A bittersweet journey through grief – pieced together with diary entries and poems
The months leading up to my Dad’s untimely death were, looking back on it, fairly surreal. When I wasn’t visiting Dad in hospital, I was playing a dying zombie in BBC series In The Flesh and patching up a wounded heart (that I’d thrown at someone’s feet) the day my Dad had a stroke. I went from feeling tremendously heavy, to totally normal, to just plain knackered. (I often wondered if I was going a little mad.)
Throughout this time, my lifeline was a salmon pink A4 journal; where I poured out my heart with the dedication and gusto of a lost teenager. This painful time was hugely fertile, creatively - and words literally spilled out onto the page - sometimes in the form of a diary entry or anecdote, sometimes in the form of poetry, through which I have always found it helpful to express and organise difficult thoughts.
There are a number of heart-wrenching and life affirming accounts of hospital life from the perspective of the patient or the medical professionals caring for them. But The Diary of Losing Dad is told from the inside of the magnolia waiting room, from a family who are stress-eating Percy Pigs, scrabbling around for change for the parking machine, and breaking down in the chemist because the pharmacist hasn’t got the right cream.
As an actor, I like to find narrative and meaning - and I also like to know which role I’m playing. During the time my father was dying, I found myself playing the role of the sensitive, emotional daughter, who tries to do the right thing but can often get it wrong, and who is a master at putting on a brave face and concealing her inner pain. My dad plays the heroic, funny and incredibly brave patient, who was inspiring until the end.
This all sounds incredibly heavy doesn’t it?
But I think that in jumping between different modes of expression, tones and moods - the narrative stays buoyant and varied. The poetic element too - allows the reader to dip deeper, going somewhere a little more surreal or instinctive perhaps, opening up a more truthful and visceral insight into the experience.
We all have our own unique responses to human tragedy. We’re all going to have to face death. And yet we are so ill-equipped. This book is an intimate insight into what it is like to slowly, painfully lose someone you love.
I walk through the vast concrete maze of wings and signs, eventually making it into a lift.
It pings. Everything is in slow motion. I glide through each door (the valium is kicking in.)
Time, seconds lengthen. Stretch. Drawn out by anticipation that is both urgent to see him
and fearful of what or who I will find. I am completely lost. A kind man steers me to the
right place. I sterilise my hands and pass a sea of curious eyes. And then at the end of the
These people are helping to fund The Diary of Losing Dad.