In March 2017 heaven gained an angel. I lost my grandfather. I have a small family, of which my brother is the ‘treasured child’ so I was tasked with telling everyone including friends and family. Whilst everyone was grieving, I had to make hot drinks for the complete strangers who claimed to be my grandfather’s friends or distant family at his funeral.
A week after his death, I received a call from Anthony Nolan stating I was a potential match to donate stem cells and possibly save someone’s life. Whilst I was told I was only a potential match, given the situation, I’d decided it was fate; a week after my grandfather died, I had the chance to save a life.
After his death, I muddled through life, waiting for things to happen. Although my brother is very much favoured with my family, I was the apple of my grandfather’s eye.
When he was sick, I’d visit him in hospital or at home every single day. He had planned out his funeral down to the fine details; “being diagnosed with cancer at 79 does that to you”, he would say. He asked me to speak about him at the service but on the day, I spoke about him like he was a complete stranger to me. I felt so scared because at that point, I hadn’t cried for him yet. I was worried that at the funeral I was going to have a breakdown. In the end, I didn’t. I felt nothing.
The truth is, I was so busy doing favours for everyone, I hadn’t come to terms with what happened at all. A few weeks of muddling through life on autopilot later and I received a letter stating that the person I’d matched with was no longer suitable.
Suddenly my new purpose was gone. I was so sad for that person because I’ll never know what happened to them. Then everything hit me.
I became a complete mess. I wasn’t sleeping, eating or doing anything to survive as a human. I was convincing everyone at work that I was fine but I was going down a very slippery slope. I couldn’t think of anything else other than seeing my grandfather lying in a hospital bed with the light gone from his eyes.
It felt like I was just being alive rather than living. All my life I’ve suffered from anxiety but never depression. In those weeks, I knew what depression was. I was in the darkest place I’d ever been and as far as I was concerned, I was staying there.
I’d love to say that someone reached out and saved me but they didn’t. I had to save myself. I had been to many of my grandfather’s doctor appointments and I knew a doctor whom I could trust.
I made an appointment with him, explained who my grandfather was and broke down into what felt like 100 pieces. That was the first time I’d talked about him since he died. It hurt.
My medication was upped and a review appointment was made. It wasn’t the medication that helped, it was the review. Someone cared enough that I needed to go back and talk to him again; “one day at a time”, he said to me.
I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t an instant transition. It took weeks for my determination to pull through and get to a point where I began to look after myself like I should be. Everyone says it takes two weeks of a new habit before it becomes normal to you. For me, it took months to dig myself out of the hole I had let myself slip into.
I’m still working on it. Every day is a new day. A new chance to face the day with a smile. While loss doesn’t get easier, sometimes I still feel broken, I’m learning to deal with it, one day at a time.
To protect the authors identity, a pseudonym has been used for this article.
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