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How do you begin to navigate through grief, especially in the early stages and when experiencing it for the first time?
As you all will know I’ve been dealing with a significant amount of grief lately. I began writing this after my grandfather passed, and only decided to finish it off after granny was buried. It’s been difficult to come to terms with and there were points during the writing of this that I had to stop, save it and leave. Although talking about it helps, often it leaves us exhausted and reliving the emotions and memories of their deaths and subsequent burials.
I want to apologize in advance and warn you that this is a tear-jerker. It’s not so much informative as it is reflective on the current situation. Never the less I hope you find it useful at the very least.
The first thing I want to say is: grief is a funny thing.
It comes in a sequence of unpredictable waves. Somedays I openly talk to my grandmother while working around the house. I’m energized and feel fine. Other days I wake up exhausted, going through life in a daze. I lift the phone to ring her before realizing that no one is going to answer. It’s brutal but a necessary part of grieving.
No matter how you’re grieving, someone else will always be doing it differently.
Everyone experiences grief at both a different level and in a different way, and I want to take this opportunity to remind you that your feelings are valid no matter how you choose to express them.
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This year has been a roller coaster. In the space of six months, I lost not only my grandfather but also my grandmother, both of whom played a big roll in my life growing up. I went from having four grandparents to having just two in the first half of the year alone. Before then I had only experienced intense grief a few times in my life, one of which was the loss of our family pet.
There comes a point where you begin to take those around you for granted.
They’ve always been there, so surely they’ll always be there, right? Although I knew death was a reality that we all had to face one day, I hadn’t expected it so soon. Especially not for my grandfather.
Their illnesses were simultaneously long and brief if that’s at all possible. Watching them die was agonizing.
Every fibre in your body screams at you that this isn’t human. It’s not fair! Yet there’s nothing we can do to help them.
Towards the end, not even the strongest syringe driver (my grandfather ended up with two) was able to relieve their pain. Then the rattle starts and just when you think that’s it, their heart marches on. Until it doesn’t anymore. Their breathing slows, then stops and you hold your own breath waiting for their next. When it doesn’t come, your heart plummets into your gut and you begin to wonder how you’ll ever get over this.
One thing I don’t see a lot of people talk about is the feeling of relief coupled with intense guilt.
Anyone who has ever watched a loved one die will understand exactly what I mean when I talk about relief and the guilt that seems to follow. You’re relieved that they’re no longer suffering, not that they’re dead, but your mind can’t quite focus to separate the two. This has personally driven me into a negative thought pattern that goes something like this;
“Why don’t I feel more upset about this? Did I not care enough? Why was I relieved when they died? Did I not want them here? Was their dying an inconvenience to me and my recovery?”
Of course, these thoughts are purely my brain struggling to understand my own grief, and entirely false. Of course, I cared! I grieved from the moment I found out about their illnesses and I’m still grieving. My grief has just been manifested in a different way and spread out over a longer period of time.
Everyone handles grief differently; there is no linear path to take when grieving and that’s entirely normal.
Nothing ever prepares you for losing a loved one, and I imagine that nothing ever will. Even though you may have lost others before, each loss is experienced differently. You go through different stages in your mind, body, and soul, and the night my grandfather died I felt a pain like I had never felt before.
As we stood around his bed my eldest cousin whispered: “When he died, he took a part of my heart with him.“
This statement holds so much truth, and it’s only after you lose someone that you realize just how true it is. The day my grandfather died I felt a part of me change, but my heart remained fairly intact. However, the same can’t be said for my grandmother’s passing. That day I felt a part of my heart shatter into a million little pieces, and I have no doubt that she collected those little pieces as a memento. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. She took a part of me with her, and I am eternally grateful for that.
Author’s note: As previously mentioned, I realise this post is largely discussing how I’m coping and my personal experience with grief. There’s very little advice here, only a raw expression of feelings, and this is because I felt it was time for me to address this both publically and completely. Thank you for taking the time to read. Apologies for any tears you may have shed.
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