On the loss of a grandparent, the long-term process of grief and the hardest thing I’ve had to get over.

When my grandmother died two years ago, I was distraught. It happened quite suddenly, which was good for her because she didn’t have to suffer for a long time and she was comepletely at peace; she was ready. I was not. I spent days and nights sobbing just before and after the event, and eventually I was just exhausted. I was tired of feeling – this way, or anything for that matter.

And all that time, I had a little voice in my head that told me “Why are you being such a baby? You’re overreacting. She was your grandmother – everyone’s grandmother dies, and everyone has to deal with it; it’s not tragic, it’s normal. So pull yourself together.” Eventually, I did what nowadays everyone ends up doing when they’re stuck with a problem – I googled it.

I don’t remember the exact searches, but I figure it was something along the lines of “how to get over grief” and “how to deal with grandparent’s death.” I realized I was not alone – in particular, one sentence stuck with me until now: “The loss of a grandparent was the hardest thing I’d ever had to deal with up until then.” It was an incredible relief to find that others struggled with this, too, and I wasn’t just being a baby about it.

I wasn’t raised by my grandma or anything – she lived on a farm and we lived in the suburbs, so we went to visit her every few weeks and I spent my childhood summers there. We’re a really big family as well, so everyone’s not as close as very small families tend to be. But still, I looked up to her and she was important to me – grandmothers are like that fixed star of unconditional love that’s always there, even if you can’t always see it, and you can rely on it when everything else is foggy and confusing. Since she’s been gone, I’ve been pondering the character traits I might have gotten from her a lot more than I used to. She was a caring and kind woman, resolute and determined, practical and brave; she was always very active, and when she noticed an injustice she tried to make it right. There’s a lot I hope to have gotten from her.

Her death struck me all the harder because I didn’t get to say goodbye, and it was my own fault. I was halfway through exam season when the news came that she was not doing well. I planned to go home immediately after the last exam and help take care of her. Then one day I came home from an exam and saw an email from my aunt, stating that she’d gotten worse and it was probably time to say our goodbyes. This was a Monday, and the last exam of my bachelor’s was on Tuesday the next week. 8 days. I wanted to leave immediately and figure out the exam thing somehow on the way. My parents advised me against it – my mum thought surely this would drag on for a while, as it had with so many of her relatives. Surely, she’d be fine for another week, and she’d want me to finish this before I came home. I decided she was right – just 8 days. I would stay, I would finish it and then go home immediately after. 8 days.

She lasted 3.

She died on Thursday that week, and I couldn’t believe I had prioritized an exam over this. I hated myself.

 

Back then, when I was googling grief and getting over death because I couldn’t help myself and couldn’t bear it anymore, I kept wondering: when does it stop? How much longer do I have to sit through this? It doesn’t stop; it changes. Some days I don’t think of her; some days I do, because I’m remembering a sweet childhood moment, or a funny story, or something she told me, and I smile. Sometimes I’m acting a certain way, and I think “I got that from her, and I’m proud of that; she would have liked that.” And then some days are like today: I’m thinking about her because it’s her death’s anniversary next Sunday, and as I’m standing in the kitchen, peeling potatos, the memory suddenly hits me of how many times I used to watch her do that. So banal, such a simple memory, and yet the feeling of missing her punches me in the stomach and I’m surprised to find myself bursting into tears.

The difference is, now I don’t think I’m being a baby; it’s fine. Sometimes she makes me cry, sometimes she makes me smile and laugh, and sometimes she still points me in the right direction when I’m at a loss as to what to do. That’s life, and as long as it’s this way, she’ll never be completely gone.

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