My grandfather past suddenly on Tuesday afternoon. I’m not going to talk about the specifics of how it happened, or the look on my grandma’s face when I walked through her door, or what it felt like to hear the words, “Papa died.” What I am going to talk about is the specific stages of grieving that I have experienced.
The first day was one of the worst of my life. I was physically sick more than once and probably lost two pounds in tears. The next few days were filled with crippling anxiety and depression, sadness for my grandmother and gentle-giant of an uncle. Then came the moments were I was able to feel temporarily happy.
Maybe it was a kind word from a friend or a light hearted joke, or a nice song that I sang to for a moment before shutting my mouth. With these moments of near-happiness, if not contentness, came overcoming guilt. I felt like I was somehow betraying my grandfather by not fully grieving, like I was doing him a dishonor, even though he was adamant about us not wanting to be sad when he died. He was a happy guy who lived a happy life, and he would hate to see us all like this.
I expressed my feelings of guilt to my co-worker but she explained a few things to me that did actually make me feel better. Everyone grieves in different ways. For my father, it’s apparently explosive and hurtful anger. For my mother, younger sister, and aunt, it’s taking control of the situation and being a strong shoulder to cry on. For my brother, it’s retreating into himself but still being present for my grandmother.
For me, it’s trying to distract myself. I do definitely spend a lot of time listening to sad songs (like Heaven, Dance With My Father, and Supermarket Flowers) and looking at photos and videos of my grandpa. I’m almost purposely making myself sad, as if it’s, in a way, honoring him.
Still, I try to hang out with friends who make me happy. My two best friends and a boy I enjoy hanging out with. My friends who all work at my favorite coffee shop and a casual friend who I know won’t put me in a position where I have to talk about what happened.
I read my book, Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami, and try to live in that private world and not focus on the one that I’m actually living in. I watch The Office, America’s greatest sitcom (in my opinion) and go to breweries and coffee shops and just do anything to take my mind off my grief, even for a moment. At first, yeah, I really felt guilty for allowing myself to enjoy something, but that’s just what I need to do to get through this moment and not completely fall apart.
I need to be there for my grandma. I can’t break down in front of her because it’ll trigger her own tears. I can’t withdraw into myself and become selfishly depressed. I cheer her up with light hearted conversations, talk of pleasant memories of Papa, and Christmas decorating. So yeah, my family might be judging me for how I’m handling this, but I don’t care. This is what I need to do right now. This is what I need to do to avoid completely losing it.