Monday, April 12, 2010


What are the expectations for grief?

I was angry at myself today for still feeling sad, melancholy, and, at times, just in a really foul mood.  For some reason, I expected this huge relief of grief after the funeral.  This is my first family member that has died to whom I was exceedingly close.  I remember in high school, two of my friends died and I felt so much better after the memorial service.  This time, though, I still find myself searching for answers, still getting caught in moments when I feel dumbfounded by such a profound sense of loss.  It seems that others who have loved and lost can go back to their everyday lives, but here I sit still mourning.

Then, it occurred to me:  What if everyone doesn't just go on?  What if they are just not so public about their grief?  What if they rise to meet some arbitrary expectation that they should be able to move past the devastation and enter back into the normal routine of life?  

What if they still hurt, just like me?

I could be totally off base here -- fully and completely wrong.  It's not like I feel some sort of pressure to be over my grandmother's death from anyone at all.  It seems that there is this self-imposed deadline that I have created for myself and I'm not sure why I have done this.  I tend to use logic to temper my emotions, so I keep telling myself -- She is in a better place.  She is in Heaven.  She is pain-free.  You knew this would happen...

And even though all these things are so very true, it's not always the healing balm that soothes my aching soul.  I think the healing balm may just be time and patience with myself.

On another note, I have noticed a small, yet profound shift in my children the past couple of days.  Yes, of course, there is still the bickering and occasional (or frequent, however one chooses to count) slap or hit.  But now there is a depth that exists between them that I can't quite fully describe.  It's a notion that they now know how to take care of each other, physically and emotionally.  Death of a human being was something neither had experienced and they faced it together, head on, in a way that I think perhaps only children can.  I remember Abby looking at Grannie in the casket and asking me if I was sure she wasn't just sleeping.  No, honey.  She's not sleeping, although it does look that way.  She has died and we won't see her again here on earth.  But she is alive in Heaven and we'll see her again when we get there.

She then proceeded to test my words by touching Grannie's eyes.  And her mouth.  And the earrings.  Not even I could bring myself to touch Grannie, for fear that the coldness of her body might be my last memory of her touch.  And I was so proud of my daughter for showing even more braveness than her mother, for finding things out for herself and not just taking my word for it. Taking after my daughter, I have decided to go ahead and ask my hard questions about Heaven and how life works after the physical body finally gives out.  I want to know if Grannie can still see me, if she can hear me, if I will ever feel her again.  This is only for my own consolation during my stay here, for I am sure of her comfort and joy.

My day did get better, by the way.  I went running today for the first time in a week.  My house is clean and I am putting things I brought from Grannie's house away.  I am finding new things for which to be thankful and thinking of all the ways Grannie and I were alike and different.  Just strolling down memory lane can bring me peace because it is there that I can find myself with her again.

She left a poem for all of us to read after she was gone and I'll leave it with you tonight.  I know the loved ones to whom you have had to say good-bye would feel the same for you...

To Those I Love
by Isla Paschal Richardson

If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the Silent Way,
grieve not,
Nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk
Of me as if I were
beside you there.
(I'd come -- I'd come,
could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song
or see a bird
I loved, please do not let 
the thought of me
Be sad...For I am loving you just as
I always have...
You were so good to me!
There are so many things
I wanted still
To do--so many things
to say to you...
Remember that I 
did not fear...It was
Just leaving you
that was so hard to face...
We cannot see Beyond...
But this I know:
I loved you so -- 'twas heaven
here with you!
Abby and Grannie last summer


  1. Hi Jen,

    I came across your blog and read your sweet words about your grandmother. I'm sitting here in tears now thinking of my own grandmother who passed away a year ago. I see the picture of your daughter reading with your grandmother and it makes me wish my girls had been older when my grandmother died so that they would have lasting memories of her. I miss my grandmother terribly, but I am more sad for my girls. They would have loved her! Thank you for your post. I am so sorry for your loss. I pray that our grandmothers are together in heaven now, looking down over their granddaughters and great granddaughters.

    God Bless you and your family!

    Amy (DeCock) Hamand

  2. Jen--

    I came across your blog from your Facebook page. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to write about what you're feeling in the aftermath of this sad event. I also wanted to say that you sound like a really good mother!

    When my mom died, the hardest part was thinking about my daughters growing up not knowing her-- but one of the most comforting things was going through the grieving process with the kids. Being able to be there for them when they needed it (which wasn't always readily apparent) really brought me out of myself and helped remind me of the goodness in the world, even when everything just seems terrible and sad. Young kids don't feel any social pressure to grieve in the "right" way.

    -- chase

  3. Oh Jen, I wish I could reach out and give you a big hug. I went through months thinking something was wrong with me because I wasn't just getting over it. While it's wonderful to know that your loved one is in a better place, it doesn't ease the pain from the fact that you want her here with you.

    I know two ladies in my church that have lost their husbands, and although most people think they are doing just fine, I know better. Grieving people tend to band together because they understand each other. I see their smiles, but I know their pain. Don't try to suppress or rush the grieving. It will take as long as it takes and pushing it will only delay things.

    The funeral didn't do anything for me either. It felt like something else to get through. I kept expecting to feel some great relief or closure or something.

    I love the picture of your daughter and your grandmother. I hope she treasures those memories of their time together. My children have dealt with varying degrees of grief, depending on their age, which effects both their understanding and their time spent with her. One of the hardest things for me is that my youngest was less than two months old when my mom died. She won't remember her at all. My son-in-law was a couple of months away from meeting my mom. Sigh.

    I had a couple of ladies tell me it will take at least three years to feel normal again. I still pray they are wrong, but I'm less confident of their wrongness than when I began. Some days are pretty normal. It is getting better. That doesn't mean I don't have days when I want to curl up in a ball and have a good cry. You posted on my blog about the smell of the t-shirt. I still have my mom's bottle of Charlie in my dresser drawer and I take it out and smell it when I'm missing her the most. It will get better. Give it time and be gentle with yourself. Be blessed!

  4. I cried, reading the poem. Beautiful words! The picture of your daughter and grandmother is a treasure indeed.

    Hope you take comfort in the truth that this is just a temporary separation.


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