Gemma Atkinson has paid tribute to her late father as she opened up about her grief in a poignant Instagram post.
The 36-year-old former soap star was 17-years-old when her father died suddenly of a heart attack aged 52. Gemma spoke about how she tried to come to terms with her loss, which she said she still struggles to accept today, and acknowledged that bereavement is a different and difficult challenge for everyone.
"19 yrs ago today my life changed with 1 phone call," Gemma began in her caption. "I still remember mum coming into my room in the middle of the night to tell me Dad had died. He’d had a heart attack. Grief sucks. It’s difficult & different for everyone but something we all have to go through.
"One thing I know for sure is that the world keeps turning with or without us and time still passes. Dad always used to say to me “don’t let the bastards grind you down” He always said to keep on going because better times were coming. I learnt to live with my new circumstance and way of life without dad in it. I’ve still not accepted it 100% and I question daily why a loving, present and caring dad would be taken over one that couldn’t care less for his family, but I guess that’s just life.
She continued: "It’s unfair at times but anger and constantly looking back gets us nowhere. To anyone who’s suffered a recent loss and is thinking you’ll feel this way forever I can tell you, you won’t. Life moves on and you have to keep going because better times are coming. You will get through it and you will feel strong again. Remember that, and don’t let the bastards grind you down."
Fans thanked her for speaking so honestly and openly about her grief, which prompted others to share their stories. "You give me hope," one commented. "My children lost their dad suddenly near 2 years ago and I worry so much how it'll affect them as they grow up. One comfort I do take is that he didn't leave them cos he wanted to; they know he loved them for every second he was their daddy here. We talk about him. We laugh about memories. I don't want them growing up sad. I want them to live!"
Another added: "Wise words. I lost my Dad 7 years ago, and its still very raw. Like you said, it's something you have to live with, but that doesn't mean you will ever accept it. You are a strong and an inspiration to lots of people. Your Dad will forever live on in you."
Gemma previously spoke about her father and how she wished he could have met fiance Strictly Come Dancing's Gorka Marquez.
"I think he'd love him," she said. "He'd say he's a gentleman. Everyone who's met Gorka says that."
She added: "It hit me that life's too short. Dad was 52 and very healthy. He never smoked and only drank every few weeks – there was nothing wrong with him. Since then, I've wanted to take care of myself as best I can, and that's why I always drill that health is more important than what you look like."
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