I know right now you feel the wind knocked out of you, I know your eyes are puffy from crying the night before. I know it feels like your heart has dropped to your stomach. But how do you navigate this as a 20-something? That’s a thing about this whole “adulting” situation. There’s no rule book telling you how to grieve. Yes, there’s the five stages but even those are being disproved.
I am writing this because as a mid-20-something who recently grieved the death of my beloved great-grandmother, I (hopefully) might be of comfort. When my GG (that’s what I called her) passed away in October I was numb. I had been waiting for class and my mom called to tell me. I didn’t know what to do so I messaged my friend and immediately she helped me email professors and figure out how to get to the train to Ottawa. All the way there I listened to Scottish Bag Pipe music and wept. The minute I got off the train I went into my Nana’s arms and wept.
My GG’s apartment felt so empty without her there. I cried so hard that night that I woke up with puffy eyes. I ended up deferring my applications for scholarships, my grad school work/work was affected. While I managed to complete everything, it wasn’t my best, and you know what? That’s okay because going through something so heavy warrants processing and healing. But there’s some things I want to advise upon:
Firstly, don’t listen to the older family members who tell you to “move on with your life”, I heard this alot while initially grieving. It causes alot of frustration when you have people telling you how to grieve; better yet not to. To that I say ignore them. Your grief is valid. Your feelings are valid. You are allowed to grieve however you see fit. Whether you knew them your whole life or met them in passing, death is inevitable but the way you grieve death is valid.
Second: speak to someone professionally if you need to. The death of a loved one, especially one you were close to, is extremely difficult to move past. Speaking to someone, a therapist or grievance counsellor might really help you (or it might not – depending on how you see it).
Thirdly: if speaking to a professional isn’t your thing, talk with your loved ones, find support in your friends. Death and grief have a way of showing you whose truly there for you and whose not.
Fourthly: make time for self care! Exclamation point because it’s highly important. In my grieving I had a difficult time going to the gym, yoga or anything that I normally would do. I gained about 10 pounds from eating out because I had no energy to cook. Despite this, I found doing little things for myself like listening to my favourite music, going for a walk, or putting on a face mask and watching my favourite show made me feel a little better. Not a lot but a little. It doesn’t have to be big, but you also deserve to be cared for too.
Finally: Grief doesn’t go away. It’s always there. It’s a hole that never fully closes. I caught myself the other day being sad and missing my GG. In times when I get sad, I try to focus on the positive things that my loved one was. For my GG, oh she was an extraordinary woman for her age. She had the brightest smile, kindest blue eyes, and purest soul imaginable. Her thick Scottish accent was illuminated whenever she sang or laughed. I may not get to hold her hand, give her a wee kiss, or hug her in the physical, but I know she is smiling down upon all of us. I have a necklace with her ashes in it to commemorate her. I wear it everyday. I would encourage you, when you feel really sad, and you’re missing your loved one, remember the positive things about them. But also remember that it’s okay to be sad. You will get through this.
Remember that just because they’re gone physically, doesn’t mean they aren’t with you in spirit.