Dealing with Grief – a personal account from our colleague Helen


I have worked in and around the area of Human Resources for many years and have seen friends and colleagues deal with the loss of a loved one, be that close relative or friend in different ways.  I had always felt that I was empathetic and understanding with the different ways that people dealt with their loss and grief but had luckily never had to face this personal challenge.

That all changed on 7 November 2018 when I got home from work to find two police cars in the road, and then discovered the police were actually in my house.  I looked around the room.   Where’s Danny?  He’s dead said the policeman.  That was the start of my nightmare.

Danny is my youngest son.  He was 22 at the time he was killed while crossing the road when he walked our dog, Benson.   My husband, elder son and his fiancée were at home and even from that first night we all processed the initial shock in different ways.  That difference in how we have managed first the shock and then grief has continued.

My first reaction was to go  onto autopilot, we had to tell our parents, our families, our friends. None of that was easy.   We were all conscious that this impacted not just on us as our immediate family but had a much wider impact.  I was almost frightened to get upset and cry in front of people because I knew that would upset them and they were already upset.   We had the funeral, actually two years ago from the day I am writing this.   There was an amazing presence of family and friends in the church and it was so wonderful to see so many of Dan’s friends.   We got through that day and then had to face up to the massive loss in our lives.

Our house was quiet, the kitchen was cleaner but how I longed for the mess and the noise that had always accompanied Dan, as well as the laughter, rapping and constant chat.    We have always talked about him and it is impossible to do this without smiling for the amazing person he was.   Why hadn’t I told him more that I loved him? Why hadn’t I hugged him more?    Why hadn’t I suggested that he walk the dog in a different path than the one he had taken?   You can’t go with those thoughts my sister, mum and best friends said.  My head told me they were right, but it was hard.   Driving home from work was always difficult – I would always call him on my way home.  He was no longer there.  Most days I cried all the way home but at least I was in my car so I wasn’t upsetting anyone.

My elder son and husband felt angry.   I didn’t feel anger, just a massive hole that could never be filled.

Christmas was awful though we made an effort, and I was surrounded by my amazing family.   New Year was worse, and I hadn’t thought it would be.  In the January my lovely dad became ill and died on April 6.   I miss my dad dreadfully but almost felt relieved that he would now be with Dan and Dan would not be by himself any more.   I then felt guilty for the rest of my family, but was completely reassured to find out that they, while devastated over our loss were comforted by the fact that he would be somewhere with Dan.

I have been able to function and have continued to do ‘normal’ things.   I am going to be a Nan next year and I am delighted about that, but it, like everything is tinged with sadness, what would Dan think?

I have had amazing support from my family and friends and also amazing support from everyone at YMCA Liverpool & Sefton for which I am eternally grateful.  We won’t ask you but if you want to talk just say – that was so reassuring when I first went back to work.   Other people who had suffered tragic loss and were dealing with grief also talked to me.

Why do we have to wait until there is a tragic loss to have those conversations?   A friend from the Hindu faith, talked to me about how her faith views death and loss.  This helped a lot and helped me try to make sense of an awful situation.

I had support from Aftermath and then counselling from the Alder Centre.  All of which helped me.  I then felt stronger to face our second Christmas without him.  However, as I approach our third Christmas I am again filled with dread and sadness with the waves of sadness flooding me and the uncontrollable crying again. As someone who likes to be in control it is not easy.

I continue to get taken aback that I will not see Dan again.   I constantly look at photos of him – he will be forever young – I can’t even begin to think about the life he would have had – it’s just too difficult.

For me, talking has helped, talking to my counsellor, Aftermath adviser, friends, family and colleagues.  I need to keep Dan alive and feel that I can do this by talking about him.

My journey continues with some days easier than others. I have gone weeks without crying and then a wave wave sweeps over, and I am back where I was in 2018.     Any thought that grief lasts a few weeks has long gone – it will last forever I think, and we never know when it is going to hit us in a stronger wave.

If this resonates with you and you would like to access further support, there are some links below.  There is help out there so do not suffer alone.

Staff employed at YMCA Liverpool & Sefton can also access support through Medicash