Grandparents. They are so much more than just grandparents; they’re the people you go when you’re mad at your parents. They are the people you go to when your parents are mad at you; cuddle up with them as they tell their children not to yell at you. They’re that piece of money shoved in your hand when you’re saying goodbye and no one else is looking. The extra Christmas present under the tree. That last scoop of ice cream that your mam said you couldn’t have. As people say “You’re in your granny’s”.
So saying goodbye is hard and unfair. Often losing a grandparent is the first time we’re confronted with grief and loss. And it can be a difficult time to navigate.
I won’t give you the five stages of grief here, just ways to make a grandparent passing away a tiny little bit easier to process.
Stage one; The passing.
It has to be done. Whether you cry watching the soaps, or haven’t shed a tear since the time your last baby tooth fell out, you have to cry. It’s imperative in helping you come to terms with their death and this means it can be hard. When you cry, you make it real. You make their death real. So, people are reluctant, naturally. But not crying only bottles it up, until you later explode. Better to cry comfortably, than head-bomb later on.
2. You are allowed to be sad.
This one is majorly important. Just because they weren’t your parent or your sibling, this does not mean you have to put on a brave face for those around you. You were close to them in a way no one else was. You don’t need to be the shoulder to cry on all the time and you have every right to be just as upset. Some people might not be particularly close to their own grandparents and might not understand the sheer level of your grief. That’s on them, not you.
Stage two; The funeral.
1. You don’t have to serve sandwiches and smile.
Irish funeral are known to be good fun – which kinda sounds like a weird thing to say, but IYKYK. Laughing and reminiscing about past time, and sometimes getting a small bit tipsy. But it’s always easier said than done. As a grandchild, you will be comforted and told by many people that you look so grown up. You can ditch this by stepping outside or leaving for a while. Get some air if you need it. Don’t pretend to be okay. People will understand.
2. Talking to others will make you feel better.
Surprisingly hearing stories about your grandparent from others perspective is one of the nicest things you can hear. How they lived in the eyes of others. Even stories about other people, maybe family members who you haven’t seen in a while can be good. Whether you use it as a distraction or as coping mechanism, talking to family members and friends is a good idea.
Stage three; The rest
This stage can be the hardest because after the craziness of the funeral, things finally start to quiet down. Which is when you have a load of time on your hands. A lot of time to think. This is where random memories flood in and can make you very upset. This can be anywhere from the week after the funeral, to a year later. No matter how long afterwards, your sadness is still relevant. So, talk. Talk about your grandparent, talk about those memories. To anyone. Don’t think anyone will understand? Write it down. Journal it. Get the feelings all out. Don’t allow yourself to suppress them.
2. Find your own quirks to cope.
You’re never too busy for a cry. Make the time to recover. Listen to their songs, go over their stories. Sorting through their things can be a real recovery tool. Find your own way to cope with them being gone. Keeping one small thing of theirs, like a necklace, a ring. Or in my experience, trying on a heinous 80s dress that belonged to my grandmother and putting on a fashion show for my family.
3. Moving on.
I’m not saying you throw away the memories and never think of them again. But moving on is important. People move on in many ways and you will have to find your own way to do so, but you can move on while remembering them. Just remember that pain is temporary, you will not be sad forever.
Have you any guidance to give those dealing with a grandparent passing away?