Hello all! I realize I have been absent in the blogging world for the last three weeks! Well, I am back! Today I want to discuss a more serious topic. Mourning the absence of a loved one and the grief that one may feel after this significant loss. My grandmother recently passed away, leaving me to pick up the tiny shards of my heart that have shattered. I returned to our duty station today after being in my home town for three weeks, hence my absence from the blog, and as I sit here and write this post, I feel this emptiness that I can’t seem to shake. Between caring for my grandmother in her final days, making funeral arrangements, and processing that she is gone, I haven’t been alone until now. The hard, cold truth is that I miss her like hell. I regret the times I meant to call but didn’t, or the afternoons I could have visited with her longer but decided I was too busy. I want more time, one more hug, one more heart to heart at her dining room table, one more afternoon drive, one more day wandering the mall as she made friends with random strangers, just because that was the kind of person she was. No joke, I think we talked to someone for 45 minutes once because they both had the same type of dog.
When you are processing a death, you must learn to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for all your regrets. Let yourself mourn the loss without the guilt. Everyone grieves differently, so for you to try and give yourself a time limit may only make it worse. It’s likely that you will never stop missing them. It may get a little easier as time goes on, but they will always hold a special place in your heart.
As I went through the process of letting my grandmother go, I observed family dynamics between the siblings, and between a mother and her, now, adult children. I began to understand why my family behaved with one another as they did. We could choose to let this loss bring us together or divide us once and for all. I hoped we all could see that we needed each other now more than ever. I am not trying to get too personal here, but for several years before this loss, my mother and I had been at odds due to various issues. When I had gotten into town, I was still very angry for specific reasons.
As the days went on and my grandmother’s condition grew worse, I watched as my mother would tenderly rub her feet, play the song her late husband had sung to her, kiss her forehead, and barely sleep for fear my grandmother would worsen in the night. I no longer saw the mother I had held grudges with. I saw my mother as a daughter who was scared to lose her own mother. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I swear I could feel her pain in my own heart. Their relationship hadn’t always been rainbows and sunshine, but at the end of the day, they were still mother and daughter, a bond that is both unique and special. It dawned on me that my grandmother had done the best she could as a mother to my mom, and my mother had done the best she could with me. There is no manual or rule book when it comes to being a mother, so maybe it was time I let go of my anger. Through this loss, my mother and I have gained a newfound respect for one another just as my grandmother had always wished.
In the days after my grandmother’s passing, I thought back on memories of her from my childhood. When I was about four, I had this play makeup kit. My grandmother had come to visit, and I insisted that I do her makeup. With no sign of reluctance, she let me take to her face as if I were taking to an easel. She came out of the whole mess with hot pink lipstick smeared from her lips to her cheeks, black and purple eyeshadow that made her look like a raccoon and cherry red cheeks. The most vivid part of this memory for me was her ear to ear grin afterward. She didn’t care that I had just made her look like a clown. What mattered to her at that moment was the quality time we were spending.
As we grow into our adult years, we often become busy with our own lives. Maybe it’s a career, schooling or possibly we are beginning to start our own little family, whatever it is we have going on, more than likely our grandparents still want to hear all about it. My grandmother was like a cheerleader for me. I caught her telling another family member about my blog one day. She was probably 100% more proud of me than I am. She used to inform my husband and me of how proud she was that he was serving our country. To him, it’s just his day to day job, but to her, it was a fact she shared proudly to all her friends. Sometimes you need that extra boost when you begin to get bogged down by the monotony of day to day life. She had a way of always making us feel special.
Growing up, my grandmother would always tell me I was the apple of her eye. My five-year-old self thought, “I’m not an apple,” as I tried to wrap my head around the phrase that expressed her endearment towards me, I came up with a phrase of my own. With all seriousness in my little face, I looked up at her and said, “Grandma, you’re the orange of my eye.” For almost twenty years we would express our love for each other through those two phrases.
Grandparents and grandchildren have a special bond that isn’t like anything else. They are the ones who spoil you in ways your parents don’t. We learn from our grandparents as we grow. If I remember correctly she was the one who taught me my first swear word at the lovely age of two. My parents were moving me from a large city to a small rural town, and neither my grandmother or I were super thrilled. I stood in my crib, the only item left in my nursery, and looked at my grandma, mom, and dad and exclaimed my distaste by saying “Damnit.” They all glanced at me in shock of what just came out of their sweet two-year old’s mouth. My grandmother later admitted she might have accidentally let the word slip in front of me. Don’t worry she taught me more good things than bad throughout the years.
To all of you out there missing a loved one, it’s ok to feel that pain. It will get better; you will find your solace as time passes. There is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, a writer who I have loved for years now; it reads, “We are ever dying to one world and being born into another.” I am not a religious person, but I have found solace in the idea that my grandmother has found happiness in the afterlife with the loved ones who have gone before her. I imagine her dancing to an Elvis song with her late husband. She’s running, jumping, and playing like she had wished her mortal body would have been able to do. In honor of Clea Jean Terry, my grandmother, gram cracker, and orange of my eye, you are so very loved and will be missed greatly.