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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Saturday 5 December 2020

Good grief...?

(...with apologies to bereavement guide books everywhere. And Peanuts....)

OK. So losing someone's never going to be easy. And there are a million different deaths to deal with. Different circumstances, ages, whether you get a warning and time to say goodbye, or just one of those 'world-stops-turning' calls. But can you ever soften the blow? Can you feel, well, not a 'good' grief, but one with lighter moments that will comfort you in the days and months ahead? The pain of loss has been acute this year and, in #griefawarenessweek has led me to revisit this post, and reflect on how the weight of grief can, slowly, ease. So, apologies for the repeat. But I hope it might just help.

May 2014: Rewind to last Friday night; just nine days after Dad died from 'end stage' dementia, at the pretty respectable age of 85. This was limbo land; between a heart wrenching week of last rites, minor rallies, major tenacity, really, really last rites, and the final goodbye. The funeral was still two weeks ahead. And I decided I needed to be in Scotland; his birthplace. Immediately.

It didn't help, really, that it was nearly 10 at night. And that Edinburgh was 284 miles away. But the yearning to be there was so strong, that within 20 minutes, I'd sorted a train ticket, a 5 a.m taxi to the station and a half decent hotel in the centre of Edinburgh. I had a mental wish-list of the places I 'needed' to revisit. Places I'd been taken to as a child. Locations he loved.

I'd cried in the days before his death. Cried in the years before it too, as the Dad we knew and loved slipped further away from us as each shared memory was erased from his mind. But funeral arrangements keep you focused, don't they? Head down; get it sorted. Everyone's so kind. But nearly everyone you speak to at this time is 'in the business'. They know who and what they're dealing with.They speak softly. Pour coffee quietly. Guide you gently through the 'options'.

What I wasn't prepared for, was facing the world outside; away from the 'professionals' and our own circle of fabulous friends and family. I headed for Edinburgh regardless, thinking I could probably tough it out. I steeled myself for the first hurdle: the inevitable sound of a Scottish piper. (We've booked one for Dad's funeral. My mate Ian found him for us. He's called Donald. No Troosers.) And here was one almost greeting me; just steps away from Waverley.

 I watched a while, gave him a brave, beaming smile, lost it, welled up, baled out, threw some change in his music case and legged it to the hotel.

Why was I there? Holiday or business? There was no box to tick for *this* trip at reception; nor at the coffee shop round the corner ('you here for the shopping, then?'); or during my chat with the lady on the bus to Leith. Yes, I have family here. No, I won't be seeing them this trip. And no, I can't tell you that it's because my Uncle Jim is so like my Dad, that one glimpse of his twinkly eyes would finish me off, today, so I'm waiting until I see him at the funeral. Thankfully, she rang the bell to get off, just before a few big, ploppy tears fell. Not the tiny, trickly ones, but the ones resembling the heavy raindrops that splatter down suddenly, before a major storm. That kind.

Waterproof mascara and my 'I`m OK--Just Hear My Confident Clunky Shoes' ruse paid off on the Royal Yacht Britannia tour. Dad had sailed on this beauty as a personal bodyguard; regaled us with tales of the on-board Roller; the sumptuous quarters; the quoits. I was getting the hang of this grief thing: you're OK if you don't speak; don't get too close. Being near certain places was connecting me with Dad. I took strength from it, even posed for a selfie in the Captain`s cap.

Back in town, I was reminded that grief can pop back up and grab you with no warning whatsoever. I skipped the Cathedral--couldn't face lighting two parental candles for the first time; and dodged the postcard browsing-- the Father's Day cards were way too close. Inexplicably, while heading through 'Ground Floor Perfumery' towards Haberdashery in Jenner's (I need some McIntyre tartan in my hair for the funeral...) I agreed to a spontaneous make-up makeover with Andrew. First time ever. Sky high risk. This would involve a stranger not only speaking to me, but touching my face. Quite a lot. And, inexplicably, it worked. He glossed my lips; I glossed over the real reason I was in Edinburgh. Result? I felt a million dollars; he felt my fifty quid.

The next day I felt like a local; legs now used to the endless steps linking city streets. I walked miles; smiled at every piper, bought gifts to take home, and abandoned the search for a possible F-day black dress in a Grassmarket vintage store, buying a fairly hideous Blondie T-shirt to wear at Glastonbury instead. I was smiling. So, was this 'good' grief? No such thing. But probably, I mused on the train hurtling home that night, they were the words Dad would've uttered if he'd ever caught me wearing a pink and black Blondie T-shirt. Or , for that matter, the Captain's hat .

John McIntyre June 1928-May 2014. Loved and always missed.

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