2017 has, so far, been probably the worst of my life.
I started the year with all four grandparents. By the time the New Year fireworks had ended, I’d lost my beloved maternal Granddad. It wasn’t unexpected, in some ways it was a blessing, and I’d managed to say goodbye a few days earlier. On what would have been his 76th Birthday, my other granddad was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. He passed away at the beginning of May.
Loosing both my Gands and my Granddad in such a short space of time, having not really experience grief before, has completely and utterly shocked me to the core. Both were well-admired in their respective communities, both popular men. They’d been the limelight of family gatherings.
My Gands had had Alzheimer’s for many years, and unfortunately he’d had no recognition of anyone for over four years. The disease had altered him completely, his kind personality often destroyed. It was because of this that his death was, to me, almost a blessing. I’d give anything for a few more minutes with him, before his mind was taken, but I know he’s now sat in his scruffy clothes we all moaned about enjoying a pint.
My Granddad’s death was more sudden, his decline a lot quicker and that was something I struggled with. Throughout the other’s illness he’d always been a constant figure and I hadn’t quite caught on to the fact that he wouldn’t be around forever. Again, the whole family got together and managed to have one last celebratory meal but it was tough. What do you say to a man you know you might not see again, but who is full-on refusing to accept that?
In the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of conflicting feelings. I’ve felt guilty. I know I avoided my paternal grandparents over Christmas as knowing my Gands was in the latter stages of life was too raw. I felt guilty that I cried more for one than the other. I’ve felt guilty at not travelling up to be with my parents, at carrying on with work and life. I’ve obviously felt sad, but I’ve also managed to laugh about them. I’ve felt happy that I had so many years with all of my grandparents. I’ve felt resentful that some of my cousins had better relationships. I’ve felt guilty that I had a better relationship with my Gands than my cousins. But it’s taught me a lot about grief.
Grief is a form of love, and it shows itself in many different ways. Silence, tears, laughter. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Letting myself cry and going easy on myself helped – I got to work one morning and before I’d even logged on I was in the toilets in tears. I picked apart my to-do list down to the bare minimum and took the pressure off. I’ve hidden away from the world, and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily call that a totally good thing, it’s helped me. I’m a very private person, so cards and messages are not something I can deal with, so they go unopened, ignored, until I’m ready to share my feelings.
I’ve learnt it’s okay for grief to disrupt my life. It’s okay to feel sad. But it’s also okay to feel happy. I know that both of them would want me to keep them in their hearts and make them proud – and that’s what I’ll do.