My Dad’s Death and the Chaotic Early Stages of Grief

The end of ordinary life as I knew it.

Leon Macfayden
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readJun 29, 2023

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Photo by DrAfter123 on iStock

I sat in my parent’s bedroom. It was deathly silent apart from clocks ticking — 6 of them, to be precise. All at different, maddening intervals. My mind was in a tormented spiral, and the out-of-synch clocks seemed to reflect the chaos.

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick.

I looked after our dog Wags, and even he wanted to escape. But important work was going on outside the room. My dad lay dead on the floor, and the paramedics and police went through their procedures.

The phone call that changed the world.

Before this devastation, I was sitting at home, about to eat a Chinese takeaway. Life was plodding along. My dad had been ill with heart disease for some time, but I had no reason to think today would be THE day.

I heard my girlfriend Amy’s phone ring, followed by the panicked words, “Oh no.” I jumped up, expecting to hear there had been a setback and my dad had gone to the hospital. The reality hit me like a sledgehammer.

“He’s dead,” Amy told me. I couldn’t speak or even close my mouth. My legs buckled with shock.

My dad had been to the hospital several times before. I thought I’d prepared for his death. But as the reality sank in, I realized I hadn’t prepared at all. I don’t know if grief can ever be anticipated.

A glimpse of everyday life amid the madness.

We drove round to my mum’s house. I saw two ambulances and a paramedic response car as we pulled into the road. It gave me flashbacks from my police career, where the whole street lights up with emergency lights. Pretty in a macabre way.

A couple of paramedics chatted outside, and one of them laughed. I felt rage until I remembered this was just their job. Life is normal for them. That was me in my old career, treating horror with disdain. I cut them some slack. If they didn’t laugh, they would crack up and be no use to anyone.

Like me.

Why was I compelled to look at my dad’s body?

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Leon Macfayden
Human Parts

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