At 32, I just lost my 3rd grandparent. I have come to realize that with each, my grief has felt different. Why? I love them all…not one more than the other, so what makes my feelings different as I have lost each of them?
First was Grandma. I was just 17. It was a crushing kind of hurt that I’d never experienced. I felt a physical pain. I couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to eat…my entire system was in chaos. I cried, at random times. There didn’t have to be a trigger, just a sudden & overwhelming need to cry. Grandma died suddenly & unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving. My memories are still quite clear…I can still feel her warmth & will always hold that close.
The next loss was Mamaw. I was 29. I was probably closer to her than any of the others, mostly because she made sure to know everything about everyone. We saw each other often. She was blunt & honest & felt everything deeply. Mamaw was funny even when she didn’t mean to be, and she usually didn’t mean to be. She would laugh with you at herself. We watched her health waiver for years. That last time I saw her in the hospital, I was sure I would see her again. That was it. I was stunned by the call in the middle of the night. I didn’t expect it but I should have. Perhaps that was the denial that comes with grief. I just felt it in the very beginning. I still cry when I look at pictures or think of how she would respond to things. I know how she would worry…about all of us.
Just a week ago, Papaw let go. I have to believe it was his choice, because he never would have gone if he weren’t ready. He’s always been there…the reliable one…dependable to a fault. For a few months, maybe longer, his health has gotten progressively worse. He didn’t let on until he couldn’t hide it any longer. His breathing was labored…he didn’t leave home as much & finally stopped coming to church. The first Sunday, I figured he just didn’t feel well & then he still didn’t come the next week or the next. He never came back. His seat was still there, just in case. I made sure of it. It was there last week & as long as it’s next to me, it will be saved. I know he isn’t coming back, but it’s his seat. He trained Mom to mow the yard & use the mower. This was a big deal. He slowly let go of his usual things. The last few months were the worst…hospital, nursing home, his apartment. He just didn’t seem comfortable. He needed to have someone there more often than not. I knew that the end could come soon. The last visit at the hospital, I told him I’d see him later…he said, “I hope so”…& I didn’t. He was gone before I got to see him again. I know that he knew I loved him. Strange thing is the tears just aren’t coming. I have my moments…like now, while I type this, but I don’t feel an overwhelming grief.
So I sit here wondering…am I doing something wrong? Is there a right way to grieve? What’s different? Maybe it’s me…the person I am is far different from that 17 year old who lost her first grandparent. Even now, just 3 years after losing Mamaw…am I that much different? Maybe I am, or maybe we grieve differently for everyone. So I’ve decided that we all grieve…in our own ways…which can be very different.