How It Feels to Lose Your Grandma

It’s been 4 years. Four. Whole. Years. And yet, it feels like yesterday.

Like just yesterday I was at camp laughing around a fire when suddenly I received the most horrifying call of my life. Like yesterday when I packed my stuff frantically, unable to see anything through the tears. Like yesterday that we drove 24 hours straight until we got to Oklahoma– a place that had once felt like “home” because of grandma’s house, but suddenly felt empty and lonely. Like yesterday when I saw her for the very last time.

I have managed to cope these last four years by pretending she’s still alive in her cute little house surrounded by pets and frying chicken. Just pretending that life has gotten busy and I haven’t had a chance to call. But pretending doesn’t change the fact that I cried almost every single day for the first year. That I was devastated. That I was mad at myself for not being there because maybe if I had been visiting she might have lived. That I was mad at her for dying so young and unexpectedly because somehow it had to be someone’s fault.

And pretending doesn’t change that fact that she never got to meet my husband or admire my engagement ring. She never got to see my babies or know that I named my first one after her. She never got to tell me they were cute or that my daughter looked just like me — bald and everything. She never got to see me graduate college or tell me “good job, honey!” and that she knew I could do it because me and my mama are the smartest people she knows.

Pretending doesn’t change how bad it hurts. And pretending only lasts so long.

Sometimes I remember that this is real life, and the grief suddenly hits me so hard that I can’t breathe. I remember that I will never be able to talk to her again for the rest of my life no matter how badly I wish I could just one more time. I remember that the safest place I’ve ever been, with the one person in the world who has never asked me to be anything but myself is gone. The woman who gave me my mother — the very best friend I’ve ever had — is gone.

Losing her felt like waking up from the best dream ever and realizing that none of it was real. It felt like a whole piece of my heart just disappeared, and yet, everyone else’s world just kept moving as if nothing even happened. It felt like the worst pain all at once — the pain of loss, the pain of regret. But the most painful part is forgetting. I can’t recall her face in my mind quite as vividly as I used to and the sound of her laugh is becoming a memory that I can hardly hear. I clung so tight to her memory and held it so deep in my heart that I thought I would never forget a thing. But time has a way of “healing” everything and dulling even the most vibrant memories, and that’s the part that hurts the worst. It hurts to know that I wake up every day and live a life that she is not a part of. It hurts to think that someday I will have lived more of my life without her here than I did with her.

But I will fight for her memory. I will never let her go completely. I will hold on the moments when I see her in my mama and it feels as if she’s never left. I will hold onto the smell of my “lucky” perfume that smells just like the summer I spent with her when I was 15. I will hold on to the taste of super sweet koolaide and the feeling of a room as cold as she always kept her house. I will look fondly at the scar on my leg that reminds me of Oklahoma,and I will laugh at every crazy plan I have because I know I got all my crazy from her. I will tell my kids all most of the stories she told me and make sure that they know her in the best way they can.

Losing my grandma feels like I woke up in a whole different world, but I will never stop trying to bring her here with me.