GUEST POST: Sally Carrall on grief

Sally Carrall is a 25-year-old nursing student living on the Gold Coast. She grew up in country Northern New South Wales.

Grief

Sally and her dad.

Looking back I had a pretty normal upbringing. Dad, Mum, and my two older sisters. Being the baby of the family, I was always daddy’s princess. No matter what, my dad would do anything for me. We spent a lot of time together. We would watch the NRL over the winter months, and on occasion travel to watch the Mighty Eels play the Broncos in Brisbane. We even had front row seats when they came to play in Ballina and Lismore during preseason games. He owned a milk delivery service, which I worked with him for over 4 years. Those are some of the greatest memories I have with him.

Early in 2008, when I was in year 11 at school, we got the news that no family wants to hear. My dad was diagnosed cancer. Bowel cancer. Cancer! Not something you want to hear when you’re 16. Your dad has cancer. Your hero, someone you rely on, has cancer. I had finally settled into my new school after a year of attending there. I had finally made friends. But my world started to fall around me and I couldn’t do anything about it. About 3 months after the diagnosis, due to existing reasons other than the cancer, my mum left my dad. I lost contact with him after this. My world shattered, everything fell apart.

Once I finished school I tried to get in contact with him, but unfortunately he continued to push me away. With school ending and not going to Uni straight away, I was so lost. I didn’t know how to deal with life. I didn’t see my friends daily at school anymore, so I’d lost my support network. Instead, I started to eat my feelings away. I went into a bad, dark place no one knew about. I didn’t want to live anymore. The one thing that kept me going was my relationship with one of my sisters, my brother-in-law, and their three beautiful children.

Sally before and after – 25kg lighter.

Over the next two and half years I put on 35kgs. In 2012, I finally joined a gym, got an amazing PT, who helped me to learn to trust people around me but also trust and believe in myself. In 12 months with him, I’d lost over 25kgs. I was finally happy. But in 2013, on the 16th of August, after the cancer had returned to his lungs and liver, dad lost the fight to live. Unfortunately I was never able to fix the break in our relationship. I started to lose interest in training and gradually put the weight on again.

I never allowed myself to really grieve. Having a different relationship with my father than my sisters and my mum did, I didn’t feel I could talk to them or grieve in front of them. So I kept everything to myself. I felt so alone. I only let a few people in. I felt I could never be happy. I didn’t deserve to be happy. I built walls. I had so many coping mechanisms to protect myself but in fact I was hurting myself more.

And now I have so many regrets since my dad passed away. Why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t he love me any more? I never got to say goodbye to my daddy.

In 2014 I decided to move to the Gold Coast and finally go to Uni and pursue my dream of nursing. I felt I needed to get away, stand on my own two feet, and go out on my own to fully move on and let go.

It’s still a struggle. I have good days, I have bad days. I am finally ok with talking about my story. I had a conversation with a work college a few weeks ago. I don’t know why it’s stuck with me but she said that everyone has bad days, but for someone with metal health issues, a good day for them is equivalent to a bad day for someone who does not struggle mentally.

With mental health issues, divorce, and cancer becoming more common, if I can share my story and help just one person get through it, I’ll be happy. I want people to know there is a way through. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s ok to say you’re not ok. It’s ok not to be ok! If you know someone struggling with mental health issues, please don’t push them to talk or move on within a certain time – it doesn’t help. Simply be there for them and let them know you’re there.

Things are going to be ok. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but eventually it will all be ok.

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