Losing Nana is the first time of true grieving that I’ve experienced. As a 23-year-old, I have many friends who’ve recently experienced a close family member’s death – often a grandparent’s. Whenever I’d hear they’d lost someone, though, I wouldn’t know how to respond.
An introvert by nature, it’s hard for me to be a great comforter. I’ve debated with myself:
Do you hug and say sweet nothings?
— Or, would they rather grieve alone?
Do you tell them something funny – to help ease their pain?
— Or, is that too flippant?
Do you send them Bible verses, hoping to help them find meaning?
— Or, is that presumptuous?
Death is forever. Death means ‘no more’ – I know that in principle. But, oh, how different experiencing death is from imagining it or reading about it. My present time of grieving has been spent reflecting on Nana’s life, reading my Bible, seeking God in prayer – and recognizing in myself how humans – or at least how I – grieve.
I’m recording my thoughts from these past few days in the hopes that I don’t quickly forget how I’ve mourned – and that, somehow, this will help someone else in comforting a close friend.
My thoughts in grief:
WHAT IS NANA’s LEGACY? – This is the first thought that came to me. I feel like even now I keep grasping and grasping at Nana’s legacy in my life: how will I remember her? how does her life live on when she’s still so alive in my heart? I’m still trying to ponder how to make her memory last.
SOLITARY – When Mom called with the news, I was sitting in a bustling Foster’s Market, at dinner with my friend Alli. I wanted Alli’s hug and her comforting words in that moment. And then, only a minute later, I wanted to curl in my bed, look through old pictures and emails and mourn privately (note: introvert speaking here; my grandfather, an extrovert, is by far the friendliest, most talkative person about my Nana I know. I love that. Just bear in mind I’m not necessarily typical).
HAPPINESS – The happier the memories of times I have with Nana, the greater the sadness I feel when I remember them. But, oh the great irony is that is is those happy memories I most want to remember.
REGRET – brief moments, but they are nonetheless hurtful and deep pangs of irreversible regret. I’ll be sad and reflecting and then I want to be mad at myself: why didn’t I spend more time listening? Why didn’t I visit her more? How I wish I would have done X, Y, Z… But then I’ll realize we are only human and our scope of what we can do on earth is so limited. I’m comforted by the knowledge that I loved Nana dearly and by the trust that what I could have “done for her” is so paltry in comparison to what she is experiencing right now.
THE WORLD – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strongly how hurried and selfish and rushed the world is. When someone dies, your world stops while the rest of humanity goes to work, spends money, thinks about clothes and careers – and suddenly you realize how silly they seem. You turn on the radio and realize Taylor Swift’s greatest ‘Trouble’ is a boy. You want to pick up Ecclesiastes and sigh “What a striving after the wind!”
IMPORTANCE – Along with seeing the world’s hurriedness comes a sudden clarity of who and what are important. In the encompassing darkness of grief, God has illuminated only one light: the beauty of life after earthly death. From this vantage, life is clarified, life seems purposeful. You begin to ask: ‘What is important in my life?’ When Nana passed away, what ultimately really, truly mattered in the end?
The biggest question I’ve always had is: How can others comfort you?
I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure there’s a good answer for that. For me, I simply wanted to be with my family. I wanted to hear and share all the good memories of my sweet Nana; I wanted to listen to someone who knew her well. It’s hard to take comfort in sweet nothings (ie: “She was a good Christian,” “a lovely person,” etc.). Yes, she was. She truly was. But I know that; I’ve long known that; I’m mourning that. Nana was a well-loved person – known to many people each with their own stories. I love hearing those stories and I treasure my own.
The sweetest moments for me (and the moments I still crave) have been the moments I’m by myself – in the shower, in my bed, with my Bible, while writing – when I can reflect on Nana’s life. In those moments I’m free to heave a sob or two (without pity) and I can contemplate Nana’s love the way I remember it; unmarred by inadequate words.
An Acknowledgement: I realize every death is different (some peaceful, some traumatic); every person is different (some ready for death, others struggling through life); every mourner is different (some need people, others need quiet). That is something to consider.