How Losing A Grandparent Changes Your Life
Many of you who read this probably don’t know that my grandmother passed away two weeks ago today. She had dementia for many years and probably hasn’t remembered my name for the last five or six of them. People ask me how I’m doing, and I say I’m fine most of the time, because most of the time I am. My grandma is no longer suffering. Her soul is free, and all of that good stuff. Here’s the thing though, I’m not taking it well.
My grandfather and step-grandmother on my mom’s side passed away about a year ago, a month apart from each other. They were so in love that they basically just went together, and that’s sweet and reassuring to think about. Now, they lived in Florida, and in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen them about a handful of times in my entire life. It still hurt though, but it wasn’t as bad because I still had my dad’s mom. I still had my grandma here, and even though she had no idea who I was or how I was related to her, I still had time to see her and let her know that I was still here and still loved her.
Now, on top of this, I lost my real grandfather on my dad’s side, my step-grandfather on my dad’s side, and my real grandmother on my mom’s side when I was young. These three grandparents that have passed away in the last year were the only grandparents I ever really knew, and I will fully admit that I’m not sure they ever really knew me anyways. They didn’t spend time with me, really, but they were still mine. They were still the only example of grandparents I ever had, and my grandmother who just passed was the one I was closest to out of all of them.
Part of my trouble with losing her is that I never really realized how alike we were until the night before she passed. We’re both head strong, stubborn, and at times can be vain, but we try to do the best we can. I’m the only child/grandchild that picked up singing and dancing in our genes line, as it seems everyone else went a more scientific or logical route. Her and I were really just artists in some way, shape, or form. We model for pictures and strike a pose when necessary just because we want to feel fabulous, and we don’t care who’s watching. We don’t take crap from men, we stand on our own two feet, and we deal with life the only way we know how: being strong or pretending that we’re strong anyways.
Realizing how alike my grandmother and I are basically just shot a stake through my heart, because here I was, trying not to care about the woman I call grandmother who no longer remembered my name, all of a sudden wanting to just know everything about her. And it makes me angry. I wonder why she was sometimes so vain and hard to get close to, and why she couldn’t spend more time with me, and why on earth she had to forget all of us form this horrible disease. Why couldn’t I have had a grandparent who was a role model for me, and actually wanted to spend time with me? Why does that always hurt so much when people don’t want to get close to you?
The horrible thing is that I’m completely the same way. I close people out when I’m hurt, and I push people away when they hurt me more, even if they don’t mean to. It’s such a natural, vulnerable, human thing to do. It’s a protective instinct, and I know that I do it all the time because I’ve been hurt before. We’ve all been hurt before, so we protect ourselves, even from our own family. And my grandmother was hurt worse than I could ever imagine in her life time, and she was so much stronger and so much more vulnerable for it.
The worst part of all of this is that my grandmother was the last one to go. There are no longer any grandparents. I don’t have an entire generation of my family anymore. They’re all just gone, wiped away from the earth. I went on with my normal life, and that’s just the most awful thing because in reality, your life isn’t normal anymore. All of a sudden, you understand that you will never get to be there for them again when they most need you. You will never have another harmony session in the car, even with her clucking (yes, you heard that right, clucking like a chicken) in the back seat of the car. When you meet the one, you know the one, you will not have any grandparents alive to see you get married, or be successful in your career. There will be no flowers for your grandparents to pin to their suits or wear on their wrists at your wedding, and there will be no grandparent generation cheering you on from the sidelines as you get a promotion. Your children will never meet their great grandparents, and your grandparents will never meet your children. They won’t be alive to help you make your first home feel like a real home. They will never be there in physical form from this day forward… and that is so difficult to live with.
In a matter of three days, my grandmother was gone. We got the call on Thursday, and went to see her Saturday. She was completely unconscious, unresponsive, and just laying in bed, breathing. She was no longer the happy, singing, laughing woman I knew, but rather the woman who was waiting to go. How do you say goodbye to their entire generation in one afternoon? How do you cope with losing an entire generation in a matter of three days? In reality, it wasn’t just one afternoon or three days; it was years. Years that I wasn’t there, or years that I wish I could have spent getting to know her. How do you let that go?
The truth of the matter is that you don’t. It doesn’t really let go of you, and it doesn’t ease it’s hold for a while. The woman who I am so alike passed without me even knowing her, and all of a sudden you just become this over emotional mess because you’re thinking and dreaming of all the times you could have had, and all the times you wish you had spent with them. You’re driving yourself insane trying to understand why you couldn’t just go and see her one day, or two days more. And when you add regular life drama to that, and feeling as if you’re alone in some way on this matter, you feel insane. You feel like no one really understands, your emotions are a hot mess, and you have no idea why you even feel the way you do. The only thing you do know is that you just lost one of the most important people in your life, because you just lost an entire generation of people that supposedly loved you.
It changes you for better or for worse, and sometimes it’s really not pretty. I don’t feel pretty at all, and I feel like a mess. I’m not even sure I’ve even really, truly cried about it yet, because I don’t even think I’ve had a chance to. It changes you in ways that you can’t imagine, and in ways that you never even predicted. I honestly thought that I would be fine, and here I am… an emotional hurricane of destruction falling all over itself.
I don’t post this for pity, and I don’t post this for the “I’m sorry for your loss” statements, because in reality, I don’t want any of that. Seriously, if I hear one more person say that they’re sorry for my loss, I might explode. I post this for me, for others who have gone through the same emotions, and to just be able to release it all into the world. Maybe even someday my grandma will see it… maybe she’s even looking over my shoulder right now as I write it. Who really knows? What I do know is that I love you grandma, and I wish I could have had a life time with you. Sweet dreams, and sing me a lullaby tonight, will you?