Conversations with friends: Megan Austwick

I think my pal Megan is amazing. After her dad passed away, she started a website (Megan to help people who are experiencing loss, and to share stories we seldom talk about. She’s such an open, honest and caring soul – and I’m delighted to talk to her today:

I’d like to ask about your dad, if that’s OK? Could you talk me through what happened when he passed away?

Yes of course, the day started off as a normal Thursday for me. I was at work and I got a call from my brother, he said he thought dad was dead. I don’t think he’d even processed how to say it so he just blurted it out, bless him. I can’t even imagine how hard it must’ve been for him to take the initial call. 

It took a couple of hours for us to confirm he had actually died as he was in a different county and there were a few logistical issues with us getting the information. As it was so sudden (he died of a cardiac arrest with no previous issues) they had to check for suspicious circumstances too. That day was honestly just insane, nothing could’ve prepared me for that.

How did you deal with the loss?

I’m not actually sure whether I have ever dealt with it. My dad was my very best friend and our relationship was so healthy as he was such an excellent dad. This meant I had no anger or guilt to bear, so the emotions I felt were healthy and easier to process. 

The best way I can describe it is just extreme heartbreak and since then (2 ½ years) I’ve just been healing, growing and still involving him in my life without him being physically here. I think I’ve coped quite well in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve been healing, growing and still involving him in my life

Megan Austwick

Life must feel forever changed without your dad, but was there a moment when you started to feel like you had a ‘new normal’?

I often talk about the day I was driving along the road with happy tears and felt happy for the first time – but I think this was just a moment that sticks with me rather than the ‘moment’. 

I smiled and was happy on many occasions before that, I probably laughed the evening he died. I had so much change within that first year and a half after dad died. I bought a house, moved out, went on some great holidays, got a dog, left the house behind (and the relationship I’d had for almost 3 years). I had so much going on.

I moved back home in June last year and I think turning 24 (this January) is when my new normal started! 

What inspired you to start your website? 

I’d already written a couple of pieces on my experiences since losing dad and the things I’d learned. I originally set up a website called ‘Pineapple on Pizza’ – the name came from the analogy that grief isn’t something people feel comfortable talking about (kind of like the people who refuse pineapple on pizza). I deleted that site though, I don’t think I was ready. 

Since then I’d always been a listening ear for advice on how to cope through grief and many other things, and I’d been encouraged to try again. In fact, my friends and family encouraged me to do a podcast but I settled with the comfort of the website. I will do a podcast one day! I think it’s already achieved what I wanted it to, by supporting people and helping them feel less alone.

What’s the response to your blog been like so far?

It’s done so much better than I ever expected it to! Honestly, I did it for others as I already had a platform, but it has helped me more than I ever imaged it would. I’m so grateful for it (grateful for a website, how odd). I screenshot all my feedback and save them in a folder as a self-reflection when I’m feeling down. 

That’s such a good idea! Do you have a favourite post on there?

My favourite post is definitely the letters to my younger self one. I loved that so much and still read it now! I’d encourage everyone to write their own. 

That was a great piece, I might have to try it myself! What advice would you give someone who wants to support a friend experiencing loss?

Definitely check out my piece helping a grieving friend through isolation for some tips! 

But I think the most important thing is to be there as a listening ear and to ensure they are still eating, keeping their fluids up, getting out for a walk or some exercise as much as possible – even going with them if you can. 

Just be there for them and trust your gut instinct. Don’t be worried or tip toe around them. I think too many people worry about what to say or how to act when people have experienced a loss. Most of the time they just want their friends around as a bit of normality. Also, allow them to talk when they’re ready – everyone grieves differently, so allow the process to flow and when they are ready to talk they will.

I think too many people worry about what to say or how to act when people have experienced a loss.

Megan Austwick

Has losing your dad made you think about life differently? 

Oh 100%, I much prefer the person I am now. I value life in a different way. ‘Life is too short’ gets flung around all the time but understanding how quickly it really can end has cemented that quote for me. 

You’re very open and honest on your website (which I love and appreciate), have you always been like that?

Yes, I have. I have always been very vocal about what I need, how I feel and what I expect from people as well. This hasn’t always worked out in romantic relationships. I’ve always been encouraged to be ‘less me’ and learn how to play games or play hard to get. I can’t do it, it’s not me. It never has been and never will be. I’d rather be alone forever than play a stupid game!

My friends and family love me for who I am, so I don’t feel like I have to be anything less than open and honest with them. 

What do you like to do outside of managing your website? What are your hobbies?

Oh gosh, I hate being asked this question as I am the most boring person in the world! I love spending time with my friends, going on long walks and being outside. I enjoy reading and watching Grey’s Anatomy on TV! I’m pretty happy just pottering around filling my time with any of the above or just being alone. I’m definitely an introverted-extrovert! 

That is not boring to me at all! I think that sounds like a wonderful way to spend your free time. What will be the first thing you do once the pandemic is over?

I cannot wait for a trip to Wagamama’s and a shopping spree in Primark! I miss both so much!

And finally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

In 5 years time, I’d like to have at least one child. Having children is a priority for me. I’d also like to be in a job I love – I’m forever jumping around and I just want to be settled. I’d hope that I could still run my website successfully. 

I’ll be 29 then, and on the eve of my 28th birthday I want to write a ’30 things to do before I’m 30’ list – so I’d like to be ticking some things off!

I’d like to thank Megan so much for talking to me! Please make sure you take a look at her website – it’s filled with such raw, emotional and honest pieces. It’s truly one of my favourite spaces on the internet. She was even kind enough to let me write my own contribution!

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