Last week, I had to experience one of the hardest things in life – saying goodbye to a loved one. My grandfather passed away at 85. It’s the first time I’ve had to cope with a death in my family, and even though he lived a long life, it was still hard. Not only was it difficult saying goodbye, but it was also incredibly tough to see my grandmother completely shattered. My grandparents were married for nearly 65 years.
I’ve realized that although experiencing the death of a loved one is difficult on so many levels, it puts things into perspective. I’ve been more cognizant of the little moments – sleeping in on a Sunday, enjoying a great cup of coffee, going for a run, soaking in a nice hot bath, getting cozy in clean sheets. Ultimately, life is a collection of these little moments, and very often we’re so distracted we miss what’s happening in the present. Unfortunately, not all of these moments are happy, but harder times help you appreciate the good times even more.
In the last week or so, I’ve found these four things have helped me cope with grief:
1. Taking things one day at a time
It’s all about the baby steps. Grief can be overwhelming, but when you focus on the present it helps make it more manageable. I’ve found taking care of mindless tasks like sweeping, washing dishes, doing laundry, helps keep my mind occupied and is soothing in a weird way.
2. Remembering the good times
Since my grandfather suffered from dementia the last 7 years, I felt that I lost him a long time ago. I tried to remember him before he was sick – the silly things he would do that drove my grandmother crazy, his unannounced coffee visits at my house growing up, his love for beige suits (no joke, every event photo he has the same damn beige suit on), the day he showed up at the house with beautiful gold earrings he had purchased from an Indian jeweler for each of us girls (I still wear these earrings to this day).
3. Spending time with family
I had a few family members travel to Chicago to attend the funeral, and I cannot express how helpful it was to have them here. It was so comforting to be surrounded by others who could relate to what I was feeling. Sometimes, you just need a good old hug.
4. Browsing through old photos
One night, a few days after my grandpa passed, we were all gathered at my mom’s house. I thought it’d be a good idea for us to go through the boxes of old family photos that were stashed in the closet. It was actually healing to sift through the old pictures. There were tears and laughs, and of course, funny anecdotes came up as people remembered the story behind the pictures. It was a reminder of all the good times we had with our grandfather, and the fulfilling life that he lived.