Every person faces situations of loss and grief at some time in his or her life. A person passes all stages of grief from denial to acceptance to cope with grief and return to life. I was 36 when I experienced the first serious loss in my life. Certainly, there were other ones before this event, but they did not influence me strongly. Thus, my grandmother died two years ago. She lived in the United States and died in her home. She was diagnosed with lung cancer half a year before her death, and despite the treatment she took and the first successes, she did not manage to fight the disease. We were very emotionally close as a grandmother and a granddaughter. I wish I had the same relationships with my grandchildren if I have any. We could share secrets, ask for advice, and talk about everything in the world.
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I believe I experienced some impacts that should be mentioned about this loss. The first immediate impact was psychological. I was stressed by the event and could not behave as usual. Although I knew that this outcome was inevitable, it was difficult to acknowledge that I would not talk to her over the cup of tea in her kitchen again. Despite my family and friends who were very supportive, I felt lonely and was getting depressed. Another immediate impact was physical. I remember I lost appetite and had some sleep problems during the first days, but later I managed to cope with that condition and returned to normal life. Finally, the impact that came to power overtime was a spiritual one. At first, I was questioning my spiritual beliefs. However, I suppose I came to a conscious need of religion and strengthened my spiritual beliefs after my grandmother passed away. I cannot say I became passionately religious, but a short silent prayer before I went to bed was calming.
Although I was an adult woman and realized the inevitability of a lethal outcome, the death of my grandmother was a great loss for me. I knew I had to do something to deal with it and live my usual life. First of all, I remembered that she would not have been happy if I cried. My grandmother was an optimistic person and could make other people smile. So I spend some evenings with my mother looking at grandmother’s photos and remembering some warm and funny moments of our life together. It was useful for coping with the loss both for me and my mother. Also, I took my grandmother’s dog to live with me. People say that a dog resembles its owner, and this dog became another reminder of grandmother’s happy days and our walks in the park.
I believe people around me were also affected by this event. My grandmother had an active social life and worked in a community center after she retired. Thus, many of her colleagues and friends were also in grief because she was a real thought leader in the center, and her death was a loss for them as well as for the community as a whole. Her colleagues from the community center planted roses to commemorate my grandmother because she planned to create a rose alley but the disease did not let her accomplish the plan. The rest of our family were also in shock and despair. Our grandmother had the talent to unite people and contributed to our being one big family. Certainly, we remained a family after she passed on but our further meetings lacked some particular ingredient, which she used to bring in. Also, I became closer with my mother. This loss helped me to understand that we should spend as much time with our close people as we can because life is unpredictable and nobody knows when it will finish.
Looking back at that time, I am grateful to the people who managed to support me and were helpful. For example, my grandmother’s friends, colleagues, and just acquaintances were supportive both before and after a funeral. They were telling stories about their experiences with my grandmother and made me believe that she would not have wanted me to grieve and to cry. In fact, these people helped me to recover. Two of her best friends still phone me on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I usually send them small presents on holidays. My best friend was very helpful by being near and asking no questions about my feelings until I was ready to discuss them. Still, she was always trying to make me a sandwich or a cup of tea because I had no appetite at that time, and she helped me to live the first days after the loss, which were the most complicated. Certainly, my family was supportive as well. Grandmother’s death was a loss for all of us and the opportunity to share grief was valuable.
Apart from the people who were helpful at that time, there were some who managed to hurt me, although not intentionally. Thus, my grandmother’s neighbor spoke to me and said that the grandmother was already old and that I should not have been in such grief. At that time, I could not percept these words normally and became even more upset. Two years later I came to realize that the woman tried to comfort me and said that my grandmother lived a long and happy life in a big family and achieved everything a woman could desire and that I should accept the situation and not be angry or disappointed.
I developed some rituals, which proved to be helpful at that time. One of them included our meetings with my mother. She was in grief as well, and we had an opportunity to speak about something that was worrying us. We gathered together once in a week or two, stayed home watching grandmother’s photos, or went for a walk to her favorite places. Later we could talk not only about our feelings of loss and grief but just enjoy our time together. I should admit that we became very close during those two years. Another ritual was bringing the flowers. My grandmother loved the flowers, and I went to the cemetery at least once a month to bring fresh flowers. I felt a need to do it, and these visits made me feel better.
My grandmother and I were very close. I even kept her photo in a wallet. After her death, this small picture of her smiling became a link, which helped me feel connected to my grandmother. It provided me with the comfort my grandmother managed to give to all of us when she was alive. Another connection was her dog I took to live in my house. It was a real friend of my grandmother and having him provided me with some comfort.
At present, I have preserved my ritual of visiting a cemetery and bringing flowers. It is the only thing I can do for her now. She always loved the flowers, and it is my pleasure to select them and imagine how happy she could have been to see them. Our meetings with the mother are also a kind of a ritual. Still, they are not always connected with our loss, we just enjoy spending time together.
I believe I experienced normal grief. I did not have a long denial stage, did not avoid my grandmother’s favorite places, my grief did not have a negative impact on my relationships with other people, and the emptiness I felt did not last long. The first days after my grandmother’s death was complicated, but support from my family and friends was helpful. Despite the fact that I knew that her death was just a matter of time, it was difficult to acknowledge that it came so fast. However, as a person involved in healthcare, I knew it was a good outcome for her before the severe pain came.
Remembering these past events, I realize that I could have acted differently at that time. During the first days, I was concentrated on my grief and did not know that my mother also felt bad because her mother died. As far as I can judge, I have skipped some stages of grief, or they were not distinct. Thus, I do not remember any absolute denial. I was shocked by the sad news, but it did not last long. After denial, anger came. I remember this feeling well enough. I was angry because, despite the wide choice of treatments for cancer, it did not help my close person. The stage of bargaining was not very evident in my experience. I returned to work at that time and tried to work as much as I could to avoid the sad thoughts. Still, I was sometimes asking the questions, such as what if the disease could have been diagnosed earlier or the treatment had been more effective?). However, I did not have the answers except that everything could have been different. I have experienced a short stage of depression, but it was quickly followed by acceptance and did not influence me much.
I believe the course was useful for me because I managed to discover some secret sides of my personality. After analyzing the situation of loss and grief, I realize that I am stronger than I expected. I have learned that I am a personality able to solve the complicated problems. Moreover, I realized that, in fact, every problem has a solution until a person passes away. After death, the only problem is to manage one’s grief and the feeling of loss. However, having the knowledge from the course, in case a similar situation happens, I will be able to act thoughtfully. Also, I will be more useful to other people in grief because I will be able to manage my feelings and thus help them overcome complicated situations related to grief and loss of something or somebody significant.