When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.
Today, the 4th July marks one year since the end of what was the most difficult five days of my life when I was forced to say goodbye to my amazing Grandma. After 365 days it is only now that I am starting to emerge from a place of intense sadness and feel ready to talk about my experience dealing with real grief for the first time.
I guess I’ll start by saying how much of an incredible person my Grandma was. The most warm-hearted and kind person I’ve ever met. She always had family at the forefront of everything she did and she was the backbone that held our small family unit together. She was the type of Grandparent you loved going to see, her house oozed warmth and was packed to the brim of photographs of us grandchildren. Despite this she was still no push over! She could be firm when she wanted to be (mainly when it came to finishing your dinner) but that just helped to shape us grandchildren into the (hopefully respectable) individuals we are today.
My Grandma and Granddad weren’t just grandparents to me. They were my second parents, they lived in the next street all of my life and we shared an exceptionally close relationship. Coming from a single parent household meant that they played a huge part in both mine and my brothers upbringing. I would go to their house every single day both before and after school when my Mum would have to leave to go to work. They would look after us throughout the school holidays, on sick days and were always at the top of the list for baby-sitting duties on an evening. They’d take us out on day trips and keep us well entertained on days at home either playing in their lovely garden or listening to their favourite country and western duo, Foster & Allen who both me and my brother took a real shine to. We’d all go away on family holidays together to Scarborough where we would stay in caravans and take day trips to nearby seaside towns like Filey and Bridlington. Those are the memories I cherish the most.
Despite my Grandma only passing away last year I feel like I was in some state of mourning for the three years prior due to a series of strokes taking away precious parts of her each time. Her communication and thought process was affected so she couldn’t hold the same level of conversation, had trouble with her memory and struggled in certain social situations. This meant that she missed out on some really important life moments like my 21st birthday and graduation day which was tough. It was a really difficult time seeing parts of someone you love start to disappear and it’s an odd feeling to miss someone when they’re right in-front of you but I tried my best to still savour any time that we got to spend together.
On the 29th June 2017 I received a phone call from my Mum telling me that my Grandma had suffered another stroke and it was one that she wasn’t going to recover from. I’ll never forget that horrendous two hour journey from Nottingham to Manchester racing to make sure I got to say goodbye. What actually followed was five days in hospital with myself and my family never leaving her side. We played her favourite music, shared stories, held her hand and slept on chairs surrounding her bed every night. It was a ridiculously difficult time, filled with intense emotion and sadness as we prepared for the inevitable.
As I’d never really dealt with loosing such a close member of family before, the days and weeks that followed my Grandma’s death were a huge struggle for me. I tried to throw myself into activities to keep me busy such as sorting out old photograph collections, watching old home videos and signing up to run a half marathon to raise money for The Stroke Association but really they were all just distraction methods.
Leaving my family to go back to Nottingham and return to work was without a doubt one of the hardest parts of all. We’d all spent such an intense amount of time together over the past couple of weeks that it seemed impossible that I could just go back to my normal day-to-day life. Although loosing a Grandparent is unfortunately something that most people will have to go through at some point, due to the circumstances surrounding her passing I felt like those around me couldn’t possibly understand what I’d been through and I felt extremely isolated. Looking back now I know that I was difficult to be around, I distanced myself from friends and I certainly wasn’t myself. I was constantly teary and struggled to hold it together on a daily basis, I would replay the events of the previous weeks in my mind on a loop and found it difficult to see past them.
In the months afterwards I tried seeing a therapist in the hopes that it could help bring some clarity to the feelings I was experiencing but unfortunately I didn’t find the sessions particularly useful. No one can tell you how to grieve and provide the answers which is exactly what I craved at this point in time. I wanted someone to tell me that the feelings I was experiencing were all normal but ultimately I had to find a way to realise that for myself.
I don’t have the answers on how to deal with grief as I think everyone has to figure it out for themselves and develop their own ways of coping. It’s been an extremely slow process but what I did find comforting was reading other people’s stories on loss and grief. Sophie and Hannah’s posts in particular provided me with some reassurance that I wasn’t alone in my feelings which was extremely comforting.
So much has happened in my life in the past twelve months it’s hard to believe that I’ve actually been capable of achieving so much whilst struggling to deal with the grief which has hung over me like a dark cloud but at the back of my mind I know that my Grandma has been with me every step of the way and she will continue to be from this day forward. I really want to take this anniversary and use it as an opportunity to move forward, free myself from some of the sadness and start to remember my Grandma for the amazing person that she was by cherishing the memories we have together. I’m hoping that getting some of my feelings down in writing can act almost like my own version of therapy and mean I can let go of some of the painful memories and focus on all of the good instead.
I love you and miss you everyday Grandma x