How Do I Get Over Losing My Grandfather?

How Do I Get Over Losing My Grandfather?

How Do I Get Over Losing My Grandfather?By Sue Ellson

Caroline’s question:

On 23 March 2006, we received this question from Caroline (updated on 19 January 2017):

How do you get over losing your grandfather?

Sue’s response:

Dear Caroline,

Thank you for your question – it is interesting that you felt that it could be answered by a website for newcomers!

I am not a psychologist but I will do my best to provide some of my thoughts to you in the hope that they may be of some assistance.

I am not aware of either your relationship with your grandfather or how his death occurred – perhaps you were a long way away and were not able to return to see him before he died or for the funeral.

I do know that there are many resources available for people suffering from bereavement grief and loss, particularly after the loss of someone so special to you.

Here in Australia, I have been fortunate to have found the resources of the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement (ACGB) and you may find some of these helpful.

Now, for some personal reflections.

I lost my paternal grandmother when I was just 11 years old. I adored her – and I always felt that I was the ‘number one grandchild’ (also the first born). To this day, when I think of special occasions, I think of how proud she would be and how much she would have loved to have been there. She was greatly loved by many people and was a truly kind and loving person – my school work suffered for some years and even now, almost 30 years later, as I type this, a tear comes to my eye.

My maternal grandfather died in 1990. In some ways, we had been estranged as a result of my decision to leave home and live with my boyfriend (who became my husband and is now my ex-husband after 19 years of marriage). Only one week before his death, I had popped in and enjoyed a cup of tea with him at home and it was if we both accepted each other just as we were. Just before he died, he welcomed my ex husband to his hospital bed and held a conversation with him – a way of saying ‘sorry’ for ‘disconnecting’ over the years. I went there to support my mother who of course was about to lose her father. I spoke at his funeral with my eldest cousin by my side.

My paternal grandfather died at the age of 90 in 2009. He lived on Kangaroo Island so I did not see him as often as my grandparents in Adelaide. We used to chat on the telephone and exchange cards and hand written letters. I also had an opportunity to talk to him at length about death and dying before he died (see photo above taken two months before his death) and this was a lovely time to spend together and collect some good stories for his eulogy.

My maternal grandmother died in 2015. In the latter years, I would always visit her whenever I visited Adelaide (about three times a year) and we would always enjoy long chats and great conversations. Her death at the age of 97 was not unexpected, but I was fortunate to be able to provide a very descriptive and personal eulogy at her funeral.

As I reflect on the important people in my life, I realise that indeed there are many people in my life in Melbourne that fulfil the ‘role’ of Grandmother, Grandfather, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Aunty, Uncle, Cousin, Friend, Foe, etc.

These people do not REPLACE my relatives, they are in addition and in their own way, they have uplifted me throughout my life. In fact some of my female friends I actually call my sisters!

I enjoy the good (and even the grumpy) memories of my grandparents.  I always knew that because they were much older than me, the natural order suggests that they would be much more likely to die before me.

I am sure that your Grandfather would want you to have a very happy, healthy and fulfilling life and that your period of grief may last a long time, but I can assure you that your memories will serve you in many ways in the future and that they may be a bridge to new understandings of you and your own life.

If his death has occurred with many other things happening (perhaps a change in your job, relationship, financial circumstances, health) then it is likely that it will be more difficult than you would usually expect.

It is important that if you were not there for the funeral, that you work out a way to have a special ceremony for him – and of course find some friends who are happy to hear you tell your stories about your Grandfather, hand you tissues as you cry and give you as many hugs as you need.

I have a necklace that my Grandmother bought for me – and whenever I want to ‘have her close’ – I wear it. Perhaps there is something of your Grandfather’s that you can have with you when you want to feel his warmth in your life.

It is wonderful that you are seeking help. Find more help if you need it, ask for assistance, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. All of us handle things in different ways….hopefully my musings are helpful too.

With every best wish

Sue Ellson

Caroline’s response:

Thanks for that it really helped me thanks again.

Further update:

There are some excellent resources available via the Australian Psychological Society website including how to handle traumatic and stressful events.


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