My grandma passed away in July of this year.
When I got the phone call, I just sat and stared. I don’t even know how long I just sat there, still and quiet. I’ve never done well with outwardly displaying my emotions, and this didn’t change when my grandmother passed. I tend to bury those feelings, hide them, and put my efforts into caring for family and ensuring they are being reassured and comforted. I fear this makes me seem uninfluenced, unmoved, or untouched by these types of situations, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s easy to keep your mind busy when you’re surrounded by family members, and arrangements are being made, and others are crying and grieving, taking your mind off of your own pain. It’s when I am alone, when there’s nothing else to occupy my thoughts, that the grief sinks in. Since her passing, I have spent countless nights unable to sleep, crying because I still cannot accept that she’s gone.
I lack in experience when it comes to losing loved ones, luckily. And it has been surprising to me the things that continue to touch my heart and remind me of her. Yes, the days leading up to her passing and the weeks following were difficult, but I do not think that during that time, I had fully wrapped my head around the fact that she was actually gone. For weeks, it seemed unreal, and I felt numb, like I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. I could smell her when I walked into her house, and I kept waiting to turn the corner and see her sitting in her chair drinking tea. I kept waiting to hear the words “Britty Boo!” But, even that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part is afterward, when everything quiets, and you go back home to your family, your job, and normal life. Everything seems to settle back into place, and that is when you suddenly begin recognizing all of the words, the scents, the sounds, the foods, the objects that make you think of your loved one. I never would have fathomed that there would be so many times throughout the day where I would be brought back to times spent with my grandma. Sometimes, the smallest, most insignificant thing can cause me to pause because I want to soak up the memory that just materialized in that moment.
I come across cards and gifts from her and remember how she never once forgot my birthday, and I think of how insignificant those cards seemed at the time because I received them on a consistent basis. But, I am certainly glad I kept every single one because they mean so much to me now. I see her signatures, “Love, Granny,” on each one and remember how the last time I spoke to her, I said, “I love you, Granny.”
I was recently addressing wedding invitations and suddenly saw her name in my address book. I broke down because of the sudden realization that she will not be at my wedding. I continue to forget this fact because I have always pictured my grandma beside me on my wedding day, so each time, it is equally as hard as I try to grasp the fact that she won’t see me walk down the aisle.
I am incredibly thankful that my son had the opportunity to have a relationship with her for 8 wonderful years, but as we talk about growing our family, I am saddened by the fact that she will not get to meet my future children. I am saddened that they will not experience the love, the fun, and the spoiling that I grew up knowing.
My grandma loved creatures of all shapes and sizes: ladybugs, flamingos, pelicans, crabs, cats. Now, I see any painting or photograph depicting animals, and it brings me back inside her home where she always had tons of figurines, statues, and other decor featuring colorful, whimsical creatures. And when I think of her home, I remember how she always had all my favorite foods ready for me when I visited. At grandma’s house, you were well-fed, and her vegetable soup was the best in the world.
My grandma always took my side. She consistently defended me, especially when I got into trouble by my mom. I knew, without a doubt, that I could go to her with anything, and she would back me up. She always accepted me as I was and never showed any judgement toward my decisions or actions. I am not sure if I noticed it before, but it is clear now that these same behaviors are shared between my mom and my son. I see my mom having the same influence and building the same relationship with him as my grandma did with me, and this makes me incredibly happy because I had the best relationship with my grandma. I see her supporting him, encouraging him, and being there for him in all circumstances, and I know this type of grandma-grandson relationship will impact my son in ways he may not even fully understand until he’s 27, like I am now.
Through seeing my family go through the loss of my grandma, I have come to understand that people grieve in very different ways. And just because I do not express my feelings out in the open but instead choose to do so in my own way and on my own time is okay.
I don’t know if it will ever get easier. I don’t know if I will ever stop breaking down into tears when something reminds me of her. But, I am comforted by the memories I have of her, and I plan to keep her spirit alive by sharing my memories of her with my son, so that he will remember her, forever.
The best healer for me has been sharing with my son the same experiences I shared with my grandma as a child. By doing so, we aren’t just talking about her, we are continuing to make memories with her.
So, my son and I will take nets and colanders down to the creek, just like my grandma and I did, to catch crayfish in nets and use colanders to collect rocks that we think may contain gold. My grandma would let me take the rocks back home and smash them with hammers to see what was inside. You may feel a child shouldn’t be smashing rocks with hammers (especially without safety glasses), but that’s what Grandma’s are for – to encourage these types of activities that would not be condoned by parents. My son has already started a collection of rocks and other treasures, just as I did when I was younger. (I also tried to sell my “rocks with gold,” to become rich, but this didn’t work out so well.)
Every time I visited my grandma’s home as a child, she had a Terry’s (the brand is important) Milk Chocolate Orange Ball waiting for me. We’d split it in half and share it because they were our favorite treat. Every time I see one at the store, I will buy it and split it with my son while we snuggle on the couch and share stories about grandma.
I used to spend hours in my grandma’s living rooms stringing all different types of beads onto string, making jewelry. She also kept a whole craft cabinet just for me when I visited, and I would explore it and decide what creations I wanted to make. I now own these beaded necklaces that I made my grandmother, the ones she kept for all those years. She always encouraged my creativity, so I intend to do so with my son. We’ve recently created beaded necklaces and painted canvases. He was so intrigued when I showed him the necklaces I had made as a little girl, and these inspired him to make his own.
Every single year, before school started, my grandma planned a school clothes shopping trip. My mom and grandma would make the day special by taking me to as many stores as my heart desired, and my grandma would also take me to lunch at my favorite place, The Chinese Buffet. Exhausted, with arms full of shopping bags, we would end the day with me trying on every piece of clothing for Pop, my grandpa, and doing a fashion show in the living room. Now, my mother and I do this same thing for my son. My son isn’t as big a supporter of shopping trips as I was as a child, but my mom and I are able to relive the countless shopping trips we had with my grandma through participating in the same tradition with my son.
And, the beach.
The beach was my grandma’s favorite place to be. It was her happy place. We went almost every summer, as a family. As hard as it will be to go to the beach on future vacations, without her, the beach will always remind me of her as my favorite memories are with her on Tybee and Sanibel Island. I cannot wait to take my children to these places that I grew up visiting with my family. The sand and waves hold my most cherished memories of her, and although she will not be with me physically, when I walk along the beach, I’ll feel her presence, always.