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Reflections on grief

Grief is weird.

There, I said it. Aside from the odd meme about grief not being a ‘linear journey’, no one ever really talks about grief and how it feels

On the evening of 4th November, my wonderful Grandad died.

Died, another word no one really likes to say. 

Instead, we opt for euphemisms like “passed away” as though that’s going to soften the heart-breaking realisation that someone who has been a constant in your life (for 37 years in this case) is no longer going to be around. It isn’t, so let’s just say it how it is, he died.

My Grandad was 90. He was everything you’d expect in a Grandad; warm, caring, gentle, patient, loving and just wonderful.

He’d spent the last few weeks of his life in hospital but thankfully he’d been able to go home before he died. That thought brings comfort, I’d have hated the thought of him being on sterile ward with strangers when he died.

You see, it was on his terms. I think he’d had enough of being in pain.

We were under no illusions as to how this going to end.

Blackburn Royal hospital unintentionally hammered that message home to me whenever I visited.

You see, even though I’ve been hundreds of times, I always forget the exit is on the first floor and absent mindedly press the button for the ground floor in the lift meaning every time the doors open, I’m greeted by the huge sign announcing the entrance to mortuary. Almost as though the world is giving me a huge reminder of where we’re all going one day.

Despite knowing how this would end, that inevitable phone call still came as a shock.

We condition ourselves to forget what grief is like, it’s a form of self-preservation. 

I’d personally forgotten that the emotions that come with grief can be so extreme, it at times feels as though whiplash is a very distinct possibility.

A couple of hours after my Grandad died, I found myself buying a birthday card for my brother, only to be confronted with lines and lines “Happy Birthday Grandad” cards. I’m not ashamed to say the realisation I’d never buy one again had me sobbing. 

To anyone who saw a slightly mad woman crying in Rawtenstall Tesco at about 7pm on the 4thNovember….I was processing stuff.

Sadness is the obvious emotion.

Of course, I’m sad. I’m sad he’s died, I’m sad he didn’t get to see my grandma. I’m sad he was in pain for the last years of life.

It’s the other emotions I’d blanked out.

Guilt, because yeah, I could have spent more time with him over the past few years. I’m going to put money on this being a regret that everyone has at some point in their lives. We always think we have more time, we always put things off until tomorrow.

Guilt because there’s the feeling of relief. 

It’s a hard thing to admit, relief.

I worry it makes me sound cold. I’m upset and will miss him, but I’m relieved he isn’t in pain anymore, it’s horrible watching someone increasingly struggle, especially when it was someone who was always so active.

Anger. I’m angry that I apparently didn’t save an interview I did with him in 2015 about the 75th anniversary of VE Day. He’d shared his memories of finding out the war was over – him and his mate were put out that they couldn’t go swimming, the pool was closed because obviously everyone was more interested in celebrating. It’s probably the most precious thing I’ve recorded, and I can’t find it anywhere. 

I’m angry at bastard Alzheimer’s for rearing its bastard head, stealing my grandma from him and robbing her of her chance to say goodbye.

I’m angry at the absolute shits who scammed him a few years back. Actually, anger doesn’t cover that, I’m fucking furious. I hadn’t thought about that in years, but at points I’ve been overwhelmed by the feeling of wanting to beat the living shit out of them. I assume they’re still prison and I’m hardly Liam Neeson in Taken.

I’m annoyed.

My mental capacity and patience for other people is at an all-time low, not that it’s ever that great to be honest, but I feel incredibly short tempered. I just can’t really be arsed with people. 

There’s a lot of bizarre thoughts you have whilst grieving….

The song ‘Grandad’ by Clive Dunn (he was in Dad’s Army, google it) keeps popping into my head at random times of the day, it then stays there on a consistent loop for hours – unsurprisingly, it’s in my head now.

Post funeral that’s been replaced by Perry Como magic moments.

One of my first thoughts was “I sold my ‘funeral’ dress on eBay a couple of months ago”, as though funeral attire is high on my priority list, it really isn’t.

I found myself thinking very long and hard about going to confession. 

We’re Catholic, though I haven’t been to mass in a long time I was struck by the thought of “if I want to have Holy Communion at my Grandad’s funeral, then I really should go to confession”

Considering it’s probably 25 years since I last went to confession, I don’t think there’s a priest around who’s got enough time to listen to me unload. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have enough time to say 379 Hail Marys and 1230 Our Fathers. 

If I do have communion without having gone to confession (something I definitely have done before), am I adding to my list of sins? 

Also, I was sat next to the priest while he said Prayers for the sick while he was in hospital, at one point he definitely said, “I absolve you of your sins”, does that include me because of my proximity or is it just for the person who is sick? 

I’m not even religious, I don’t know why I’ve been so fixated on this.

Actually, I do, I don’t need a therapist to tell me it’s because faith was important to my grandparents.

I’ve been surprised by my lack of words.

I don’t really know what to say, so I haven’t said much, it’s an odd feeling for someone with quite a lot to say. 

I’ve not quite known how or when to drop it into conversation with my friends. I mean in this age where messaging is king what do you say “Yeah, I’m good thanks, my Grandad died the other week, need to arrange a catch up soon”? 

It feels quite jarring, so I haven’t really said anything, clearly, that doesn’t extend to vomiting it out on here …go figure.

It took me days to know where to start with writing my speech, something I assumed would come easy. Though I knew what I wanted to say, getting coherent words on to the page wasn’t easy (much like this post). Reading it out was really bloody hard

I’d forgotten how final funerals feel. It’s the end of the initial stages of grief, it’s a very definitive door that closes…. even if you are sent home 37 sausage rolls, a tonne of pasta, half a chicken and a slab of rocky road.

I’ve also been okay too.

I’ve smiled at happy memories, I’ve sang along to the radio, gone out, seen friends, had fun. Life after all does go on, there’s no point denying that there’s no point in doing a Queen Victoria and sitting in black, looking miserable. That isn’t going to do anyone any good.

I haven’t ignored any part of the grief rollercoaster. I’ve accepted it all; I think too often we try to be stoic; we don’t like to say we’re sad or angry, it’s not the ‘done’ thing to admit to what are perceived as negative emotions. The modern world dictates we be happy 24/7 – that’s not normal and it certainly isn’t healthy, so instead I’ve paid attention to how I’m feeling and gone with it.

On top of everything I feel grateful.

I’m grateful for my family and friends.

Grateful that my Grandad had a good life – words he told a priest.

Grateful that I’ve had a grandad for 37 years. I know how lucky I am.

Thanks for reading x

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

16 thoughts on “Reflections on grief Leave a comment

  1. Grief is definitely weird and varies depending on who it is, there are various triggers even 21 years after my sister died from breast cancer a song reduced me to tears as I’d not heard it since I’d sneakily played the record when she was out some 50 odd years ago to the other end of the spectrum total relief when my mum died. She was evil and we’d not spoken for 10 so years, and if you said that people would respond you only have one mum, which was very irritating as they expect everyone to have fabulous relationships, so yes a relief to respond they’re dead when asked about my parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss Sarah. You’ve articulated well my own thoughts about grieving. The one thing I wish people would not say is how old was he? While I know they mean well, losing someone at any age is still a significant loss. Take care and remember him fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sarah, please accept my condolences. I know it sounds so phony but really I get what you are saying. My son died 5 yrs ago. He died for all intents before emergency service took him away. 27-year olds are not supposed to drop dead in front of their parents. Anyway, I recall sitting by his side, waiting for the official “brain dead” confirmation. I wrote a message to email his boss, and one to post on FB. People do weird things when they grieve. Don’t let anyone tell you time heals all things. That is BS. The only thing time does is bring more grief and allows you to learn how to deal with it. Sorry if I sound negative but I am still grieving.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is a very thoughtful view of your exact position in your grief. From my position as husband of Julie…who was designated to pass the inevitable news on about her dad Harry. I became anxious, when she was delayed travelling back from Bridgewater that evening. I met Julie in our lane and even though we all knew things were imminent…she folded up and sobbed uncontrollably in the cool breconshire damp evening. I am not a character to shy away from facing things head-on. Always better to say things…meet people bodily or type adequate messages.A “like” on Facebook is not suffient. Many people prefer to avoid rather than face up….I understand this feeling when you are younger and cannot process the thoughts grief and words together. But it,s the words I have to comfort me, especially with Harry. I sat in his kitchen when we visited frequently over cups of tea and chocolate fingers and listed to his life being unfolded to me. These are special moments for me, they warmed me then and they will warm me forever when I think of him. I am not a religious man at all, but have appreciation for those who do. Some of the sentiments and verses in hymns really grate on me, and the funeral process is, in it,s base form just a removal of clutter that needs to be put somewhere else. I,very often said to just leave my body under a tarpaulin in the garden….but then of course …there would be complaints from the neighbours. But as funerals go..Harry,s funeral was nice,dignified,quiet,gentle,personal….it was a nice funeral. Funerals have always told me to connect with people immediately when their name “comes into shot” because they or I might not be here next time. Loving your moments in life is what matters and I do know that Julie,s parents Sheila and Harry had wonderful times together. They were devoted to each other and shared all those wonderful times. He reiterated those moments to me regularly in their kitchen. I feel privileged to have known him, and even more so…because he shared so much with me personally during our extended conversations in his kitchen. Thank you Harry….thankyou Sarah.

    Liked by 1 person

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