My Experience of Loss

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Kim shares her experience of losing her grandma, the impact this has had on her, and the comfort she has found within the Let’s Talk About Loss community.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandma and grandad. I had a great time with them – as their first grandchild, I was fairly spoilt! In 2001, my grandparents moved to Spain and I spent every summer school holidays there with them.

My grandad died suddenly of a heart attack in Spain in September 2004 – I was 15 years old. All of our family assumed my grandma would move back to England after my grandad died but she was happy, very sociable and hated the English weather, so she stayed in Spain.

In 2006 my grandma began dating a man named Ray, eventually they moved in together and stayed together for 16 years, right up until my grandma died.

Moving back to the UK

My grandma was a heavy smoker and towards the end of her life she developed COPD. In spite of this she always had a smile on her face and was so happy to see me.

In September 2021, my grandma reluctantly agreed to move back to England so we could be closer to her should anything happen to her. She was 81 years old, and we knew as time went on things would only get worse and not better.

My grandma and Ray moved close to where my dad lives in November 2021. My grandma hated how cold it was in England – she was glad to be closer to the family but deep down I knew she always saw herself staying in Spain forever.

From there, her health deteriorated rapidly, with lots of admissions to hospital as her lungs got weaker.

A final video call

On 23rd June 2022, I got a video call from my grandma. She’d been admitted to hospital again but didn’t know what all the fuss was about. She was smiling but I could see she was being given oxygen constantly through a nose tube. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last time I would speak to her.

On my next day off, the 29th of June, I arrived at the hospital to be met by my dad. He told me that my grandma was getting weaker, and there was nothing they could do for her.

My grandma was in a private room – she looked so different to the person I’d seen on the video call 6 days earlier. She’d been sedated to keep her comfortable – my step mum is a nurse and she told me to keep talking to my grandma as she would still be able to hear me. I was inconsolable as my grandma’s breathing changed.

In the moment my grandma passed away, I felt like my whole world had come crashing down. 

A surreal experience

In the lead-up to the funeral, I spent a lot of time with my Mum. My dad was struggling with his own grief and was unable to support me, leaving me feeling let down.

My grandma was the one person I could talk to about anything, she was there for me a lot when my parents got divorced in 2016 and was great at giving advice with no judgement. She was the matriarch of our family and I saw a lot of myself in her, she used to say she could see a lot of herself in me too.

The funeral was held on 18th July 2022 and it was such a surreal experience. I’d seen my grandma take her last breath, but my brain didn’t want to accept what had happened. I just felt numb and sobbed the whole way through it.

No right or wrong way to grieve

I went back to work after the funeral and thought I was doing ok. But in February 2023 I was signed off work with stress and anxiety and I’m still off work now.

I couldn’t understand why this breakdown was happening 7 months after my grandma’s death. My therapist explained that while I’m talking through what happened as part of my counselling, my brain is bringing it all to the surface in order to process it.

My GP has been great, and I’m taking each day as it comes and trying not to be too hard on myself.

There’s no right or wrong way to grieve and grief doesn’t go in a strict timeline. One minute you think you’ve moved on to the next stage and the next you feel like you’re back at square one – but you will get there in time.

You are never on your own

I looked for podcasts and articles about grief and came across the Let’s Talk About Loss Facebook group. The group have been so welcoming to me and it’s nice to talk about how you’re feeling without worrying that you’ll upset them, like you may do when you speak to family or friends. I hope that others reading this get some comfort from the group like I do.

I hope that sharing my story so far might help normalise how you’re feeling if you’re going through a similar situation. My advice is to take each day as it comes and know that you’re never on your own.

Kim O’Brien

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