Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

Birthdays and grief

Today would have been my grandfather’s 90th birthday. He died two years ago on Oct. 29.

Here’s a memory I shared on here a few years ago when Nannie and PawPaw still had chickens. At the time, PawPaw still recognized me. He could still walk, though his chickens seemed to be the only reason he’d get out of his chair in the morning and at night. I read the post a couple a weeks ago when I started to think of PawPaw’s upcoming birthday. It made me smile.

Recently, I’ve heard people expressing grief over loved ones who have died in the past year. I empathize.

Though I had been preparing myself mentally for my grandpa’s death for years, I didn’t expect the level of grief I experienced. I’ve had friends and family members die over the years, ever since I was 5, but this grief was something new and overwhelming.

The next several months were hard. I lost joy. I no longer enjoyed things I once loved — baking, knitting, sewing, hiking.

I was angry. I muttered under my breath at anyone in my path. No one could do anything right.

I cried. A lot. And at the drop of a hat. Anything that reminded me of PawPaw made me bawl.

For a long time, I talked about PawPaw to whomever would listen. I began to fear people would think I was crazy for going on and on about his death. So I tried to rein that in.

I let things go that weren’t necessary and began focusing on the things I had to do —school, paying bills. Everything else I let go. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. No socializing. No crafts or baking. I deleted my Twitter account and deactivated Facebook. I needed a break.

Christmas and Thanksgiving weren’t easy, either. I couldn’t bring myself to shop or wrap gifts. I couldn’t summon the motivation to do it. I didn’t want to deal with it. If I could have, I would have stayed at home under the covers until the new year.

It took several months — April, in fact — for me to feel happy again; for things to return to normal. I started reaching out to friends again. This past spring I reactivated Facebook and have slowly reconnected with people there.

I still think of PawPaw often, but now, instead of overwhelming sadness, I can smile at happier times.

A friend and my pastor recommended On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. I don’t think it helped. It was interesting, but it didn’t explain the emotions and pain I was going through. But maybe it’ll help you. Another friend recommended Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I didn’t read it. It didn’t seem relevant.

I can tell you, though, that no matter what you’re feeling now, it gets better. Friends told me it would. And it did. Embrace the process. Just go through it.

Maybe you feel guilty that you are hurting so much for this person’s death, but didn’t grieve the same for another. Don’t do that. Each death is different. We don’t know how we’re going to react until we go through it. It doesn’t mean you loved one person more than the other.

Talk about it. Even if you think you sound crazy. For me it was therapeutic. It helped me process the pain.

And when you start to feel joy again, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean you love your lost relative any less. It means you’re healing. You’ll always have the same amount of love and you’ll have the memories.

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