Every time something good happens in my life, the moment is bittersweet as my grandad isn’t here to witness it. He wasn’t there to see me pass my GCSE’s or my A Levels and he wasn’t in the crowd when I graduated from University. He wasn’t around to witness me get married, or able to hold his great grand children. He wasn’t around to see me start my own business, to see me doing something I am passionate about for work.
I lost my grandad when I was twelve years old. I hate that term ‘lost’, as if he went missing. He developed cancer, which took him from us quickly, and without a lot of warning.
I was incredibly close to my grandad before he passed away. My mum and dad had split up when I was just a toddler, and him and my nan had helped support my mum as a single parent, often looking after me and my younger brother, and taking us all away on trips abroad. Although my grandad didn’t replace my dad as a father figure, they did share the role to a certain extent at times, and my granddad was there when my dad could not be.
When we stayed at my grandparent’s house, my grandad would put us to bed and sit and read and sing with us for ages until we fell asleep. He was the most patient and kind man, and he was loved by everyone he met until the day he died.
Grief is strange, as people experience it differently. For me, my grief spiralled into a deep depression, something I have lived with ever since on and off throughout the years. I struggled to come to terms with never being able to see my grandad again and I became old before my time in many ways, helping out with the younger children during the funeral, and even helping to cook the Christmas dinner that first year as it was something my grandad had always done before.
As the years passed, the pain wasn’t as raw, I could go weeks, months even, without necessarily thinking about my grandad every day. But then I would and the pain would be raw and real again, cutting like a knife. I have always loved photos, and am grateful for all the photos my mum has of me and my grandad together before he passed away, but sometimes now all these years later I look at them and it feels like I am looking at somebody I barely know.
I was only young when he died, my memories of him are limited, and many centre around our last few months with him when he was very ill. We travelled to Disney World in Florida just weeks before he passed away, and it is heartbreaking to look back at photos from the trip and see how ravaged he was by the cancer he was so bravely fighting.
One of my biggest regrets, my only true regret in fact, is that I wasn’t there when he died. I would have been if the decision was mine to make, but family thought it would be too upsetting for me, and I had to stay away. I never got to say goodbye properly, and for months afterwards I called his mobile, leaving messages talking to him and trying to say all those words I didn’t get to say. I would call again and again, listening to his voicemail message on repeat until eventually the phone company cut his number off.
In those first months after he left us, I would have such vivid dreams where he would be there talking to me, telling me it was going to be ok. I would wake up feeling so strange, like he had really been there with me whilst I slept. Since he passed away, we often see white feathers at significant times, or during important conversations, and are sure they are signs from my grandad that he is still around.
Years after he died, I got a tattoo on my left wrist symbolising this, and to remind me to believe in myself as he did. It brings me comfort when things get tough, and helps me through dark days with my mental health. We also have a bench dedicated to him down by the beach, where he visited with us, and we go every Christmas Day to sit and be close to him, and this helps me to deal with him not being around physically. The beach has always been my happy place, and it feels good to feel near to him there.
Even after all these years, I still find it hard to come to terms with him leaving us so early on. He should have been here to celebrate with us through the years and it’s so unfair that he was taken too soon. Losing somebody you love doesn’t get any less painful but, as time goes by, it becomes easier to cope with the grief that once felt it would swallow you whole. If you have lost somebody close to you, SunLife are able to provide information and advice on the practical side of things.
Although the words in this post are incredibly personal to me, this post has been sponsored. All words and images are my own.