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Hard When Someone Dies; Even Harder When They’re Still Alive

They always say that grieving is a process; something that happens in stages. I thought I knew what that meant. That is until I had to grieve two separate people in the same year. 

Both journeys were different and yet the same. In fact, the journeys are still happening to an extent. I truly, and honestly believe the grieving never ends.

First let’s start with the pain and agony caused by someone dying. That is a grief hard to explain, and no one really understands it unless they’ve lived through it.

For me, it was my grandfather. He passed away this year just three days shy of turning 84. While the writing had been on the wall for him for well over a year, that didn’t stop the news from punching me in the gut.

I’d made peace with his eminent demise months earlier during a hospital stay due to his congestive heart failure. Therefore, when he eventually passed I was sure I’d feel only ease of mind and relief for his discontinued suffering.

The aspect I hadn’t accounted for were my feelings and my heartbreak. I found myself unable to function. The rest of my day, he passed in the morning, was spent going through motions not really there at all.

All of a sudden my world seemed so much darker and more broken. My grandfather wasn’t a man of many words so it came as a surprise to me when I arrived for the funeral to a silent house. His absence was so profound that the air seemed way too eerie.

Conversation seemed lacking, even though he never really added to discussions when he was alive. My heart aches every time I looked towards his recliner because I could see him sitting there, clear as day. 

Usually, when grief happens families pull themselves closer together to help each other get through. However, for me I had to suffer practically alone. During a time when I would lean on my mother she decided to let one small disagreement weaken our bond completely.

I understand that she is grieving the loss of her father, but when I turned to her in my own grief, struggling to get through the day, she told me to toughen up and just keep going. No discussion, no heartfelt walk down memory lane. Just a cold and distant emotionless reply. 

So began my second grieving process in just two months. Only this time the person was very much still alive. 

When you come from a large, communal Italian family, getting cut off from someone is like a knife to the heart. When that someone is your own mother that knife becomes a sword. 

My grief for my grandfather is made that much worse by the grieving of my lost connection to my mother. I feel him with me everyday urging me to make amends with her because family is there for you when the going gets tough. He tells me in his gentle but stern voice, “call your mother.”

But, what happens when those calls go unanswered? Am I dishonoring him? It’s all so hard to deal with, so after two months of unanswered phone calls I’ve stopped trying. 

I’m not trying to besmirch my grandfather’s memory. Instead I am creating a path towards everyday happiness and positive self-worth. All because with each unanswered call I found myself spiraling further and further into a dialogue of self-doubt.

As I’m mentally trying to prepare myself for the first Christmas without my grandfather, it was his favorite holiday after all, I’m reminded that it’s also my first Christmas without my mother.

It’s hard to reconcile with and find my Christmas spirit. While my aunt and grandmother don’t mention it, I know that they place some of the blame on me for my mothers decision. A situation that merely compounds my aching heart this holiday season. The hole in my chest just seems to keep getting bigger and bigger. 

The only reprieve has been my writing and the voice of my grandfather in the back of my head telling me I’m doing ok. I feel him guiding me through each step in my life, even the mistakes. 

At least with my grandfather I got to have closure. But what happens when they are still alive? How does closure happen?

My mother recently sent all of my things she still had at her home. I guess that’s her way of creating closure, but I wish I could do the same. The honest answer is I can’t bring myself to get rid of physical reminders of her. However, even if I did that is only half of it. She is engrained into all my childhood memories and lessons. So tell me how do I close the book on her? Why does it seem so easy for her to do it to me? 

Then I end up questioning whether or not she ever loved me. It’s a vicious cycle that has no real answers. We can only hope that some day soon we can make peace with the grief. 

The grief of a passed on loved one is easier to find serenity about because their life has an ending. However, when the person is still alive it’s so much harder because their life is still in existence and could somehow cross back into yours someday. That’s the hardest part to reconcile, the unease and unknown about their future in regards to your life.

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