A Long Road
by Kay Thompson
My story with grief began long ago, and isn't yet complete. After losing 6 (very close) relatives over a course of eight years you can see how it has been hard. Most recently I lost my maternal grandmother in august, to carcenoid cancer. After months of being told she was okay, and premature grief (grieving before the death, because I knew what was happening.) She got worse. I was babysitting and got a phone call from my mother. She was going to pick me up and we were going to make the nearly five hour commute to grandma's house. We were forty-five minutes away when she went. She couldn't hold on. And the part that hurt the most was that I knew. I felt it, and so I was scared, and asked to visit a couple days before, but the doctors themselves couldn't predict what my paranoia could, so my family was under the pleasant delusion all was well. It was me and grandma's secret, but she never told me. I don't know how long we stayed with grandpa, but I can tell you a thirteen year old should never plan a funeral. I was so involved, that my need to be strong for my family undermined my need for myself. I was physically sick. I barely ate one day's meal in a week. I didn't cry. I couldn't cry, until the funeral, then it was okay. Just the month before, my great uncle had passed away. As with my grandmother, his interest in his family and my natural loving nature had made us extremely close. His cancer finally took him. He was like a third grandfather to me and my cousins. I watched him slowly waste away, as I did with both grandmothers, two great aunts, and a dearly, dearly loved grandfather. I recently found via my great aunt, his wife, he had left each of my cousins and I a sum of 5000 dollars each. This brought back fresh pain to think that he ever could have loved me enough to leave me that much money. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that he really loved me that much. It hurts to think how much he must have treasured the occasional email I wrote him, and when I visited with my father. I know I enjoyed it, but had no idea he enjoyed it as much. He always said how proud he was of me. Back to my grandfather. He had to be one of the most treasured people I knew and loved. My cousins and I had affectionately nicknamed him 'Pop' and my only regret is being the baby of the family and not knowing him as long as the others. He was one of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and such a precious man. Think Santa Claus with an amazing sense of humor, and a shorter beard. And hair not white, but more of a silvery colour. Our time together was precious, so precious. And it kills me every time I think of how much I miss him. Him especially. I wish it hadn't been him. I wish it hadn't been any of them, but such is life. I believe God wouldn't give me anything He didn't know I was strong enough to handle. He must think I'm pretty darn strong. Pop passed in the hospital over a year ago. I went to school on the anniversary of his death. I shouldn't have. There was seldom a moment when I didn't cry. My poor friends must have been so confused, because no one really asked me about it. I'm sorry I can't tell you the date, but I break down every time I have to see it in writing. It's too painful. I don't know how long before his death it was, but I had a terrifying dream in which he was brutally murdered. I believe this was my subconscious expressing my fear of his death. Anyone who's lost someone at a young age knows it's hard to be a child again afterwards. My granny (biological paternal grandmother) died when I was five. It may seem like not that big a deal, but to me, it was a crippling blow. I had seen her every sunday for as long as I can remember. As a child I would visit her with my parents right after church. Every week. A few weeks before she died I was told I couldn't see her. Then one day my mother explained to me that she had died. I remember crying at night, but eventually accepted that granny was an angel. I drew a very clear picture of me crying with music playing out of my stereo, and above my roof, granny was flying over the house smiling down at me. I think that represents more than anything, that I had accepted the solemness of death. These losses have most certainly changed me. I think that when people think of me, they see this perfect life. I am an A student, I am good at sports, music, many things I do. My parents are together. I have a dog. A laptop. But everyone has their own struggle. And mine is with grief. I am an A student and my teachers like me because I was raised by all my family to believe that success is not in talent, or being 'smart'. Success is in hard work. I work hard. I am blessed enough to be multi-talented, but I'm not incredibly exceptional at anything in particular. Though my parents are not separated or divorced,I still view myself as coming from a broken home because we have suffered so much together. My dog is a distraction. My mother and I didn't know what to do when both our first dog and cat passed away. Our cat was my best friend from the day I was born, and not having her presence at night was so heartbreaking. If you've lost an animal you understand. We heard their collars jingling, and heard the tap of their feet on the hardwood floor, which is scary when it hits you again that they're not really there. As for the laptop, none of them know I bought it with some of the money left to me by my dead uncle. It's not so cool then. People assume because of my enthusiastic attitude I am always happy. I am just one of those people who grieves alone. I only cry in front of people at funerals and when I can't hold it in. People know that I have lost people. They just don't often realize how much it hurts me because while I am open about my experiences with death, I tell them straight-faced and solemnly. The losses have transformed me from an entirely different person than I used to be. I find myself so much more compassionate to others than my peers, because I've felt that pain. And while my friends can feel sadness for another friend who's going through something, I can literally feel my heart drop. I can feel their own pain in my chest, because I know how it hurts. I also attribute the close deaths in my family to my need for recognition. I know I do well in school. I know I have an ear for music. I know I can sing. I know I am insightful, and mature. I know I can throw a shotput well enough to be ranked third in the city. But it doesn't matter. I still feel the need to be told my parents are proud of me. It's not low self esteem, because I wouldn't change anything about myself. God made me this way. I think it's because I value life so much, and I love my family and friends so much they could never know. That I need to know that I am pleasing to them, because their opinion matters to me. Anyone who's gone through it knows what I've been babbling on about. How every moment becomes treasured and special when someone's gone. And you never forget to say 'I love you' again. My problem is I know how to heal, but I don't want to. I'd rather stay solemn and think I'm the only one in the world who's felt this, than free myself and recognize that while no one can feel my pain, everyone either has or will go through the grieving process. And I need to stop patronizing myself and let them go. I need to grow up.