My grandma passed away recently. Despite not being unexpected as she was ill for quite some time, it represented a loss in the family still. Not only for the person she was, but also for what she stood for within the family circle. More than just a life ending, it portrays the end of an era. The end of a home where the door was always opened to shelter, to share, to cheer. Everyone in the family is dealing with her loss differently. Everyone grieves in their own way. Some wish to honor her by reviving good memories and smiling away, while others hold on to items that once belonged to her. There are also those who avoid the topic completely, afraid of what may come up if they engage in a dialogue.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is a personal and unique experience which takes place not only when we mourn the loss of a loved one, but when we lose something meaningful. It might be a person, but it can also be an object, or an ideal. It also happens in various ages and stages of our lives. No matter if we are a grow-up, an elder or a toddler; it does not make loss easier to process. We may have different resources at our disposal – emotional, social, physical – though the pain is still there as a silent monster moving in the dark (even when we do not know how to name it).
I never knew none of my granddads which always made me curious about this special bond between a grandchild and her grandpa. I have lost my grandma from my dad’s side a long time ago when I was still in college. We lived together for nine years, and we had a close relationship. Close to the end, when I used to visit her at the nursing home, she barely recognized me anymore due to Alzheimer’s. It was the first time I lost a close loved one and it took a piece of me forever (I have enough to talk about her another time!).
Seventeen years later I’m reliving a familiar loss. And I say “familiar” not only because we share the same degree of kinship, but also because dementia struck once more. Her memories were nearly all gone, apart from her children’s names twistedly evoked. It is weird to think that you were once part of someone’s existence and suddenly you have faded away from that person’s memory at the end of their life – especially when some of these memories are still so fresh inside you.
There is plenty I keep with me, from the secrets we shared during my teen years to the uncountable times she tried to teach me her tasty cooking recipes. From her soft voice every time she would call out my or my sister’s name to her kind demeanor when dealing with people around her. From the tales narrated endless times to her childhood memories she openly shared.
My way of grieving shows often through the words I use to express love and awe for the loved ones I have lost. Just as we are emptying a 50+ year-packed of memories-home (and packed of things too!), I got caught up in mixed feelings. Grieving is also moving forward and now that she finally rests in peace, we can also move on with our lives. On the other hand, the home where I lived from more than 15 years, the same one used to shelter a manifold of people and ideals, is closing its doors to become the household of someone else one day.
I do not know about you, but at least from where I see it there is not one way to grieve, rather each one’s way. What matters is how you choose to honor that someone or something special. Remember that the person next to you may grieve in a completely different way, which does not mean they are devoid of pain. You may righteously mourn at your own pace; you may feel what is righteously yours to feel. What you must not do is to tell others how to grieve, rather take their hands in yours and grieve together. You may find solace in the other person's grief who mourns the same someone.