• Denisa White

My very own grief story

Updated: May 20, 2021

I never forget the date. It was 27th November 2005 and the early morning dreaded phone call that you know can only deliver bad news arrived. “Your Nan died last night”, a very cold formal voice of my mother informed me. You see, my Nan wasn’t just your average Nan. She was my rock. She was my person to go to when things got difficult at home. She represented safety and hope. Hope that things can be better. And they were while I was with her.

After the initial shock from the unexpected news came rage accompanied by uncontrollable loud howling and a sense of disbelieve. “How could this be?” “How has this happened?” We had all these plans. I had a flight ticket booked to see her in March. She had made all these plans that she was so excitedly talking to me about. You see, I had a one year old boy, her great-grandchild, that she only seen once before. My Nan bought a little football and was telling me how she is going to play with him. “Who is going to do that now?” “Why did it have to be her?” “Why not someone else?”

There was no Face Time back then and my grandmother certainly wasn’t in a possession of a computer, so Skype was out of question! So we relied on our regular phone calls and occasional visits. Living in another country has its added challenges.

To say that I felt utterly devastated would be an understatement. It is hard to find words to describe grief. For me it was as if someone had stuck pins into every inch of my body. A constant ache that stays with you day and night. Despite that pain I had to take care of my son, I had to sort out flight tickets, I had to travel to London as I realised that my passport had expired. The deceased in Slovakia have to be buried within three days of their death. Everything needs to be done quickly.

To survive this cruel ordeal my body and mind clicked into auto pilot. I recall sitting on a train, floods of tears streaming down my face constantly and uncontrollably. I didn’t care who saw, I didn’t care what they thought, I stopped caring full stop. I just wanted it done and then to come back home. I don’t recall the flight over to Slovakia at all. It was all just one big blur. What I do remember however is arriving home late at night and wanting to see my Nan. I had to see for myself that indeed she was dead. I had to touch her face, her hands, now stone cold to believe that indeed she had died. To have that confirmed was again beyond devastating.

I didn’t stay long after the funeral. Both my husband and I had to return to work. I didn’t even get compassionate leave because apparently my grandmother wasn’t my immediate relative! Grief changes you. Your life from now on becomes this huge puzzle that you trying to figure out. How to make life meaningful, enjoyable and fulfilling again. Each day I would be hoping that one day I wake up and that the heart wrenching pain will just go away, that one day I stop hurting. That my grief will be over! That the day that I’ll be able to look at her picture is just round the corner.

It has taken me ten years until I could bare to look at my Nan’s picture. Ten long agonising years that I have been unable to look at what I’ve lost, what I have missed every single day of every single year.

My path has taken me to study counselling. And part of each counselling course is personal therapy. Naturally, you talk not just about the present but also the past. And I allowed myself to do just that. Counselling helped me enormously to learn and to understand that to feel anger, guilt, resentment, despair is very normal and very much part of the grieving process. I talked about what my grandmother represented in my life. Counselling not only helped me to work through my loss, but also helped me to heal my past trauma. We all respond to loss differently and now I know why.

Now, I feel liberated from the intense pain that the loss brought to my life. It doesn’t mean that certain days, like Nan’s birthdays or death anniversaries are not hard, but nowhere as painful as they used to be. I know that counselling helped me to heal. With the help of my fantastic bereavement counsellor I gained a different perspective on life and I discovered whole new meaning to life after loss.

I told you my story because the journey of grief is familiar to me. I want to help others in my situation to be able to live their post-loss “normal” life. The life you’ll be content with, the new “normal” life, the life where you recover from the sheer intensity of every day pain.

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