My Journey With Grief

Loss isn’t really something we think a whole lot about at this age. I mean, why would we? We’re smack in the middle of a time when we are experiencing complete independence for the first time in our existence, and we’re all about enjoying life in any way that we can. But the truth is, loss is around us at any time in our lives, and we can struggle to accept it no matter what phase of life we are in.

In the almost 21 years I have lived on this Earth, I have had the great fortune of being able to say that my life has been generally free of loss. There have been some trying times in my family, but for the most part I never really lost anyone very close to me; that is, until I got to college.

I know that I am getting older, and part of getting older means that there is a greater opportunity to lose those around you. I’ve always been aware of this, but it was not something that ever crossed my mind, at least all that seriously. But this pure and protected bubble that I had been placed in was quickly destroyed last spring when I came home from school to find out that my grandma had passed away that morning.

I can’t really begin to describe how it feels when you find out that you have lost someone if you have been fortunate enough to never experience that crushing emotion before. It’s hard to wrap your head around, and when you do it honestly only gets worse. Everything that you do for days or even weeks after can seem like a blur, because your reality has just become so altered that you’re not quite sure what’s real anymore.

My grandma was truly an amazing person. I know that everyone will say this about someone that they’ve lost, but there’s just no other way I think that I can put it. She had compassion that never ended, a heart that only grew with every person that she welcomed into her life and a youthful spirit that filled all of those around her with joy. I still miss her infectious laugh and I fear the day that I can’t remember how it sounded.

I can only hope that the very best parts of her live on within me and the members of my family. I know that loss has the ability to fracture families and tear apart relationships, but I’m so glad that my family has only grown closer. It’s hard to imagine how I would have gotten through such a difficult time without those that I love around me. Nothing was more important to my grandma than our family, and I feel her with us when we are all together and showing our utmost support and love to each other. I like to imagine that we are fulfilling Grandma’s wishes by doing the best that we can to carry on as a family, even though the heart of our family is no longer here.

I wish that I could have her around to see all that I will accomplish. I wish that she could be there for my wedding, or to see the birth of more great-grandchildren for her. I wish that she could be there to support my mother when she is missing her best friend. When you lose someone, it’s hard not to focus on all of the things that they will not have the opportunity to see you or your loved ones do. But I try to remind myself of how much my grandma was able to be there to see my family and I do while she was still with us.

My grandma was my biggest supporter of my writing and of me being at Virginia Tech. There is nothing that I can do but to make her proud and to continue with all of my dreams and aspirations as if she was still there, cheering me on right beside me, because I know there is no place that she would rather have been.

Grief is a day to day struggle for me, and as a college student it can be a really tough place to get stuck in. Don’t be afraid to lean on the people in your life, and realize that talking about your feelings is good for you and doesn’t put a burden on others. If people really care about you, they will listen to you no matter what.

Grief is an individualized struggle and no two people deal with it the same way. Yes, it can certainly be painful, but it also allows us to keep important memories alive and continue to share the stories of those we’ve lost. I constantly tell myself that a piece of my grandma will always be with me, and I got this tattoo a month ago so that I never forget that no matter where I fly to, she is always flying with me.

All images are author's own.