Content Warning: Themes of death and grief in this article. Language may be distressing for some
Earlier this month I paid a visit to my grandmother’s grave for the first time. Coming up to the third anniversary of her death and I’ve finally come to terms with her passing. I certainly hadn’t planned on it taking this long and finally making the journey to Neuchâtel, Switzerland felt like the end of a two year long chapter of my life. Thinking about how much this trip had impacted me, it highlighted to me how differently people cope with death.
As someone who believes in an afterlife, I never really gave much thought about death. This changed after my grandmother passed away. I was a 19 year old who’d never experienced grief, yet my whole outlook on life was suddenly altered. I became someone who couldn’t stop thinking about death and how temporary life is. For a year after my grandmothers’ death, I found it very difficult to make future plans without thinking about how short term it all was. This was all compounded by not being able to visit my grandmother while she was suffering from cancer.
Arriving in Neuchâtel was strange, knowing that my grandmother wasn’t there. Having spent most summers of my childhood in her home, I had to establish a new normal when in Neuchâtel. But being in Neuchâtel wasn’t as painful as I’d envisioned. Once I’d gone to see my grandmother’s grave, I felt at peace. I talked to my sister about how she felt after visiting our grandmother’s last resting place; “I don’t think it changed much, I already had closure but it was fine. I wanted to see it but I didn’t cry or anything because it wasn’t… yeah, it was okay”.
One thing that always bothered me was the feeling that I wasn’t grieving correctly. I know that grief is personal, it rarely ever looks the same from person to person. But for some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow everybody else had figured out something I hadn’t. After my grandmother’s death I was unable to cry, although I’m not someone who cries a lot anyhow. But witnessing the tears of everyone around me just made me feel atypical. When we were talking about grief and dealing with loss, she said “I guess there are 5 stages of grief, the last being acceptance, so that’s kinda always ongoing. But mourning and grieving are not the same thing, so it’s probably mourning that ends but you continue grieving”.
The one thing I’ve learnt about grief is that you are never really okay with someone passing, you just become less emotional. It isn’t natural to expect to be completely fine, or to give yourself a timeframe in which you’ll ‘get back to normal’. Some days you’ll be fine, but on other days small things will act as reminders, and you just need to find ways of coping with your feelings.
Another person I spoke to about grief and loss, who’d lost two family members and their dog this summer, said “I don’t think that there’s anything you can really do to deal with grief because in the beginning it’s so many emotions all tangled together, its impossible to sport out.” They also reiterated the points made by everyone I spoke to, such as relying on your support network, whether that be family or friends when going through loss. “It’s okay to cry about it because it means they are loved”, they said.