I have been quite fortunate so far in that I haven’t had to experience the deaths of many family members or friends.
I lost my paternal grandmother a few years ago and last month I lost my maternal grandfather. But for a combination of reasons, none of which I understand, my emotions don’t seem to relate to the actual events of losing someone I love. This lead me to the question “Am I grieving properly?”
Everyone grieves differently, that much I know – but I feel like I am missing out on something, that my emotions are not strong enough if you will. Its a strange paradox because I am both glad that it is not effecting me as much as it could and yet feel guilty for not being more upset by the passing of a family member. It’s easy to blame the medication I am on for taking away some of the effect that loss can have, but that doesn’t really console me at all. Why should I feel it less than other members of my family just because of some pills.
I needed to take a pragmatic approach to death in order to process some of the thoughts which bugged me over the last few weeks. I’ve highlighted a couple of these thoughts below:
Why didn’t I just…
The first thing I felt guilty about was not visiting my grandfather in hospital. It was a semi-conscious decision as well as a coping mechanism for me. The reality was that even had I been there, he wouldn’t have known or remembered. And whilst part of me wanted to be by his side in the final days/hours I also selfishly wanted to preserve the memories I had of an incredibly strong and vibrant individual – not have these memories replaced by what the illness created.
Even though I made the decision not to visit, I still regret it and probably always will. What is hard to accept is that I know it was the right choice – it’s over now and there is no way to change that choice so I have to accept it, but I also deep down feel that I have saved myself a lot of pain and heartache which I am sure he would be glad of too.
When does it ‘kick-in’?
Its been a little over two weeks since he passed and yet it still doesn’t seem real. When I visit my grandmother I still expect to see him in the chair when I turn the corner, or come back into the room – I still call the house “Granny & Grandads” – a habit I have to change for the benefit of others really. But every now and then when I’m thinking about him I get this sudden realization that he is gone – and my heart breaks again as I come to terms with what it means not to see him again or hear his voice, laugh or jokes.
So when does it kick in I wonder? When do I stop getting the sudden impact of the fact he isn’t here anymore? When does the pain and tight stomach feeling stop when I try to remember him.
Why the guilt?
The strangest part of all of it, is the guilt – and this is most likely linked to my own depression and anxiety but it makes the suffering just that little bit worse.
- I feel guilty for not spending enough time with him when he was alive, a feeling I think most people grieving have.
- I feel guilty for not visiting him in hospital.
- I feel guilty because I feel like I am not upset enough
It’s the third one that is bugging me, what is the correct amount of ‘sadness’ to feel, and how do I know if I am above or below that level? I haven’t cried for over 15 years (not for lack of trying on occasion) but I haven’t shed a tear over the death of a close family member despite wanting too. There is a certain level of numbness associated with this time and I feel bad that I am isolated from it – I feel like I am not being allowed to grieve by my depression and that I am missing out on something which should be ultimately therapeutic even if it is horrible.