In this blog Alex, aged 21, writes about how she struggled with her feelings after her Dad died after a long illness

My Dad died whilst waiting for a heart transplant. He had been ill for a long time and even though he spent his last few months in hospital, it was still a huge shock when he died.

Through much of my childhood and teenage years, my Dad was ill and going in and out of hospital. This meant that my family life was always a little bit different to the people around me and I was always hyper-aware of death. This came with pros and cons. The pros were I became used to hospitals and even now I can react effectively when emergencies happen because I have had to learn how to cope. I can also tell you which hospitals in the north of England have the best food! The cons were that I spent a lot of time in hospitals having to watch somebody I care a lot about be ill and in pain for a long time.

With my Dad being ill for over 10 years, I thought that when he died it would be different to a ‘normal’ bereavement. I thought maybe I would feel relieved that he wasn’t in pain anymore. I thought that maybe I would feel free from the ties to hospitals and the worries of getting the inevitable phone call that he had died. But it was so much tougher than I ever imagined. I felt so racked with guilt at the loss of hope, time together and memories that could have happened if he wasn’t ill.

The hardest part for me was seeing the people who had gotten better; the people who got their transplants and survived, the people who got to leave the hospital when my Dad couldn’t. Those ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ made it so much harder to deal with. I felt so alone in my loss and seeing other people’s parents getting better made it even lonelier, which just added to my feelings of guilt.

I want to tell others who have lost someone close to them who has been ill for a long time that you are not alone. Your feelings are 100% valid and you will get through this. There are always people to reach out to and nobody will judge you for how you’re feeling and what you might be thinking. It is easier to get through something when you can talk it through with someone.

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