My friend's grandmother passed away two days ago. As someone who has recently felt the devastating loss of losing my own grandmother, I wanted to extend to her my love and support. Instead of sending it just to her, though, I am posting it here, as I know many of you have dealt with loss recently as well.
My Dear Friend,
The other night when Catherine called me to tell me that your grandmother was off the ventilator, but that the doctors were not very hopeful, I cried for you. I literally looked to the heavens and asked God if I could just carry the weight of your pain because I know how much it hurts. I wanted so much for you to not have to grieve, for you to not have to experience the intensity of losing someone who was so precious to you, for you to not have to know what life is like to live without one of the people who championed you the most.
But, as much as I so desperately want to soothe your pain, I cannot. Instead, all I can offer you is my experience, my love, and my hope.
Society seems to have these unspoken rules about how long you can be sad and how many times you can outwardly process how much you miss someone. I pray that you do not feel pressured to play by those rules. Grief comes in waves and there is a certain amount of freedom that comes with just letting them crash over you, to let the sadness overcome you. Keeping it in and trying to be brave only makes you hurt more. You have friends that will let you cry your heart out. Rely on us. Tell us upfront that our job is not to make you feel better. You show us what you need and we will follow. The people that ask you how you are and then wait for the response and love you when you take fifteen minutes to explain how raw you are, those are the people that you need around you now -- people that have no expectations of you, people who will let you be who you are right in the moment.
The cliche phrases will not help. People will tell you that at least she is in a better place, but in the beginning of grieving, all that matters to you is that she is not here. You don't have to force yourself to be grateful for that. At times, it will be comforting to you that she is no longer in pain and that she is in a better place. At other times, you will just be mad that she had to be in pain in the first place. Wherever you are, that is okay. For me, it was better to be honest with myself and God, rather than hide behind all the things I "know." They call it loss for a reason -- no matter what the circumstances were that surrounded her death, you still suffer from the hole left in your heart and it hurts.
You may not have all the answers to the questions that your sweet children will have. Hannah repeatedly asked me questions that I wasn't 100% sure about and I didn't want to mislead her, so there were times when I just said I don't know. When she asked if Grannie could see her from heaven, I didn't tell her yes until I had done my own seeking. The important thing for me with my children was for them to know that Grannie was with Jesus, that she was no longer sick, and that in Heaven, she was happy. Those things I knew to be true and they brought a comfort to my children. That was enough for the moment.
Don't be afraid to do things that make you feel surrounded by her. After she died, I put one of Grannie's shirts in a ziplock bag and put it on my closet shelf. Even now, sometimes, I will pull it down, open the bag, and breathe deeply. For me, the smell of her and her house always made me feel comfort and love. Even now, I'll surround myself with pictures of her and look through her life, and just...remember. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I don't, but I love keeping her memory close to me.
I firmly believe now, that the veil between this life and the next is very thin. I have literally smelled my grandmother when I was out for a run. She has visited in my dreams. There have been times when I have seen her face in the expression of someone I was talking to. Even though I cannot see her physical presence, even though I cannot pick up the phone and call her, I know that she hears me. I routinely ask God to send her a message for me and tell my children they can do the same.
Know that she loved you, fully and completely. Know that she knew you loved her, fully and completely.