ever fell or hurt herself I’d burst into tears even if I knew she wasn’t badly hurt.
Now I am 20 I definitely understand how it has effected me in my adult life. I am much more in control of my anxiety than I was, but still have a phobia of vomiting/illness which only becomes bad when I’m stressed or have big events coming up. I have also noticed in recent years how it has effected my relationships. I’ve found it hard in past breakups to accept the process of having to let someone go by choice, despite it being for the best. I also really appreciate having a close bond with my ex’s dad and found that difficult to lose when we broke up. I will always appreciate having a partner due to seeing my mum live without a companion for so long.
I’ve always been quite thick-skinned and tend to deal with things well now I am older. The experience of losing him has more made me realise how much I’ve missed out on growing up without a dad, rather than missing him specifically as it is hard to miss someone you didn’t really know. Knowing he won’t see me get married or meet my children is sad, but I have to appreciate who is here to enjoy those moments with me. The biggest lesson from it really is that you should never take anyone for granted and I never fall out with people over silly material things and it simply isn’t worth it. Me and my family always say I love you to everyone close to us before we hang up the phone and never go to bed on an argument. My dad always said love is the most important thing in life and I couldn’t agree more, it is something I will always remind myself of first and foremost.