I’m 30 and hadn’t ever lost anyone close to me until recently. I’d say that’s pretty lucky. I know people who’ve lost a parent, or even a child, and I can’t imagine the difficulty that comes with those experiences. I lost my grandmother 26 days ago. My grandparents are everything to me. I lived with them for most of my childhood and think of them as parents. They taught me how to drive, how to save money, how to properly clean a house, how to host company—I could go on and on. More importantly, they taught me about faith, empathy and honesty. I still can’t talk about her in the past tense and I still break down when I’m alone. I feel weaker than I’ve ever felt before. That is the truth. I might not be “better” yet, or ever, but I’d like to share what I’ve learned from this journey so far. I hope this helps you process your grief or help you understand someone else’s.
1. Do bring it up. Ask how someone is doing. Call or go see them. I wish I could go back and be a better support system for those I love who’ve experienced this kind of loss. I now understand the comfort communication brings.
2. It’s okay not to be okay. For a while, I’d apologize to my husband when I’d get upset. He finally asked me to stop apologizing. Bereavement doesn’t last three days. It might subside a bit during the time-consuming activities that come with planning a funeral or hosting family from out of town, but once the dust settles, you are left with your thoughts. Grief is a process.
3. Continue traditions. Celebrate life and celebrate the traditions you established with your loved one. Each event can then be another celebration of that special person’s life. My grandfather now comes over most nights for a sit-down dinner and we started attending church again. As caregivers, we’ve been unable to do these seemingly normal activities. I think my grandmother would be proud of us for getting back into a healthy routine.
4. Dead people aren’t “scary.” I laid in the bed with my grandmother after she passed. I wanted her to hold me one last time. Before this experience, I was one of those people who didn’t even want to attend an open casket funeral. A body is simply a vessel for the soul, but it represents so much more.
5. Trust your gut. Three years ago, when my grandmother got cancer the first time, I decided to move back home. My friends didn’t understand why I’d leave a great job and a city with a bustling economy. I felt in my gut I needed to do it. Looking back, I’m so glad I did. I got to see my grandmother every single day. Writing this has been cathartic for me. I hope it helps you too.