Grief is complex and complicated to say the least. Everyone responds different in their own unique way to the magnitude of a loss and what that loss means to them. When the grief hits hard there are mental, emotional and physical symptoms that can come to the surface.
My only suggestion would be to give space and time and feeling to the grief you experience no matter the shape or size it takes in your life. You need these things to take good care and allow your body to process and integrate a transition of any kind. The loss you are experiencing can be big, small or somewhere in between. The thing is- there is no telling how the weight of grief manifests. It’s quite a challenge to respond from the heart when we live in a world that highly values cognition, getting things done and avoiding emotion.
Grief has swept me away this week. I’ve lost my maternal grandfather Jerry and the loss itself has caused me to experience all kinds of symptoms including shock, denial, immense sadness and heartbreak. This is a significant life loss for me. I am feeling heartbroken. I know that a loss of this caliber is going to take me plenty of time to integrate into my life. My inbox is going to be a little less full. My visits to Columbus are going to have another life of one of my loved ones missing. It is an adjustment. It is a life transition. It is going to take time. It’s also wild to think that my grandpa lived a life before my time and that he has impacted, shaped and influenced who I am.
My grandfather surely put the grand in grandfather. We would always say that he was naturally abundant in his nature and that he would act like royalty sometimes by living in the highest regard of his self-worth. My grandpa definitely grandfathered us in: in many ways. He supported my family and was always there. He was so proud of how we chose to lead our lives and always shared our storied with the people he came in contact with. He took me to Paris, France for Thanksgiving when I was in 5th grade. My teacher Mrs. Chickerella was so jealous! I remember how lucky I felt to have someone that wanted to share the world with me. A very special feeling it was! It was my grandma & him with me on the trip. We got to have dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower. What a precious memory I’ll cherish near and dear to my heart. I wrote my college admissions essay about Grandpa and how he was such a giver from the heart. In college, I was the president of Up 'til Dawn which fundraised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The place operated on 2 million dollars a day which is why they receive so much sponsorship. Families get to experience care without ever having to pay a bill. My grandpa always loved my involvement with St. Jude and was always graciously supporting the work I did with the organization.
In Grad School I became a Peer Mentor for Natural Highs Alternatives to Substances & Addition with teens and adults and he was equally just as enthused with the work and was intrigued by our mission and wanted to support. At the final stretch of Grad School at Naropa, I had a dream that my grandpa passed away. I woke up in shock. I checked my phone and a message from Grandpa said: "Check your email." I was so scared that my dream had come true. My fingers could not get to my inbox fast enough. I open my inbox to find a pdf of a brand new Honda Fit. My grandpa bought me a 2019 Honda Fit for Graduation from my Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. I am eternally grateful. What a symbol of all my hard work and how special to know that my grandpa valued what I was doing in the world. I named her Bean for a few reasons. Mr. Bean reminds me of Grandpa and my Grandma always made a famous baked bean recipe. It was a way to call them both in. I was also jellybean Jen at some point, so it all made sense in Tilton fashion! Tilton fashion is where something is close, and you know what they mean- but its a little off. It makes for a fun guessing game. For example: Crate and Barrel vs. Cracker Barrel or McCord Middle School vs. Cord Camera. If you use either of these establishments interchangeably it's close enough to know what you're talking about. My grandma and grandpa provided many laughs to us over the years in Tilton fashion. My grandpa literally has the biggest heart. It was clear his heart was too big for this life!
Something I’ve been feeling about a lot is the fact that I have SO much to miss about him. I have SO many things to remember him by. I have SO many movies AND plays AND books that remind me of him. I have SO many treasures and goodies from my grandma and him both. I ALSO have so much to remember my dad’s parents with too because I ALSO grew up with them in Columbus too. I feel so privileged, lucky, honored and blessed to have multiple generations that surrounded my growth and development. How lucky I am to have someone as special, goofy and honest as him to say goodbye to. I have so much to lose but I think about how MUCH I have gained, just by being his granddaughter. Just by having his impact and influence in my sphere. Death brings up endless memories and endless heartbreak. It’s not a linear progression and it’s not something that you can plan or estimate how you might react or even begin to make sense of. And that gets to be okay. Death is a reminder of how we are much closer to it than we think. Any of us could go at any moment and it wouldn't make it any less hard to say goodbye. When you lose a loved one, please be gentle with your own personal grieving. Please take your time. Please feel your feelings. You are a human experiencing a death; and that is not an easy transition by any means. Life can go on faster than you're ready to and that's simply valid.
My grandpa taught me to network and meet new people with kindness, grace and love. Him and my grandma would travel on luxurious cruise lines and make friends from all over the world. They knew how to connect with anyone! Losing my grandpa this week has also highlighted the ways that I miss my grandma too. She passed in April of 2016 from pancreatic cancer. Almost 5 years was a long time for my grandpa’s heart to go on without her.
The prayer of serenity: this would be the first thing you would see when walking in my grandparents house- coming in the garage door or the front door. It was in the threshold between the two: the prayer says “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” I would always wonder what living life by that prayer would truly look like. I would also think about development. Does one stage of development allow access to this any easier as we age?
Rest in Love and Rest In Peace. To all Grandparents and all Wise Elders. I love you.