How to deal with the death of a loved one?…

…that’s the question I typed into Google about a month after my grandmother passed away. I think it was a month…I’m not quite sure I remember now just how long it took for me to turn to Google for answers.

It’s been just over 6 months since my grandmother died. I’ve experienced 5 of the 7 stages of the grieving process. I was in denial for the longest time. When  my gran told me with sadness in her voice that the breast cancer had come back, I frantically tried to find as much information as possible to reassure her and mostly myself that she had lots of time left. I continued to stay in denial even when my Aunty broke it to me gently that my gran only had 7 months to live…

Right up to my gran’s last week when she could no longer walk and was barely conscious, I was still in denial. I knew she was supposed to die, but I didn’t she believe she would. Her doctor tried to be very frank with us. She told us as a family that within a couple of days my grandmother would stop consuming food and fluids. But still I opted to stay in denial.

A couple of days later she couldn’t eat or drink a thing. Google informed me that a person can live for a max of 3 days with no fluids in their system. I then knew her time was up and my denial turned into pain and when she died it became guilt.

It was her rapid deterioration that affected me the most. I felt guilt that I couldn’t do more for her. I imagined what she must have been going through all those months, knowing that death was on her doorstep. Did she constantly relive her memories? Did she reminisce and smile to herself when she remembered the good times or cry and feel regret when thinking about the bad? I wondered what she must have been thinking when she lay there, unable to speak….just waiting to die. Witnessing her deteriorate truly haunted me.

The anger and bargaining never came. Once the pain and guilt subsided I was left with a depression that I was determined to not let overcome me. And that’s when I googled “how to deal with the death of a loved one?” Most of the articles I stumbled upon echoed the same sentiment, that there’s no one size fits all.

Friends who’d lost family members, offered words of comfort and said “you’ll never be the same”.  And then I was back in denial again….”I will go back to normal. I will not let the depression take a hold of me”, I told myself.

I’d been through a long bout of depression in the past and I was determined not to go back. So I sought counselling….

I spent an hour finding different ways of literally begging the counsellor to tell me what I needed to do to make the grief go away, only to be met with either a blank stare or questions about my relationship with my grandmother.

I’ve felt lonely at various times, not wanting to share my feelings with loved ones for fear of depressing them. And so I kept going to the counselling sessions. Talking helped. It allowed me to come to terms with the fact that the counsellor couldn’t give me an answer or take away my grief. No one could.

Moreover, I realised it was time to let go of my denial, no matter how safe it made me feel, because the worst thing I could do was not let myself experience the pain.

And what did I learn? Well, you’ve got to allow yourself the freedom of going back and forth through the various stages of grief until you’re able to process the whole experience and arrive at a place of acceptance. In time, this is what I came to understand.

I’m not quite at acceptance just yet. Some days I still feel extremely confused and scared at the thought that someone you love dearly can be here one day and gone the next.

When I have exciting news, I feel gut-wrenching emptiness at the fact that I can’t call my grandmother. She’s no longer here and I’m no longer the same.

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