Monday, August 10, 2020

In Grief: Am I Making Too Much of My Grandpa's Death?

Young people need something stable to hang on to — a culture connection, a sense of their own past, a hope for their own future. Most of all, they need what grandparents can give them.  ~ Jay Kesler

A reader writes: I lost my grandpa just a few days after his 82nd birthday and I miss him so much. I went to be with him as often as I could and in the last weeks of his life, though it tormented me to see this dignified man, who I more often saw in suits and nice shoes - and now in only in a diaper. The last days of his life seemed to me characterized by only pain and being out of rightful mind. Whether this was due to the beginnings of Alzheimer's or the morphine, I'm not sure.

It's now been 2 months. I have felt so alone, and I am also finding myself running through horrible fits of anger, especially at my mom. She told me that she wanted to see me move through the process of grief and be doing well in school without depression and it makes me so angry at her. I don't know why she thinks it should be so easy for me or that I should be okay. Although I express and ask for some extra attention from friends - nothing they do seems to be enough. Every little thing sets me off into fits of tears or a rage that is inexpressible lest I jeopardize my friendships. I just withdraw and leave because I can't handle this. I don't see what the point is in some sense. And more than that, my faith is shaken in such a way that I call to question the very existence of a loving God - and if this is so, it robs me of all purpose. I don't want to doubt, and that makes me all the lonelier. I feel so isolated in this pain. Am I making too much of my grandpa's death? 

My response: My dear, your reactions to the death of your grandfather include so many that are common to all of us when we lose someone we love so dearly ~ most especially if this is your first encounter with significant loss: feeling shocked and filled with sorrow, isolated and lonely, disappointed and angry, feeling misjudged and misunderstood by family and friends, drowning in despair and questioning everything you thought you believed in before the world you've known got blown to pieces.

There is nothing I can say to take away the isolation and anger you are feeling in the face of your grandfather’s death. What I can do is to assure you that such feelings are valid and absolutely normal, and give you permission ~ indeed, encouragement ~ to puzzle over the spiritual questions you raise. This is the stuff of grief, my friend.

Anger is one of the most common reactions in grief. It is only human to rail against the injustice of your loss. You’re angry at the disease that stole your grandpa’s dignity, and at those who cared for your grandpa for failing to save him from his illness. You’re angry at your mom, too. On the one hand you feel as if she’s pulling for you and knows you’re strong enough to get through this, but on the other hand you fear she may be minimizing or discounting the magnitude of what you’ve lost when your grandpa died. You’re angry at God for letting your grandpa get sick and die, and at life because it isn’t fair. You’re angry at a situation that’s suddenly rendered you helpless and powerless, just when you thought things had settled down, you were feeling happy, back in school and feeling more in control of your life. You’re angry at your friends for being happy, who aren’t suffering as you are suffering, who haven’t lost what you have lost, who may be more fortunate than you are and don’t even see it or appreciate what they have, who cannot understand what you are going through and who, when all is said and done, will go back to their lives as usual, while it feels as if your entire life has been turned upside down. And you're questioning your belief in a loving God Who could allow all this to happen to you.

Given all of that, is it any wonder that you're feeling as you are?

I think it's important to know that grief can leave a person feeling "crazy," especially in the early days ~ and how someone reacts to a significant loss is unique to that individual, because so many factors are involved. Still, certain grief reactions are so common as to be universal, and it helps to know what those reactions are, so you'll know better what to expect and what you might do to manage them.

I want to point you to some reading that I hope will help you come to a better understanding of what you may be thinking and feeling, and might guide you toward more effective ways to manage your own reactions. As you work your way through these articles, note the links to additional resources listed at the base of each:

Grief: Understanding The Process

Is Anger One of the Stages of Grief?

In Grief: Acknowledging Jealousy and Anger

Loneliness and Solitude in Grief

Religion and Spirituality in Grief

I also encourage you to visit your student health center to see what on-campus bereavement resources may be available to you. See also Actively Moving Forward - a grief support network specifically for young adults and college students.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

Image by 1388843 from Pixabay 
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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