Death · Family · Life-Defining Moments

On Grief

When my grandfather died, I felt grief in spades.

Grief means that we cared enough to feel something from loss, and for a very long time, I didn’t feel anything. During my latter years of elementary school, and through most of highschool, my emotional range was pretty messed up. Like I discuss in a prior post, my disconnect from the world was so extreme that for me, I existed on a fairly flat plane of emotion. I was occasionally manic, but usually I was just really good at pretending at happiness or excitement when the only thing I ever truly felt was utter panic and fear. I suffered from a lot of panic attacks during this time.

That all changed when my grandfather died. During the hours preceding his death, I tried to be stoic and supportive for my family. We were in the hospital for hours.

After he died, my dad stayed with my grandmother at the hospital, and my mother and I went home. I spoke very little the entire way home, and when we arrived, I retrieved a stuffed lion my grandfather gave me as a child, and told my mother that no matter what she heard to stay out of my room. I cried myself to sleep. Later, I would enter the following into my diary:

Grandad

In the pages following I wrote him a letter, and then never wrote in that diary again. Usually I try to finish journals to the very last page, but if something really significant happens in my life, I get a new one. This journal was barely a quarter in.

After his death, I didn’t write for a while. I found myself being triggered (there’s that word again, huh) in class and having to excuse myself to cry in the hallway. I also found myself overwhelmed with feeling. Everything I had held back before his death, every wall I had put up, seemed to be cracking and it started to drive me a little nuts. My temper flared, my body issues became worse, and as I spiraled down I also felt guilty for how much I was letting him down. I felt guilty because of my grief, and grief because of my guilt.

When I was accepted into the abroad program I’d told him about in our last real conversation, it was a bittersweet moment. I wanted to call and tell him. I knew he’d have told me how proud he was of me, and would attribute the success to me. But he wasn’t there. The moment was a little empty because he wasn’t there. If he’d only held on a few more months, I thought. Just a few months. Was that too much to ask for?

Time goes on, though, and we learn to deal with grief. I was married in my grandparents’ garden, and my husband wore my grandfather’s tie. The grief is different now, but it is still there. I am loath to say it’s less, because when it shows itself it still hurts, but it is a shadow of what it was, once. I don’t cry when I think of him, but am glad that I knew him. I try to remember our time together before he was put in hospital, and not the hours I spent holding his hand so he wouldn’t pull out his IV. I try to emulate the dignity he held in life with me, and it brings me peace, knowing I have him as a part of me.

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