Coping with a Grief Anniversary

Today is the most difficult, emotionally weird day of the year for me: the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I still find the whole series of events really difficult to talk about so instead I want to talk about getting through a grief anniversary and maybe even making something of it.

I’d never thought of us as a family that couldn’t talk about things but for some reason, it always felt really difficult to talk about Dad. No one person made it that way; I think it was just because the emotions were so big, no one knew how to navigate them, especially around other people. And because Dad didn’t live with us, it was relatively easy to slide straight back into normal routines because while there was this huge emotional hole, there wasn’t a physical one. So it just became easier to avoid the subject than engage with it. And after a while, it somehow became the new normal, something that I kind of hate when I look back at that time. I wish we hadn’t let that happen, even if I don’t know how it would’ve been possible to cope any other way.

For a while, we tried to do things on the 16th May. On the first anniversary, we went up onto the South Downs and played frisbee as a family – nothing intense or overly emotional, just something that we did together. But the tradition didn’t last very long. We were all very aware of the date and what it meant but I think it just hurt all of us too much to actually do anything about it; just surviving it was hard enough.

For a long time I just couldn’t even think about him because it hurt too much but at some point, he started creeping back into my consciousness, in more than a fleeting-painful-thought kind of way, even though it was still painful. But slowly it was more than just painful and I guess I stopped pushing it away as fast as possible. Because even though it hurt and made me sad, there came a point when I needed to think about him. It was important.

Almost everyday, there’s something that makes me think of my Dad, of a memory we made together or a memory we could’ve made had we had the opportunity: a TV show that he would’ve liked; something superhero related; when I FaceTime each of my parents, I wonder what it would have been like to have him to FaceTime too; seeing girls with their dads at concerts; something animal related or space related because he used to give us books on them and we’d look at all the pictures together; something wolf related because they were my favourite animal and he used to draw them for me… And then there’s the constant wondering because I know so little about him. I was only thirteen when he died and I wasn’t thinking about how long I had with him, how I only had a limited time to learn everything I could about him. Why would I have been?

A lot has changed over time and the family dynamics have obviously changed since we’ve moved into different houses, even different cities. Recently, my Mum and I have tentatively started doing something each year on the anniversary of his death, even if it’s something small. For example, on the first anniversary after we moved into the new house, we bought some wisteria plants for the garden, the flowers of which we both get great joy from. We liked the idea of having reminders of him around us, even if it was in indirect ways. Only one plant has survived but it’s growing well and that feels really special.

Last year, I ordered a poster of the Justice League that I found on Etsy. Justice League was a TV show we (my Dad, my brother, and I) watched obsessively together and he’s the one who got me into superheroes, something I’ve avoided for a long time but came back to fairly recently because they make me feel close to him, rather than just making me feel painfully aware of his absence. Superheroes and the surrounding stories and mythologies are now somewhat of a common thread in my life, in my writing, and in my view of the world and that’s something I got from him. That is his legacy to me so the poster felt like an appropriate purchase to make on that day.

We’re creating positive memories – or we’re trying to, at least – to associate with him, even if he isn’t here anymore to be a part of them.

I haven’t decided what to do this year, not yet. Life has been fairly chaotic and my brain has been very full: of last semester’s work, of the upcoming semester’s work, the migraine that swallowed up almost a week of my life… So I’m not sure how I’m going to commemorate the day this year but I’ll figure it out. With all the research into him and his family history, I feel like it should be something to do with that but I haven’t come to a final conclusion yet. I feel like there’s this weird pressure to get it ‘right.’

Ultimately we all deal with grief in our own way. I’ve read a lot about grief, about the five stages of grief, about the seven stages of grief… And in the context of those, I don’t really know where I am. Most of the time, I still feel frozen on that day, like I haven’t dealt with it at all. There was never really any anger or bargaining and yes, there’s been depression but that’s an incredibly complex issue for me and one I’m pretty sure can’t just be attributed to processing grief. Having said all of that, sometimes I do feel like I’m moving forward: I write songs about him, superhero stuff is a big part of my life, me and Mum have been talking to anyone we can to find out more about him before all of those stories get lost in time. I want to know who he was. I want to know where I came from. And, although it’s probably not super healthy to dwell on, I want to know what my life might have been like had I had him for longer. I can’t help thinking about it, at least from time to time.

Grief is so complicated, possibly the most complicated emotional process that we can experience as human beings. It takes on so many different forms, is attached to so many different circumstances, and even when the situation is the same, two people rarely feel it the same way. But that’s a discussion for another day. I just wanted to take a moment to talk a little bit about grief anniversaries and my experience and… I don’t know… talk about all of this in a way that felt… okay. I don’t know. I don’t really know what I’m doing here today but I needed to write something and this is what I wrote.

What I Did In Lockdown – Part 3

So, on the 4th January, England went into another national lockdown and this list was once again revived. This one felt much more like the first lockdown than the second, where many schools, businesses, etc were still open. When schools and universities started to open, my course remained online (it was one of the courses that could function solely online and meant less people going back to the uni) so lockdown continued for me. My life has only just started to involve going out again – swimming, getting a haircut, (safely) seeing a few people – and that’s why I’ve kept this list going as long as I have…


  • Uploaded all of my assessment work for the Musical Language module.
  • Suggested a topic for Kalie Shorr’s podcast, which she used, and then mentioned me and my music during it, which meant a lot to me.
  • Followed the news about the riots at the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
  • Started building my family tree on AncestryDNA and learning about who my relatives are, especially on my father’s side. This included messaging with distant relatives (cousins multiple times removed, for example), which was a pretty surreal experience.
  • Listened to and fell in love with the bonus tracks from Taylor Swift’s evermore.
  • Started a new (very beautiful) subscription of Vitamin D supplement.
  • Had a socially distanced chat and exchange of Christmas presents with one of my best friends.
  • Had a bit of a reset therapy session: we caught up and then set some goals to work on.
  • Had multiple writing sessions with Richard.
  • Wrote and posted a blog post about the third semester of my Masters.
  • Tested out a new method of overcoming my Trichotillomania: using a strip of elastic to tie my hand to my portable desk, preventing my pulling hand from reaching my hair.
  • Finished my ADHD assessment and was diagnosed with ADHD, although it’s a complicated one as there is much overlap between Autism and ADHD.
  • Had a Netflix party with some friends where we watched How To Train Your Dragon.
  • Started my new university module, The Writer’s Voice (online, of course).
  • Binge-watched The Wilds.
  • Had a productive meeting with one of the careers team at my university.
  • Had multiple writing sessions with my friend and coursemate, Luce.
  • Watched and critiqued the first draft of the acoustic session videos.
  • Watched the film, How It Ends.
  • Watched the film, Ava.
  • Due to technical issues, my friend, Aislin, and I wrote a song using basically texts and a google doc; and not only that, it was a song we loved and felt really proud of, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Watched Joe Biden’s inauguration; I found it very inspiring and emotional.
  • Had a consultation with an Occupational Therapist (via phone) for the pain in my hands.
  • Continued with my therapy sessions.
  • Worked on a couple of songs with my friend and coursemate, Dan.
  • Got my AncestryDNA results back, which was really interesting in some ways and frustrating in others.
  • Had a long catch up call with one of my best friends.
  • Had my first session for a new mentoring programme.
  • Had a meltdown after an unexpected change with a university class and ended up missing the class entirely.
  • Watched the series, Tiny Pretty Things.
  • Had a COVID test.
  • Had my COVID test come back negative.
  • Had multiple sessions with my friend and coursemate, Anna.
  • Watched one of my best friends, Luce, do her second online show.
  • Finished the acoustic session videos.
  • Began Occupational Therapy for the pain in my hands.
  • Wrote a blog post about the first year without our dog, Lucky.
  • Wrote multiple songs by myself.
  • Started FAWM – February Album Writing Month, a challenge to write fourteen songs in twenty eight days.
  • Had a phone call with the Chronic Fatigue Service that proved to be not only unhelpful, but deeply troubling: we discovered that I’d never received the results of blood-work from two years ago that showed multiple (potentially dangerous) abnormalities that should’ve been investigated and he told me my case was too complicated for them, that they didn’t feel they could help me.
  • Ran into a friend that I haven’t seen for ages and we planned a call and (online) movie night.
  • Had an ECG: hypermobility can result in heart problems (in a small percentage of people) so I’ll have to have regular heart check ups.
  • Had a writing session with my friend and coursemate, Amy.
  • Continued to spread awareness of how ableist, offensive, and dangerous Sia’s film, Music, is.
  • Posted my blog post about the first year with our lovely dog, Lucky.
  • Watched the film, Peppermint.
  • Celebrated the beginning of Taylor Swift releasing her rerecorded albums, starting with ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version).’
  • Wrote with my friend and coursemate, Harrison.
  • Watched the film, The Dig.
  • Had a long overdue movie night (in the middle of the day) and catch up with two of my best friends.
  • Posted two blog posts on the same day about Trichotillomania. (x) (x)
  • My Mum had her first COVID vaccination.
  • Had a difficult video call with one of my tutors about one of the Masters modules, in which I got very upset.
  • Watched Series 1 and 2 of The Bay.
  • My Mum trimmed my fringe for me.
  • Received the about-face makeup (by Halsey) I’d bought and tested it out; I particularly liked the matte lip product.
  • Rewatched Criminal Minds from start to finish.
  • Had several writing sessions with my new friend and coursemate, Phill.
  • Received the Chronic Fatigue Service’s post-session report before they sent it to my GP and corrected all of the errors in it (such as when I was diagnosed with ASD).
  • Watched the film, Taking Lives.
  • Rewatched all three seasons of Absentia.
  • Had another mentoring session, which was really thought-provoking and productive.
  • My university had a reading week so I didn’t have any classes.
  • Had a planning session with Richard after one of our writing sessions.
  • Found the new COVID-19 plan announced on the 22nd February thoroughly unclear and confusing.
  • Watched New Amsterdam Season 1.
  • Wrote several songs based on fictional stories and characters, which isn’t my writing comfort zone but was really fun.
  • Started watching Unforgotten Series 4; I’m ecstatic to have Nicola Walker on my screen again, especially playing such a great character, but given the end of the last series, I can’t help but worry that this will be the last.
  • Had multiple sessions with my friend and coursemate, Simon.
  • Watched the film, Escape From Pretoria.
  • Completed FAWM (February Album Writing Month), actually writing 14 songs in less than 28 days.
  • Had a socially distanced catch up with one of my oldest and best friends.
  • Had a second COVID test.
  • Did several Autism research studies (from home, of course).
  • Dyed my hair.
  • Had a writing session with my friend and coursemate, Joy.
  • One of my best friends, Richard Marc, released his debut single, ‘Put It In A Postcard,’ which I helped write.
  • Had my COVID test come back negative.
  • Learned that my ECG had come back clear.
  • Had official confirmation that I’ve been diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
  • Had a meeting with uni staff to discuss the options around the process of changing my antidepressants in order to take medication for my ADHD.
  • Watched New Amsterdam Season 2.
  • Met a potential DSA mentor (it didn’t work out).
  • Was unexpectedly triggered during a seminar and got extremely upset, although I was somehow able to pull myself together enough to manage the class.
  • Bought tickets for me and my family to see Tim Minchin when he (hopefully) tours the UK at the end of the year.
  • Announced the Honest EP (Sunburst Sessions).
  • Fell down the stairs but fortunately wasn’t too badly banged up.
  • Sweep had to go to the vet because she seemed to be having trouble moving around comfortably but the vet wasn’t worried and thought she’d probably been knocked around in all the wind we’ve been having and has given her some painkillers. We also asked if she had any guesses as to what breed Sweep is since we have no idea and her guess is Long Haired Domestic Cat with potentially some Norwegian Forest Cat, so that’s what we’re going with unless we decide to do one of those pet DNA tests.
  • Had a good catch up call with one of my oldest friends.
  • Caught up with The Grammys, celebrated Taylor Swift’s folklore winning Album of the Year, and cried over all of the acceptance speeches.
  • Watched The One (Season 1).
  • Had a particularly good response in class to one of my songs, which is one of my favourite songs I’ve written recently.
  • Had a really productive meeting with my course leader about my Masters final project.
  • Had an upsetting and thoroughly unhelpful appointment with a specialist I’d been referred to.
  • Had another set of blood tests – I’ve completely forgotten what they’re for or who requested them with so many people involved right now but they might give us more insight into my fatigue.
  • Posted the first of the Honest EP acoustic sessions, ‘Bad Night (Sunburst Sessions)’.

  • Learned about Travis Meadows’ surgery, donated to the gofundme, and shared the link.
  • Watched one of my best friends, Luce, do an awesome online show.
  • Posted my blog post about being diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Watched Creating The Queen’s Gambit, which just made me want to watch the show again.
  • Joined the judging panel for a songwriting competition.
  • Screeched at the penultimate episode of Unforgotten Series 4.
  • After a really fascinating seminar on Jungian archetypes, I spent hours reading more about them.
  • Suddenly found out quite a lot about my Dad’s side of the family, which was amazing but pretty overwhelming.
  • Had another meeting with one of the tutors to fine tune the approach to my Masters final project.
  • Did an interview with an Autism publication.
  • Attended Betsy Lane’s Zoom party to celebrate her (awesome) new single, ‘Plan For Paris.’
  • Rewrote my professional bio, or attempted to at least.
  • Had a long phone call with one of my best friends, which I think I really needed (plus she said something to me that may be the most special and important thing anyone has ever said to me).
  • Worked on multiple blog posts for World Autism Awareness Week 2021.
  • Had an excited little freak out about Lexie Grey (played by Chyler Leigh) appearing in Grey’s Anatomy again, even though I’m not watching the show at the moment (I just can’t manage living the pandemic and watching entertainment about it – but I loved Lexie so I look forward to watching it one day).
  • Worked with Richard on my next release.
  • I posted the second video in my acoustic session series, ‘Clarity (Sunburst Sessions).’

  • Had a lovely, long call with one of my best friends.
  • Received a late Christmas gift from one of my parents: a vinyl of the Honest EP!
  • Got a very sweet comment from Natalie Hemby (one of my favourite songwriters) on Instagram.
  • Wrote and submitted a research proposal for a conference.
  • Got my first COVID vaccine!
  • *SPOILER ALERT* Was deeply, deeply upset when Cassie died in the Unforgotten finale – I’m not sure I’ll ever feel the same way about the show and I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the next series.
  • Wrote a song about grief called ‘Incomplete,’ inspired by Unforgotten but informed by my own experience.
  • Had the initial meeting about the next and final module of the Masters, called The Major Repertoire Project.
  • Worked on a really special song with my friend and coursemate, Anna.
  • Went to a drop-in session (online) with my tutor to get some advice on my assessment work.
  • Posted the third video in my acoustic session series, ‘Sounds Like Hope (Sunburst Sessions).’

  • Had several video calls with my friend, Luce, where we worked on our songs for our assessment portfolios.
  • My Mum cut my fringe again. It was alarmingly short this time.
  • Put up a blog post for every day of Autism Awareness Week.
  • Had my last workshop of the semester, which felt quite emotional.
  • The research proposal that I submitted for the conference was accepted!
  • Celebrated Taylor Swift re-releasing her album Fearless as Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
  • Posted the fourth video in my acoustic session series, ‘Back To Life (Sunburst Sessions).’

  • Rewatched The Wilds while I worked on various things.
  • Started watching The Shires’ online concert but couldn’t finish it because of family commitments.
  • Got some really exciting news about a creative project I’ve been involved with (I can’t talk about it yet since it isn’t my project to announce).
  • Got a new fidget toy that also seems to be complimentary to my Occupational Therapy exercises.
  • Finished my marking for the songwriting competition.
  • Rewatched Dare Me while I was working on various tasks.
  • Met and had my first discussion with my Major Repertoire Project (the final module and project of the Masters) supervisor.
  • Posted the fifth and final video in my acoustic session series, ‘Honest (Sunburst Sessions).’

  • Ended up spending the day in A&E after three days with a migraine had my doctor concerned that I might be experiencing side effects from my COVID vaccine.
  • Dyed my hair again.
  • Finished my coursework for The Writer’s Voice module.
  • Worked on a song with my friend and coursemate, Alessandro, which incidentally meant that I’d written with every person in the group.
  • Submitted my coursework for The Writer’s Voice module.
  • Celebrated one of my parents’ birthdays.
  • Attended several (online) networking meetings organised by my university.
  • Rewatched Blood & Water (Series 1).
  • Upped my Occupational Therapy regimen.
  • Got a haircut for the first time in MONTHS. 
  • Had another migraine that lasted for several days.
  • Released the Honest EP (The Sunburst Sessions).
  • Had a very distressing and unhelpful follow up appointment (by phone) with a rheumatologist (different from the original one).
  • Hit a stumbling block in getting treatment for my ADHD.

As I said in the last part of this list, hopefully there won’t be reason to continue this post; hopefully there won’t be any more lockdowns. But I guess only time will tell. I’ve found it strangely comforting to keep this list; it’s kind of like a time capsule for these strange periods of time, if that makes sense.

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well and I’ll see you in the next post.

Life Without Lucky

It’s been just over a year without our beloved Lucky. I’ve thought about this post for a long time, about whether to post it a year after he was put to sleep but I decided that I’d rather post on his birthday. As of today, he would’ve been seventeen years old. We had to have him put to sleep roughly a week before his sixteenth birthday, a long life for a Labrador, especially one with several long-term health problems. I wish he was still with us but he was ready to go. I’ve heard people say that before and thought I knew what it meant, but I only truly understood it the night we had to make that choice. He was just ready, even if we weren’t.

I still miss him. I still miss him greatly, as I know the rest of my family does. He was one of those dogs that even dog-ambivalent and dog-disliking people fell in love with. He was so sweet and gentle and obliging. And he just loved everybody he met; you couldn’t help but fall in love with him in return. He became a bit of a legend within our circle of family, friends, acquaintances, and further; there are connections in our lives that are entirely a result of Lucky inviting himself, and therefore us, into their lives.

There’s so much I miss about him, so much I think about when I think of him. It hurts but it also makes me smile because he always, always made me smile. He was a dog of simple pleasures. Affection, food, a good walk, and a good snooze was all he needed in life. But he certainly had his quirks (just like the rest of the family). As a puppy, he ate everything he could get a hold of, from bananas to the radio remote; he once turned the gas oven on in an attempt to reach a cake on the sideboard – that could’ve ended disastrously… He loved meeting new people but always seemed somewhat confused about what he was supposed to do when he met other dogs. He spent a lot of time sleeping on his back with his legs in the air. He got upset and left the room when people on TV got emotional, let alone people in real life.

Some days, it still doesn’t feel entirely real. I’ll still look for him when I pass ‘his’ spots and expect to see him there. I’ll still tiptoe when I get up at night to make sure I don’t disturb him. I still expect him to greet me at the front door when I get home. And then it hits me all over again. There’s a hole where he should be and I feel it every day.

But as much as I miss him, I am – in a way – grateful that he hasn’t had to cope with the pandemic. He obviously wouldn’t have understood the pandemic itself but he was so sensitive and he definitely would have sensed our anxiety – certainly my almost constant panic. It would’ve been so distressing for him; I would’ve hated for him to go through that. And given his age and all of his health issues, chances are that we might’ve had to have him put to sleep during one of the lockdowns and the only thing worse than having him put to sleep would’ve been having to do so without being allowed to be there with him. That would’ve been unbearable. So, as awful as it was, I know that it could’ve been worse. That doesn’t make me miss him any less but it does give me a sense of… something… that I don’t think I could’ve had otherwise.

So, here we are, just over a year without our lovely Lucky. It’s hard and it hurts but I wouldn’t have given up that time with Lucky for anything. And to be the ultimate cheeseball, he might’ve been called ‘Lucky,’ but we were definitely the lucky ones.