Losing a grandparent in your twenties

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Emily writes in this blog about the experience of losing her Grandad, and why we must not overlook the grief of losing a grandparent.

My Grandad sadly died at the beginning of December 2021, less than 3 months after his 90th Birthday. Getting that phone call literally seconds after my students walked out of the classroom for lunchtime to tell me that he had gone is a moment I will never be able to forget. The immediate thoughts that went through my head were – should I stay at work? Should I just carry on with the day? I didn’t. I went home, I put music by Il Divo on and I broke down on the kitchen floor.

Remembering my Grandad

Naturally, my Grandad had been a massive part of my life. When I was little, he would take my brother, cousins and me swimming, to the park, to McDonald’s. It’s those moments that I will always remember. He helped teach me to drive and he was always the first person I would phone when I was at university to tell all my news to.

There’s a definite atmosphere of ‘so what? That happens to everyone.’

What I have found is that there is a stark difference between how people acted towards me when they found out my Dad passed away and people’s attitude towards my Grandad’s death. It has been just over two months since he passed; yet, when I tell people that my Grandad died, often people either say nothing or they change the subject. There’s a definite atmosphere of ‘so what? That happens to everyone.’ This is what I have found really difficult. When my Dad passed away almost a decade ago, people were sympathetic. However, I have found the general attitude towards my Grandad’s death rather apathetic.

Grief for someone so special

It breaks my heart that people seem to be surprised that I’m still as devastated as I am about losing my Grandad – he was a major part of my life, my childhood in particular. It’s confusing, as well as saddening, to me. Why don’t we consider losing a grandparent the same level of tragedy we consider losing an immediate family member? People tend to call a grandparent’s death “inevitable” — but they wouldn’t say that about a parent or sibling, would they?

I have found that losing my Grandad has been quite an isolating and lonely experience. For me, personally, the hardest part has been that the one person I want to talk to about it is my Dad – who of course is not around. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had such a wonderful relationship with my Grandad – I know others are less fortunate.

Time to process

I’ve also found it hard that my days are so filled up with work. Keeping busy is good, but not having time to process my emotions and having to put on a happy face for eight hours Monday to Friday, especially important while I am teaching; it wears me thin. I am left desperately needing space in my day to feel the raw grief again. The recent Christmas holidays meant that I had the time to feel all the emotions: sadness, anger, loneliness, confusion, heartbreak. I guess it can’t be possible to empathise with something they’ve never experienced. I went to buy Christmas cards midway through December and cried seeing the cards for Grandads.

My Grandad’s funeral was the hardest day I have ever had to go through – much harder than my Dad’s funeral in 2012. I am certain many people have had to experience a funeral during COVID times – distancing and limited numbers. My Grandad was well respected and loved by the community he lived in yet I felt this was not reflected at his funeral. All I wanted to do was shout and scream about how much of an inspirational man he was.

The death of a Grandparent needs to be seen for the tragedy that it truly is.

My Grandad always said “With me by your side, you’ll always be safe.” Who’s meant to keep me safe now?

Emily Maybanks

Want to find a community of grievers who understand loss? Find your local meet up here.