You might want to sit down for a hot chocolate and Gilmore Girls sesh for this article, guys. Just a heads up.
It was bound to happen sometime, you remind yourself. She was old, objectively. Most people would be mighty impressed if they made it to 92 years old. There was no two ways about it, your grandma had a great life. It’s not often that a person can say they’ve lived through a World War and the closest the world has come since to nuclear catastrophe. She has seen the rise and fall, and rise again of the Soviet Union. The most I can say is that I’ve seen the rise, fall and triumphant return of flared jeans and Taylor Swift. One of those is more culturally significant than the other; I’ll let you work out which.
But the unfortunate next port of call I have to acknowledge is the use of past tense in that sentence.
My grandma passed away last year.
It was a time of bewildering emotions and thinking that I was fine. Why is it that we always think we’re the exception to Feeling Things and emotional reactions? We’re not, we’re all human, and we all grieve in different ways.
My father said that he had heard enough when all the official looking people came by to explain what happened to us. I understood what he meant, but I wonder that he didn’t partially say that as a way of avoiding the emotional catharsis that he knew would come at some point. It’s valid to not subject yourself to the immediate life-reckoning recognition of how your mother died.
Maybe it would have been masochistic to seek it out, but that said, I still personally needed a little more information. The only problem here was that I wanted to respect his wishes, but I was also up at university while all my relatives gathered together the weekend it happened. Yes, that was … a weekend.
I sat on the floor in my dressing gown and cried.
I cried directionlessly and without really wrapping my brain around the fact that a death had occurred. It was really that I felt something shift in my gut. Or maybe I thought I should have felt that, but didn’t really know what I was feeling. In the back of my head I recognised that I needed to talk to someone, so I texted my friend from secondary school and sat on bed and cried a little more.
Then I went over to my best friend’s flat in my pjs to hate watch Riverdale. I walked in the door and it was warm and comfortable and there was pity in her eyes but also care. I half smiled and walked in and sat in a pile of blankets and let her talk at me for a few hours. She was reticent to let me go but I needed my own bed and she trusted me. We talked it through when I felt like it, and I let her distract me when I needed it.
That’s the thing about grief.
We expect it to be like in the movies.
There is a concern that we aren’t ‘doing it right’ or dealing with our emotions. Well, you probably aren’t. That’s fine. Emotions are difficult to deal with in the best of times, let alone when you’re feeling alone and confused when one of your favourite people on the earth have died.
At these moments we must look for consolation, allow ourselves to be comforted, and sometimes, just let the emotions wash over us. We don’t need to overcome everything, or overanalyse our trauma. Sometimes life sucks and it’s tragic and there’s no getting away from that.
So don’t put pressure on yourself, there’s no timeline for grief.
Surround yourself with friends and family, but also take time for yourself when you need it. You are still living and can carry on their memory and legacy.
Try not to ignore your grief or the memory of the person that you’ve lost. It’s really painful, and it might feel like an open wound, but you have to acknowledge it. We all heal over time, but you need to look after yourself so that the bone sets straight, and the wound scabs over.