“The way we honour the dead is by living well. If we spend our lives never allowing ourselves to be happy, we are wasting what they would have loved to hold onto.”
I haven’t written many personal posts here for a while. It’s mainly because my brain has been pretty fuzzy of late with uni, and holding onto negative personal stuff. I’d say the last couple of years have been pretty up and down. On Tuesday, 31st January, my grandmother and her husband were tragically killed in a house fire.
I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my life, my mother, father, step-father, uncle, two close friends both in their 20’s, grandfather, step-grandfather… and you’d think that when you deal with something a lot in your life, you become hardened to it but with loss, that isn’t true at all. Each time is different and each loss hits you harder than the last. Each one leaves a scar on your soul. It’s only been a few days since the fire and I think, I’m doing ok.
In the past, I would have curled up into a ball and hidden away from the world but I know my grandmother wouldn’t have wanted that. She was special to me. She took me out of foster care when I was six to raise me after my mother died. She was the closest thing to a “mum” I knew. We had our differences but I know she did her best. She was due to turn 90 in a week or so and she still had so much life in her.
Problems with my sisters started in my late teens and I always felt like she sided with them. After things got worse I had to sever ties with them all for my own sanity and for the safety of my daughter. Even though I hadn’t spoken to my grandmother in a few months she would write to me telling me she was doing well. That, to me, was comforting. But now, I’m wracked with guilt that I didn’t just ignore my family’s attempts to push me away and go and see her, even just one last time. I felt like I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye and she probably died thinking that I don’t care.
When you learn about the death of a loved one, that exact second in time stays with you for the rest of your life. Even thirty years after my mother’s death, I still remember vividly, the exact moment I found out that “she’d gone to heaven”. Each death, each message is permanently imprinted in my memory. The days following feel like a huge bomb has gone off, leaving you feeling disorientated and devastated. Time moves slowly. Everything is in slow motion while the rest of the world just whizzes by. You want the world to stop spinning just for a second so you can just have a moment to take stock and reorientate yourself… but it doesn’t. It carries on spinning. Faster and faster.
The last few days, I’ve done very little. The house is a mess, when I’ve felt like eating I’ve ordered take-away and I’ve barely gotten dressed. I think sometimes you have to allow that. There are times when you have to just stop and rest. Embrace those emotions. Cry if you need to and allow yourself to feel. Because then, you allow yourself to heal. By going on as if nothing is wrong and carrying on as normal, how can you fix yourself if you won’t admit that you’re broken?
In the past I’ve gone through life, thinking to myself, why is all this bad stuff happening to me? Was I being punished for something that I did in a past life, perhaps? But, after chatting to a friend who sent me some wonderful videos and poems I feel quite lucky that I’m living life, and grateful that I’ve had the chance to experience all the wonderful emotions and feelings that make you feel truly alive. I’ll miss my grandmother dearly. Right now my heart is well and truly broken, and I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone. But I know that she would call me a “Silly bugger” and tell me to “get off my arse and stop wallowing”
So, to honour her, I’m going to live. I’m going to cry, and scream and embrace the sadness and grief I’m feeling, then I’ll live. I’ll be successful, I’ll work hard and I’ll love those around me with every fibre of my being. I’ll leave this video that my friend sent to me as a reminder for myself when I find myself wallowing.
I hope it helps anyone else who is going through grief too. Thank you so much to Glyn, Rachel, Rosie, Sophie and Charlotte for being there for me this week. I don’t think I could have got through it without you.