My first encounter with grief was as a young girl of 5 or 6 years old. My parents dropped me off at my Nan and Grandad’s, heading to my other grandparents’ where Grandad Don was unwell. Later, they returned with the news of his passing. Sitting as a family on the edge of the bed, I tried to cry, understanding that people mourn, but as a child I didn’t really comprehend what was happening or going on. Reflecting now, I question if it was grief or merely confusion in the innocence of childhood.
I’ve experienced the loss of two dear friends, both in profoundly tragic circumstances, creating a surreal and grief-stricken reality. Accepting the manner of their deaths was a prolonged struggle. The sorrow extended to the families they left behind, compelling me to do everything possible to bring them solace. Despite my own sadness, prioritizing their well-being allowed me to feel connected, supporting them as a tribute to our shared friendship.
The biggest pain of grief struck me in 2019 when I lost my Nanny Miller. Her departure brought about a transformative impact on my life, with aspects both positive and challenging. The absence of someone I had loved intensely and genuinely for so long was an unfamiliar ache I had never encountered. While I initially felt grateful for not having experienced such pain before, now I found myself immersed in the reality of that very anguish.
My heart was broken, I wasn’t strong, and I couldn’t cope with my feelings, with what was to come next with sorting her funeral, trying to support my mum who was equally as heartbroken as me. Nanny Miller’s battle with Alzheimer’s presented challenges, yet our bond strengthened as she faced the difficulties of her final days. Her peaceful passing, surrounded by family, with her favourite music playing, wrapped in a cozy blanket, marked the end of her journey. Coping with the grief, I confronted poor mental health, stemming from the inability to be physically present with her. Seeking assistance from both a doctor and a local charity for grief counselling was a significant, albeit challenging, step. Despite my initial reluctance to ask for help, counselling proved invaluable, providing a safe space to discuss my feelings about Nanny and the grieving process. This ongoing support has become a source of security for me, allowing me to navigate moments of heightened grief or stress when needed.
A year after losing my grandmother, tragedy struck again with the passing of my beloved grandfather, Bob, due to Covid. This brought an entirely different dimension of grief for my family and me. The pandemic restrictions prevented us from visiting him during lockdown, creating a strange sense of mourning even before his passing. Despite him being just down the road, we couldn’t spend time with him, share his favourite treats, provide comfort, or hold his hand. Grandad had Covid, which he contracted from another resident. My dad and nanny Doreen, wearing full PPE, spent precious hours with him, providing support. While relieved he wasn’t alone, I struggled with anger and sadness, blaming the government and the nursing home for the circumstances. The inability to give him the deserved farewell added to the sorrow. Even today, my family and I carry a lingering guilt for being unable to protect him in his final moments. This experience has heightened our commitment to providing extra care for my wonderful Nanny Doreen, who is living with Alzheimer’s.
The passing of Nanny Miller taught me so much and revealing valuable insights about myself. Grandad Bob’s passing reinforced the importance of cherishing every possible moment with loved ones. While I still experience moments of sorrow and find myself shedding tears for both of them, I recognize that these emotions are valid and natural responses to the profound loss of love.
For me, grief is like a void in my heart, but life persists, guided by the cherished memories of those who have passed. To anyone struggling with the emotions of grief, I encourage you to openly express, shed tears, find joy in laughter, share smiles, and hold onto precious memories. Talking and remembering can be powerful steps in the healing process.
– Emily Forster