LAST week I was listening to Classic FM in the car in an attempt to relax after an extremely difficult and stressful time. A tune by Mozart came on and I was suddenly overwhelmed. I had to pull in and I sat listening to the music as it took me back 47 years, to when I was 12.

The tune had been a favourite of my father, who was very musically gifted; he played almost anything and everything from banjo and guitar to piano and organ. But his musical taste was very different to mine, although I did once manage to get him to sing along to Block Buster by the Sweet.

My father died in August 1974, just a week before I started high school at Preston Lodge. I’d just turned 12 years old. Soon afterwards, I remember going into his study, which had previously been out of bounds, and sitting in his chair, surrounded by his books, writing materials and music tapes.

These were the days when combined radio and tape recorders were popular. His music tapes were in a special box, all titled in his handwriting. He’d recorded the music from the radio so the quality wasn’t brilliant.

There were moments on the tapes when he’d not switched it off quickly enough, so he’d caught snippets of the presenter talking, and sometimes the tape had run out before the tune ended.

But all this just made the tape collection a more powerful personal connection to my dad who I’d recently lost. So, while he had been unable to interest me in classical music while he was alive, I began to listen to his collection after his death. I would recognise tunes and was now able to put a name to them thanks to the titles he’d written on the tapes.

They conjured up memories for me. One was of a rainy Saturday afternoon in which my father invited me to join him in being the conductor for a Mozart tune. So he showed me how to conduct, leading and living the music with our arm movements. We had fun together doing this for what seemed like an hour or so in our small kitchen, as he explained the different instruments involved and how they merge together, and the role of the conductor. It was, in truth, a rare moment, but perhaps that’s why I remembered it so vividly.

It was the same Mozart tune that played on my car radio last week. It conjured another memory: of me standing in the kitchen being the conductor to the tune, alone, in the weeks after my father’s death. I’d found the tape and recognised the tune. I then learnt every pause, listened to the instruments and conducted to the music as my father had taught me.

I didn’t understand it at the time, nobody spoke to me about it, but I now realise that I was in deep grief.

My conducting the music was an expression of my loss, but I had nobody to talk to about it or process it; I couldn’t allow the emotions to surface: “Be strong, now you are the man of the family, boys don’t cry, they get on with it.”

My mother was stunned and closed down as well. I somehow learnt that tears, crying and being upset was something to avoid. So I buried my grief.

So I did as advised, I got on with it. I’ve done OK, I think, for I suppose when we walk with a stone in our shoe long enough we get used to it, and after a while stop noticing it. But, of course, it is still there, and only when we take our shoe off and finally find a way to remove the stone do we feel the difference and understand the effect it’s had on our walking.

Last week was that moment for me: sitting in my car, overwhelmed with emotion from 47 years ago, remembering myself as a 12-year-old boy who felt he was unable to talk about what was then the greatest loss in his life.

I’m a father myself now, of course, and thank goodness times have changed.

There is a greater recognition these days of the need to talk, to express emotions and process feelings; that our mental health is as important as our physical health, although words are often not matched with resources.

But within our families also, we all need safe spaces to feel upset, let emotions surface and receive support from love ones. And that includes recognising our own mental health needs.

I know most of us already know the importance of this. I certainly know it, yet despite this, I still tend to ignore the signs I’m struggling until my mental health is in tatters, which helps nobody.

Just now my kids are having their own challenges, as so many are, and my own emotions have surfaced in my attempts to give support. The temptation was to quickly re-bury my emotions so I could concentrate on giving that support and also not let anyone down; that voice is still in my head: “Get on with it, man up”.

But that Mozart tune stopped me doing this. It made me connect with how I felt. It helped me understand why the adults close to me, when I was that 12-year-old boy, didn’t ask me how I was feeling or give me space and time to talk about my emotions and express my loss; they couldn’t because they hadn’t allowed it for themselves.

Mozart that day gave me the gift of self-care, which has helped me be more effective in caring and supporting loved ones, and functioning at well at work.

It’s never easy to write about a personal vulnerability; there is still that fear of ridicule. I had actually planned to write a historical tale this week, but events, and emotions, took over. There is always next time.

Remembrance Day is this week, a time when we collectively pause to remember people we have lost in wars. Veterans know all about long-lasting trauma and loss, and the importance of acknowledging unseen emotional wounds.

These issues can affect us all in different ways at different times. We rarely know the struggles that others are experiencing. Being kind to others includes being kind to yourself.