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Guest Post – Missing Them

This is the first guest post I have featured on my blog and it seems right it’s written by one of my greatest supporters, my daughter Lindsay. This post reminds me that my losses are her losses as well. That’s what family and friends do, they share life’s joys and sorrows. Lindsay has her own successful dog business (guess she got that “dog gene” too!) and writes a fantastic blog about dogs (and cats) called ThatMutt: A Dog Blog. If you have an “animal issue” (or just like reading about them) be sure to check it out. Today Lindsay is sharing thoughts about losing two of her grandparents. Once again, it raises the question, why does it seem unacceptable in our society to grieve? I hope you enjoy reading about loss from her perspective and leave lots of comments!

We never stop missing our grandparents, even when we become grandparents and great-grandparents ourselves. Missing them is something that never ends. I lost my grandma to breast cancer almost three years ago, and I am still grieving. I am 27 now, and I will be grieving, I imagine, for a very long time.

In 12th grade I wrote an essay about my grandma where I described all of our similarities. We are both dog lovers, I pointed out. We love movies. We love Christmas and sweets and traveling. But these aren’t the things I remember about her now.

I remember how her feet couldn’t quite reach the floor when she sat in her rocking chair. I remember how she described me as beautiful, like a movie star. I remember how she used to hold my hand (before she was sick), and how I’d sit there and think, can I let go, yet? I remember how she attended one of my college rugby games, all bundled up on one of the coldest fall days. I remember how no matter what I did, she was extremely, genuinely proud.

By age 27 most of us have lost a grandparent if we were lucky enough to know them. But no matter how old we are when we lose a grandparent, we aren’t expected to grieve for very long. Not visibly, at least. That’s what society tells us, even though we are all hiding from some amount of pain. If we are uncomfortable grieving lost grandparents – something most of us have experienced – there must be something lacking.

What I’m finding is that as a culture, we don’t know how to grieve.

Likewise, we don’t know how to help others grieve. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel ashamed to show emotions or because our lives revolve around superficial work or because technology causes a great disconnection. I think sometimes we keep our lives jam-packed on purpose. It helps us avoid closeness. It covers up vulnerabilities. I hide from pain just like everyone else.

One of my most embarrassing moments was the Monday after my golden retriever died. It had been an especially hard weekend of course, but I found no reason to take the day off. Life goes on, right? My boss was full of criticisms that morning, all directed at me. Apparently everything I did was wrong. I later learned she had come from a funeral, and ripping me apart must have been in some way part of her own grieving process. But there I was. Age 22. My first job out of college. Sobbing at my desk. Grieving over my lost golden retriever. In front of everyone. The funny thing was, we were in the middle of a newsroom, and everyone went about their work as though nothing was wrong. My boss found her way back to her desk and pretended to type away at something. No one looked at me or said anything. They didn’t know what to do.

Only one person – the oldest man in the room – walked over and poured half his bag of jelly beans on a napkin for me. It was maybe the nicest thing anyone did for me that week. It was something a grandpa might do.

I know I’m fortunate, at age 27, to still be able to visit two of my grandparents as often as possible. My grandparents, all four of them, are certainly some of my greatest gifts. They represent comfort and consistency. Safety and warmth and support. Only a grandma can deliver sweet criticisms. Only a grandpa can turn a tantrum to laughter. I don’t know how they do it.

As I try to grasp control of my life, redefine where “home” is and continue on the right path, I often find that my dreams center around my grandparents. They are, after all these years, consistent. Heck, my grandparents are the only ones who’ve had the same phone numbers all my life! I can always call if I’m in need, and they usually answer. If my grandparents have taught me anything, it’s to reach out to friends and family, show appreciation and try to be understanding – something we could all use whether we are grieving or not.

We never stop missing our grandparents. I miss my grandma and my grandpa every day. I haven’t moved on. I know I never will.

Why do you think it’s so hard to openly grieve in our society? Or don’t you think it is?

Why do we put “time limits” on grief?

How did your grandparents impact YOUR life?

18 thoughts on “Guest Post – Missing Them

  1. I definitely think it’s hard to grieve in our society. I remember a time quite vividly when my dad had called me while I was on campus walking to class and told me that my mom was going to be put on this ‘liquid diet’ that would help her to gain some weight, but would ultimately feed the cancer. I knew this was bad. Really, really bad. I turned around and immediately started walking back to my car because I could sense the tears coming on. As soon as we hung up, I just fell to the ground on the grassy median in the parking lot and sobbed. I looked up eventually and not a single person looked twice at me or attempted to ask if I was okay. I pulled myself together, got up, and walked to my car feeling more alone than ever.

    It’s like people are almost afraid of those who are grieving (or are heading in that direction, as I was with the eventual death of my mom two months later). People don’t mention her name, they don’t bring up the past, or cancer at all, they act like she never existed most days. It makes me crazy! Like I should already be over this since it’s been three years, but it’s not that easy.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Lindsay. Parents, grandparents, dogs, etc. it doesn’t matter- grief is grief, and it hurts.

    P.S. When I lost my first dog– a little black lab named Dixie– I grieved for a solid 10 years. TEN! It was my first brush with death, and I hated every minute. My friends thought it was funny when I was 14 and still missing a dog that died 5 years prior– and that made it even worse!

  2. Great post Lindsay. It’s very interesting to hear your thoughts on grieving. Reading your post and Sami’s comment above, I thought about the situation here in Ireland. I think we do allow people to grieve here. ‘The funny thing was, we were in the middle of a newsroom, and everyone went about their work as though nothing was wrong.’ This would seem out of place here.

    Who knows we follow the US in lots of ways so maybe we too will lose our empathy with people who are grieving.

  3. Dear Lindsay,
    Thank you so much for your post! You shared so many emotions that resonated with me.

    I think we as a culture feel uncomfortable when someone weeps, whether from grief or any other emotion. We want them to move on, so we can get on with our busy, independent lives.

    As to time limits on grief, I believe they are related to the first point. People want us not to dwell on the past, but move forward, forgetting what makes us sad so we can be more productive.

    What I miss most about my grandmothers were their undying support for me and unconditional love. When I applied to law school, their encouragement overwhelmed me. Their moral example and their confidence in the face of challenges will never be forgotten.

    All the best, Jan

  4. Well said, Lindsay!

    2 comments:

    First, another thing that people forget is that age DOESN’T matter. My closest friend in college lost her father to cancer our sophomore year. He was in his 70s. She got a lot of ‘well, he was old’ responses to her grief. Old, young, middle aged. It doesn’t matter. It was her father and that’s who she lost.

    Second, it’s always helpful to be around people who really understand. My dog died over Christmas break my senior year in college. That January I was taking a class abroad and it just so happened that the other 4 other young women in my program had also lost a pet in the previous 6 months. We bonded and grieved together. We understood where we were coming from and didn’t think it was silly to grieve a pet.

    I’m sorry about your grandma. It sounds like she was a wonderful woman and really understood you. I’d be surprised if you didn’t grieve for a long time over the loss of such a meaningful relationship.

    -Jackie

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jackie! Good to hear from you! I am sorry about your dog 🙁 I agree that it’s much easier to grieve if you can talk about it with others. I wish you could’ve met my grandma!

  5. Lindsay I am so pleased you have taken the opportunity to express your thoughts. It brings joy to my heart to learn of the closeness, the love you share with ypour grandma. She will always hold a special place in your heart which I see as meaning where you go, she goes.
    My love to you and the family.

  6. I grieve and I don’t care who sees me and who knows it. I can’t hide my feelings from something and someone who has been such an intregal part of my life since I was a little girl. My grandmother was 94 when she died 11 years ago. She was so busy active and you couldn’t slow her down. One winter before she died she was outdoors shovelling the driveway in a freezing rain/snow storm because she didn’t want the mailman to hurt himself. She made the best pies but couldn’t bake a cookie for anything. They were like hard flying saucers hard as rocks. But we ate them anyway. She would make Chef Boyardee Raviolli she thought we liked it. None of my siblings could stand t but we loved her so much we ate it anyway. I miss my grandmother everyday. But in a way I’m glad she was not here to see me go through Breast Cancer treatent. It would have hurt her terribly. Thank you for this post. It reminded me that I can still have my moments but still smile…. Alli xx

  7. Awww, your grandma sounds like she was such a unique and caring person. I know you will always enjoy those good memories of her. Thanks for sharing a bit about her with us.

  8. Very nice Lindsay and great timing for me. About 30 minutes ago I was on the phone with my uncle and we were talking about my grandmama and how much I (and he) miss her. She was such a force of nature and I miss that desperately.
    Great writing!

  9. I am fortunate enough to have only lost great-grandparents and no close family members. I can see how it is hard to empathize with those who have lost someone close because I haven’t personally had to deal with it. It seems like society gives everyone a fews days to express their grief and then, “the show must go on.” It is unfortunate that many people are so easily forgotten by those that weren’t “close” to them. It shows that people’s legacy matters. Make me think about the actions I take and whether or not that will build my legacy or be completely moot.

    Now that I am older (26) I have learned to cherish the time I have with my grandparents and family. Perhaps seeing Lindsay go through the pain of losing someone close has helped me to appreciate the time I have with my own family. I look forward to visiting, talking, emailing my family more than ever.

    More than anything, I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feeling in a well articulated way. The Internet does not forget. Publicly talking about others will only continue to build their legacy.

  10. Thanks, Josh. I do think it is important to talk about the people we have lost in order to honor them. And I think everyone leaves behind some sort of legacy in his or her own way.

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