My Nana’s love for a drink has been the centre of our family entertainment for years. From cracking open the Sherry at 11am to tipsy mother-in-law antics, family get togethers where my Nana and the bar were concerned were filled with quick wit, toe curling inappropriateness and a lot of apologies to handsome foreign waiters.
So, it was no surprise that in her final months it wasn’t always the sight of her loved ones which kept her going but the sound of the gin trolley clinking its way through the hospice corridors to her bedside. During one visit, she’d not stirred for over half an hour (we never used to get a word in edgeways let alone half an hour without a peep). When the time came to kiss her goodnight, she’d mustered up the energy to remind me to “pay the bar bill on your way out”. They were the last words I ever heard her say.
I always imagined I’d say goodbye to my grandparents with my head held high, my successful career in tow, my husband-to-be by my side, my bags packed for the home I’d settle down in. But in the months leading up to (and following) her death, I’d burnt out my career passions, broken up with my long-term boyfriend and hit the inevitable Quarter Life Crisis. My Nana’s love for alcohol turned into my pain relief for grief. Corbiers, Twenty Twenty Two, Hold Fast, The Klondyke, Gorilla, Mojos, Ruby Lounge, Illuminaughty, Sandbar, Electrik, Fred’s Ale House – anywhere than being in my own thoughts for longer than five minutes.
It wasn’t until I met up with a group of friends, who’d recently moved in with their boyfriends, earned promotions and invested in their first properties, that I realised my recent greatest achievement was getting so drunk on a night out I’d managed to projectile vomit so spectacularly in the middle of a nightclub it landed perfectly on my mate’s arm. It was a wake-up call (and also a brilliant anecdote, and the worst hangover I’ve ever had).
Losing someone can be a difficult experience no matter what stage of life you’re at and going through grief during the Quarter Life Crisis has been a journey of its own. The best advice I was given during this confusing time came from a close friend – “don’t get distracted by parties and drink, get to the shop, buy a loaf of bread and go and feed the ducks in the park”.