real life

'I'm in my 30s and lost both my parents in a year. The grief feels never-ending.'

It was a completely normal – albeit hectic – early morning in our household.

But after eating breakfast, locating lost socks, and bundling the kids into the car, we were on our way to school drop off.

I dropped my twins at preschool first, hugging them extra tight as they’ve been dealing with some separation anxiety.

Then I dropped off my eldest, before I started the drive to work.

The phone rang so I pulled over to take the call. 

It started with the words you never want a phone call to start with: "Are you sitting down?"

"Yes, I've just pulled over," I replied, as the world started to slow down around me.

"Mum has passed away," the voice on the other end said. 

Watch: What you need to know about grief. Post continues after video.

Video via Psych2Go.

The slow motion got even slower... Shock passed through me and my whole body began to tingle.

"Are you joking?" I heard myself say, but it sounds like it's coming from someone else.


How has this happened? Why?

She wasn't sick; she was relatively young. She had told me she would die as an old, old lady and I believed her.

I just couldn't believe it was true. 

It feels like a particularly sick joke, because just three months earlier, my dad died.

My sister passed away when I was seven, which triggered my dad's mental illness. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar. In the final year of his life, I became his guardian.

Family pic from 1992 - Nan, Mum, Dad, Kelly (my little sister who passed away that year) and myself. Image: Supplied.


In 2020, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given four to six months to live.

I cried for three days after the diagnosis.

The twins were only two at that time, so little, too young to lose their grandpa.

My dad lived an eight-hour drive from me, and there were no direct flights. So I’d drive up and down to take him to his appointments and get him supplies.

But one day, I'd just driven home when I received a call from the hospital saying Dad had suffered four strokes just after I'd left.

He was still hanging in there – I didn't know how – what kind of human can survive four strokes?  

After that he could no longer speak or walk. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I desperately wanted to move him closer to me but he wasn't well enough, and there was no way to make it happen.

I felt broken; like I was failing my dad.

He began rehab care and even began walking with assistance and speaking a little bit. But there was a lot of damage from the strokes that couldn't be reversed.


After a fall, he declined further still, and so he was moved to end-of-life care. I filled his room with photos of his grandchildren and I placed a special photo of his mum and my sister on his bedside in his favourite gold double photo frame.

Dad and I settling into end-of-life care (a couple of weeks before passing) with his request of a coffee from the nursing home cafe. Image: Supplied.


The reality of the last 48 hours is probably too hard for me to write about or share at this stage, but before he was driven away under the moonlight, in a custom silver Holden, I popped the photo of my sister in his top pocket; he was still warm.

I was shocked and had to check his pulse again, despite the nurse already recording his time of death.

I couldn't stop the tears.

Dad driving away under the moonlight in the silver Holden for his last drive. Image: Supplied.


My parents had separated after my sister passed away when I was younger. They no longer had contact with each other.

But they were my mum and dad, and now they were both gone.

My mum's death was investigated by detectives given her age and overall good health.

While we waited for answers, we tried to find out if Mum had written anywhere what her final wishes were – but we found nothing so had to guess.

Mum recently at the butterfly house (she loved butterflies). Image: Supplied.


Eventually, we were told that her death had been caused by pneumonia, possibly made fatal by undiagnosed emphysema. It still didn't make a lot of sense to us. 

There are still days where none of this feels real, like I'm in some movie or another reality.

I am only in my thirties and I never expected to lose both my parents this young – especially after losing my sister when I was seven years old.

I am in shock and disbelief, that the grief feels this intense and yet the world keeps moving.

I've learnt a lot the past several months. Knowing that life will ultimately end for all of us is no secret.

Time is borrowed and never promised, they say. I do know time is certainly a gift, so I wanted to share some of my learnings through some of life's biggest changes to save you time and anxiety.

  • Live life to its fullest with purpose; it's a pathway to peace.
  • Create memories.
  • Learn coping mechanisms that support self-care, not self-sabotage.
  • Learn about and practise meditation, even if you suck at it, is such a gift to yourself. Keep going.
  • You cannot control so many things, but you can control the perspective you choose to take before having an immediate reaction. Pause. Allow yourself space to explore this without judging.
  • Feel your emotions, whatever they might be, it’s important and healthy. Your feelings are valid, create a safe place to feel them and build a support system you can reach out to.
  • Communicate with family and sort out your own wishes now. Trust me when I say your family do not want to guess what you want for your funeral.

I've been super quiet on my socials, leaning inwards and taking time to re-evaluate life, but if you need to reach out I can be found here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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