8 Feb 19

By Dominic Byrne

Single Parent Getting After It

Do I know how to handle the death of a loved one? Nup. I have no idea.

I’ve found myself googling “grief’ and related keywords a few times in the past week. I’m not sure if I’m looking to get a heads up on what type of feelings are around the corner or I’m attempting to source a playbook on how to navigate the coming months.

There is a bunch of information online for the five stages of grief model; with the stages being denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I observed Louise going through these stages several times during different periods of her cancer journey. Every time she was delivered bad news she went through a grieving process for both her own life and her children’s welfare.

It’s good to know there is a plethora of information indicating that the experience of grief is highly individualised and not well captured by their fixed or linear suggested sequence. “Some of the five stages may be absent, their order may be jumbled, certain experiences may rise to prominence more than once and the progression of stages may stall. ”

I’m not even a month into my grieving journey, so it’s hard to even understand how I am feeling sometimes.

While I still shake my head multiple times a day, somewhat in disbelief, I don’t think I’m in DENIAL. I was by Lou’s side as she slowly regressed in health for twenty months and while her final week caught us off guard, I was aware of the consequences of her killer disease. I guess for me its more of a meaningless feeling that overwhelms you with the realisation she’s not coming back, ever.

I would probably say I’m still in some form of shock. I think everyone is. The result of this is not being able to think straight. I seem to be dragging my feet for common daily tasks normally done with enthusiasm. While I understand it, I guess I still don’t fully accept it which is obviously needed for the healing process. For me, the fighting adrenalin has stopped, the dust has settled and everything is an effort.

ANGER isn’t something I have felt. Not yet anyway. Noah gets angry so I think he is more associated with this stage at the current time. I don’t feel deserted or abandoned in any way whatsoever. I don’t think I suppress my anger either. I’ll be interested to observe my own behaviour and see if this is a stage I encounter. It’s not in my nature unless I’ve had a thousand rum and cokes so maybe this is a phase I steer around with no ill effect?

I feel I did my BARGAINING while Lou was alive. I am not religious so  I didn’t bargain with a god in any way i.e  “Please God, I will always promise to do X if you let my wife live”  or “God if you do this for me I will make sure I do this.” I think I once prayed like this at school……….

The fact that we tirelessly worked to find solutions for Lou will help my grieving process. It feels like I did my bargaining with the medical professionals, process and medical technology while she was still here. Sure in hindsight I would have made some different choices but I don’t have too many “if only” moments. I don’t have any guilt. I don’t feel that I am remaining in the past in any way although I would prefer to be there.

DEPRESSION. Hmmm. I am very sad, that’s both expected and understandable. I’m not depressed. Although this is a stage I’m most concerned about, depression can come thick and fast. If the black dog starts nipping at your heals it’s a rut hard to get out of.

I’ve been depressed before but not for well over a decade or more. I guess I have to be prepared for depression and do what I can to avoid it without packaging feelings up to fester.

It’s important for me to remember that depression is not a sign of mental illness. It can sometimes simply be an appropriate response to a great loss.

I still don’t think that Lou’s departure is yet to fully settle in my soul. The realization that Louise didn’t get better and is not coming back is understandably depressing. So while I don’t want to get depressed I need to understand that if grief is a process of healing, then depression may well be one of the many necessary steps along the way. I think I can avoid it with a strategy I’m yet to formulate.

ACCEPTANCE is an interesting one for me. I will never feel ok about the loss of Lou. At the moment I have an open wound in my heart, soul and mind. Open wounds become scars and scars are visible, sensitve and permanent.

This stage is more about accepting the reality that the woman I was meant to get old and wrinkly with is physically gone, this is the permanent reality. I will never like this reality, none of us will, but I guess we will eventually accept it. And then we will eventually learn to live with it.

Right now I want to maintain life as it was a month ago, even if it meant fighting the losing war we became privy too. This may be a little selfish as Lou had fought enough. Fighting had become our life and I wish we were still fighting.  In saying that, I do feel some pressure has been released now that Louise is at peace. All part of the Juxtaposition of thoughts I guess……….

The world is different now.

I can’t maintain the past.

I have to readjust.

I am still very much in the infancy of accepting new feelings, trying to understand Noah, Evie and my needs and how to move forward so we are as healthy in the mind as can be.

It’s not fun being sad. I don’t want to drag my feet around for too long as I want to continue to succeed in both family, work and social life. I want to live again, but I am aware I have to give grief its time.

I know I am a closed book emotionally but I am a single parent now, a mum and a dad. It’s important to understand my emotions, take care of me and accept support from others.

Every person goes through these phases I touched on in their own way. I am pretty sure we may go back and forth between them, or skip one or more stages altogether. I guess we have to expect the unexpected, strap ourselves in for the ride and understand that as time passes the pain will dampen.

A nice acoustic version of Forever Young for your troubles…….


  1. Grief is also sneaky. Comes when you least expect it. Keep going. One foot in front of the other. Just like you kept telling Lou. And take care

  2. Hello Dom,

    That was truly the most honest and moving account of grief I have ever read. I lost my Dad (my soul mate and best friend) to melanoma in 2005. For me the pain has not diminished it is ever present, it is part of who I am. I am at peace with the pain now, it has taught me to value and nurture what is important in life – family, friendship and love.

    Sending lots of love to you and your family,


  3. I think it’s a good thing Dom to reflect on all of this and observe yourself; what you’re feeling today and how you might face the next part of the road. I hope understanding it makes you stronger and more able to process. Thinking of you, Noah and Evie. Missing Lou… always. X

  4. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and feelings…as many have already said your writing is incredible and also allows us to feel connected to Lou. Her send off was truly beautiful as well. Sending strength to you, Noah and Evie to get through this journey as best you can. You’ve got this.

  5. Beautiful song. “I think I can avoid it with a strategy I’m yet to formulate” – love your enduring optimism!

    • thanks gabrielle. I’ve been working on my strategy. I’ll share soon. It’s not very complex but hopefully effective. x

  6. If only there was a manual to grief. you are doing great Dom. Keep going.

    There is a book I think you would like called “Any Ordinary Day”, it is about what happen next. I think maybe give yourself a few months before you tackle it though.

    Take care

  7. Grief is tricky and you think you’ve moved past a stage but then you suddenly find yourself back in it. My son was stillborn at term and it can suddenly hit you like a ton of bricks the what if’s, if only etc. The pain doesn’t go away but it does get smaller and more manageable. Rather than it being a cloud that surrounds you it fits in your back pocket. You start to appreciate the small things, family, love, nature much more and those unimportant things that used stress you out disappear.

    Take care and love to you and your children xx

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