October 22, 2012 by Melissa
My grandfather died last week. He was a good man to a lot of people around him and it was hard for us all to say goodbye to him. Despite the fact that he’d been battling congestive heart failure, bladder cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, it still seemed like shocking news. He was someone who had always pulled through. I’m still reeling, in a way. I suppose that happens to most people, whether it was expected or not. It’s hard to grasp that they’re no longer here with us.
The point of this post however, isn’t to talk about my “Grampa” but to share how completely lovely and amazing people can be in the midst of a death. My mother got texts and cards and phone calls, people bringing food by, flowers delivered to her, friends and relatives coming in from all over to attend the funeral and give condolences. The ministers who spoke at the service were broken hearted as well and still managed to give eloquent and personally meaningful eulogies. I learned a lot. For instance, if you can go to the funeral, do it. Even if you didn’t know the deceased, be there for the family/friend that you know. It meant the world to my mom that co-workers or friends stopped by. Also, if you can, bring food by. There are always people stopping in or coming in from out-of-town and the last thing you want to think about is going to the grocery store. So make some hotdish or buy a ham and drop it off. Food is always a great help if you don’t know what else to do.
I’m not a good griever. I never know how to say goodbye in a way that means something to me. I’m always so worried about what I’m supposed to be doing or saying that my grief gets sidelined but then I end up dealing with it on my own when I should have embraced the opportunity to comfort and be comforted by those around me. My mother is a good griever, if such a thing exists. I’ve always admired that about her. She faces each funeral straight on with all the feeling and pain that is there so, by the end of it, she’s had a cathartic experience and is moving forward. I’m stuck trying to hold back tears until I can’t even talk.
I think that part if is that I didn’t attend a funeral until I was 19 years old, so I spent the first several funerals of my life observing the protocol and trying not to do anything wrong, lest I offend anyone. Ridiculous, huh? But grieving is such a personal and, to me, private thing. It’s hard to do it authentically when there’s a lot of people around you. It’s hard not to feel like you’re performing, in a way, especially when you’re the immediate family of the person the funeral is for. I think I’m starting to understand certain aspects of funerals and why they’re important to people so maybe now at the tender age of 35 I can start figuring out how to open myself up to all that a funeral is. I realize that’s not a common goal but I have kids that I want to be able to grieve in a healthier way than I do.
I was straightforward with Lucy when she had questions this last week but didn’t go into too much detail. I answered her questions truthfully and she seemed satisfied with them. I remember someone telling me when I was a kid that someone who had died was just sleeping. I was terrified to go to bed for years after that. So hopefully we can have some frank and honest discussions about death in our house and we can grieve together in ways that are helpful and honor the person who’s gone.
Are there things that help you to grieve? How have you dealt with death in your family? With your kids? I’d love some insight and some help with this.