Tears are the silent language of grief.
When dealing with loss of any sort, most, if not all of us, experience grief. It’s a terrible feeling and, for some people, coming to terms with grief is a long and arduous process. I’m not going to sit here today and try to tell you how to deal with grief because we all experience grief differently. I just wanted to write about grief and hope that maybe my experiences and my continuing to experience grief will help you recognize those who are grieving.
In the past, I’ve written about how, over the last 3 years, I have experienced deaths in my family. My great grandfather in 2012, my great grandmother in 2013, and my grandfather last year, in 2014. With the deaths of my great grandparents, I don’t think they ever truly sunk in with me. Part of that, I feel, has to deal with the fact that they lived so far away from me, I never had to actually confront the fact that they were gone. However, when my family and I would go south to see my great aunt at the house where she had lived with my great grandparents, it was only when I was there that their absence was truly felt. When I didn’t see my great grandmother’s face and didn’t hear her trying, ever so calmly, to break up my family’s arguments. When my great grandfather didn’t have Fox News on to try and convince my mom and I of the “error” of our ways. It was only then that grief snuck in and started to worm its way into my heart, but we never stayed there for long, so I was able to escape grief’s outstretched clutches, granting me a bit more time before I fell headfirst into its cold miserable embrace.
During the start of 2014, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I was in the middle of the second semester of my first year of college, and while I knew that the diagnosis wasn’t good, the idea of my grandfather dying, of losing his fight with cancer, never really entered my mind. So I finished my first year at college with my mom feeding me updates on my grandfather, and while I read and acknowledged all she told me, I think I prevented myself from truly understanding it. I watched my grandfather start chemo that summer and rapidly lose weight. The atmosphere in my house was volatile and I did absolutely nothing to make it any better, I will always regret that. I will regret the fact that I didn’t make more of an effort to try and help my grandfather (not that he would have wanted it, nor would he have accepted it, but that’s not the point). I regret that I wasn’t more understanding of what my mom was going through, but rather just continued to not understand and accept the situation. And so with the advancing months of summer, as my grandfather’s health continued to deteriorate and the pounds continued to fall off of him, I still denied reality. Until one day, after my mom took my grandfather to an appointment at the hospital where all of his treatments were being done, she came home, came into my room, and immediately started crying… it was at that moment that reality set in. My grandfather had 6 months to live, there was nothing left to do as the cancer had spread too far. That was August 15th, a Friday. The next day, a hospice worker came to my house to begin working with him, to make him comfortable as his time rounded down, but what happened was his condition was worse than we thought and he needed to be taken to the hospice facility immediately. There, we were told that he had maybe 2-3 days to live. In a period of less than 24 hours, my grandfather went from having 6 months of life left to no more than 3 days. I don’t have the words to describe what that feels like.
My grandfather would pass away the next day, Sunday, August 17th, early in the morning. I have never been a person to cry much, which is strange, considering I am a very emotional person, but watching my grandfather die, hearing the death rattle that signals the immanency of death, it was more than I could simply tough out. In that moment, my heart was grasped by the blackness of despair that we all experience at some point or another, grief. My grandfather was dead and he was never coming back home again.
That last sentence brought me to tears again, I have no shame in admitting that. When my grandfather died, I saw my mom in a way that I have never seen her before. My entire life, she has been a rock, always holding her composure no matter what the circumstances were. But with his death, that composure was broken and my mom grieved and I didn’t know how to handle that, let alone my own grief. I wanted my mom to feel better, but nothing I did could make her feel better. Accepting that was a hard thing to stomach. It did, however, enable me to deal with my own grief. To be honest, I haven’t really dealt with it though, because every time I’m home and I leave my room, I have to look into his room and know that I am never going to hear him stomp out of there with the spoon of his ice cream bowl clinking as he barreled down the hallway to the kitchen. I don’t know if his loss will ever truly heal – if I will ever be able to say that I completely and 100% have come to terms with his death. There is nothing that anyone can say to me that will make it any easier, that will make the pain of his absence any easier to bear. And that’s okay – honestly, it really is – even though I cried as I wrote this and made myself sad all over again. Because no matter who you’ve lost, whether it be a brother, father, mother, sister, dog, cat, or anything else that meant something to you, just keep in mind, as Queen Elizabeth II said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.“