Originally posted on Sep 7, 2016

You could say that my grandfather was the love of my life. Though not biologically related at all, he took on the task of being both a grandfather and father to me in every sense of the word. Having parents who moved to the United States when I was still quite young, meant that my other family members played a major part in my upbringing. My grandmother, sister, and aunt took over the responsibility of mothering me, while my grandpa played his part as the central male authority figure. We were extremely close.

Due to diabetes, he experienced permanent vision loss, as well as underwent the amputation of one leg. While I was still very young, I reveled in my role as his eyes and guide while he navigated the world on his prosthetic leg. I assisted him on his walks to church on Saturday mornings, throughout the house during the week and to his chill spot next to the soup lady every Friday evening. His loud, distinctive and highly opinionated voice could be heard clear as day on any subject being discussed by the neighbors who would gather for their boiled corn, fried festival, soup, and other delicious Friday favorites, right outside the corner of our house. In my eyes, as a young girl, my Papa knew everything about everything and was always quick with a rebuttal during any heated debate that was certain to occur on that corner.

My grandpa and I on my 8th birthday

All who knew him, found him to be the most hilariously cranky old man and for that, none could ever forget him. I am still amazed at his large personality but am even more amazed at his always nurturing nature with me. Sitting in his lap, we would talk about everything that a young girl at 4, 5, 6,7, 8- years old could talk about. Not only would he answer all of my frivolous, childish questions with serious interest, but he would throw some questions right back at me.  I would be left to ponder for days, working my young brain to come up with answers I deemed worthy-enough to respond to this larger-than-life genius. I loved my grandfather and he loved me, but as it goes with children, I never fully appreciated all the things he meant to me until I lost him.

My grandpa died in 1999. I was 15 years old and it broke my heart. Having never experienced loss of this magnitude, I was devastated.  I am unable to fully articulate what I experienced but imagine a loss so profound that you felt as if a part your soul was missing. Crying could not sufficiently rid me of the deep depression that resulted from trying to process his death while also dealing with another traumatic incident which occurred shortly before.

For the next 2 years, I went through a very unconventional and unhealthy grieving process. I partied and partied and partied; far too often ending the night having drunk way more than my limit.  This did not actually help, of course. It only left me with the need to find another party to dance the night away, in my futile attempts to forget about my feelings. Upon reflection, I was doing the best I could as I knew no other way at the time. What I was left with after his death, was an immense sense of guilt for all of the things left unsaid, and all of the things I did not get an opportunity to give back to him while he was alive.

How does one move on from the loss of someone so essential to their being? Quite frankly, you don’t. If only I could tell him even once more just how much he meant to me. How much I loved and appreciated him. How he still helps to shape and develop me as a person to this day.  I still have those days even now, 17 years later, when it’s hard to talk about him without bursting into tears. Days in which I would trade the world to have just a moment with him. Days I wish that my son had the chance to know & love him as much as I do.

Now in my 30’s, I see that I must truly appreciate those that I love NOW, without any delay. Though still a work in progress I now have a better arsenal at my disposal to deal with my grief: my son, good friends, and a loving family.

Below, I listed a few of the things that have helped me to process my loss over the years. Please feel free to share your own stories of loss or anything that has helped you in your recovery in the comment section below.

  • Forgive Yourself – When looking back, I always saw things I could have done/said/thought better. Don’t beat yourself up. Take it as a way to grow and appreciate those you have left every day.
  • Have a Good Cry – I have always held tears in high regard. In my opinion, they are an elixir for the soul. Crying can cleanse your heart and help you to move forward.  When things get rough, when you miss your loved one the most, go ahead and have a good cry. That is nature’s way of helping you to deal with overwhelming emotion.
  • Remember The Good Times – After losing a loved one, many of us focus on the things we did wrong when they were still here and wish we could change. Try to keep your focus on the good memories; memories that bring happiness and appreciation for having experienced them. Moments you wish you could relive at the drop of a hat.
  • Talk It Out – One of the biggest mistakes I made while mourning was trying to mask my hurt instead of communicating it. Find someone you trust and discuss your feelings openly. Failing to release built up emotions only leads to more hurt in the long run.
  • Journal – If you find it difficult to express yourself verbally, start writing about your feelings. Personally, writing is my go to when feeling overwhelmed. I am able to release that energy without the fear of judgment from others. It is not only therapeutic but it can be a way of seeing your progress from one day to the next.

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