The First Days of Grief

I lost my grandfather. My favourite person in the whole world. (When I told him – barely two weeks before he passed – he smiled widely and squeezed my hand. “Favourite person?” he said, raising an eyebrow, barely suppressing a chuckle. I nodded vehemently. “Yes, that’s right. And I meant it.” We smiled at each other. He knew.)

He’d been sick for a few weeks, but we were hopeful. He kept fighting, so motivated to hold on to this life that he truly loved living. We made plans for the future. Four days before the end, we got some good news, and I could picture us getting in his little grey Volkswagen; driving around the Netherlands, stopping at a local cafe (coffee for him, tea for me), looking out over one of the rivers that he loved so much. 

Then the bad news came.

I was so anxious I could barely breathe. Losing him had been my biggest fear for the past twenty years. I hadn’t slept all night. My partner took me outside, to run through the worst of the dread. 1 PM. I laced up my shoes and left, just as my grandfather took his last breath.

We were a few minutes into the run when I found out that he was gone. I clutched my phone, knuckles white, staring at the words on the screen. All the blood drained from my face. I ran for a few more metres, my breathing shallow and panicked. Trying to put the letters together, to make it make sense. The grief hit me all at once. My knees buckled and I collapsed in the middle of the street. I started sobbing, my face cold on the pavement. 

My partner wrapped his arms around me and we cried together. Digging my fingers into his shoulders, I held on to him as if he was the only solid thing in the world. Everything else was falling. I wished the world would stop spinning. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t. Alex gently pulled me back on my feet. “Should we go home?” he asked. “No. No, I can’t.” If I go home now, I’ll get in bed and stay there forever. 

I finished the run. My worst nightmare had come true and I kept running. As if I could outrun it. As if it wasn’t over yet. I felt him everywhere around me. Every step a mantra. I love you, I love you, I love you. Please don’t go.

For the next few days, every action felt confusing and unfair. My favourite person is gone and I have to go to the supermarket. My favourite person is gone and I have to eat dinner. My favourite person is gone and I have to get out of bed. 

I’m having a very hard time finding meaning in life right now. I don’t know how to get through this, and sometimes I don’t even know if I want to. I have to. I know I have to. And I will. But not quite yet.

In the meantime, I write. 

I breathe, I remember, and I write. 

Practical note: I am working through the Grieving course on Headspace and I find it very helpful. They seem to understand what it is like to show up for a meditation (of all things) when you’re Very Very Sad.
If you need immediately support, don’t hesitate to call your local mental health/emergency services. If you prefer texting, you can find a crisis text line here.

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