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Grieving my Nanny

This past Christmas, I flew home with the intentions on making the biggest priority to be spending time with both of my grandmothers. They are both getting much older and both have had declining health in the last year, so I especially wanted to make sure the kids and myself got to spend time with them. But guess what; my kids came down with a gastro virus and it knocked my whole family down for the holidays and spread like wild fire. It went from my kids to me and their dad and then from us to my mother and brother, sister-in-law and nephew. It came in fast and furious and at least one of us was contagious at all times during our visit.

So I made the choice to not to take my kids into visit my Nanny Chan in the nursing home. She was 94 with progressing dementia, and weakened health. I knew she couldn’t handle a virus like that and I knew I couldn’t live with the guilt if I passed on a virus to her that she couldn’t fight off. I hoped it wasn’t my last chance to see her, but I knew inside it very well could be.

Last week, less than a month later I get the call that she’s gone.

I’m heartbroken that I didn’t get to see her that one last time, but I know I can live with that choice easier than I could have if I had caused it by spreading a virus to her the month before. I also know that I did have that last visit; I had it many times before. With her memory diminishing, I had been treating every visit as if it could be my last. The last one she remembered, or perhaps the last one at all.

Going through all my pictures of her, I found one of a cherished memory of her two Christmas ago. We brought my baby daughter home and Nanny smiled and laughed and even remembered my name that day, even though there were visits before she questioned who I was. So that Christmas is what I hold in my heart as a special memory. A memory that I think she was still capable of remembering at the time too. I have that day and that memory to hold in my heart.

Losing someone you love is always hard on the heart and I’m grateful I have a job that accommodates time off for grieving the passing of a family member. In such a sad and stressful time it’s one less thing to worry about when you can have those days off that are soooo needed. I’m back to work today and I have found myself stressed about how I am going to wear my hair, of all things.

Let me explain

During my time off for my grandmothers passing, I got my hair cut. This was making me feel anxious and worried about being judged, I didn’t even show my own mother right away and put it up in my usual bun. After-all, I was off work to grieve the loss of my grandmother. Losing her and connecting with all my friends, many of who are grieving their own losses,  it really got me thinking about the grieving process and how it has so many stages and forms. We cant judge others for the way they grieve.

Let me tell you a little about all the ways that I grieved.

I wrote in my journal and smeared the ink with the tears as I wrote. I cried in my bed alone and in the shower, I also cried in my partners arms. I held my composure and cried no tears on the phone call to my mother and father that day I found out, and balled when I hung up. I reminisced old stories with my cousins and laughed about the memories. I prayed and sent my love to her. I spent time just being with my family. I slept in as long as the kids would let me some days. I got my hair cut. I played in the snow with my kids. I shared pictures of my grandmother with all my cousins across the country and in the US. I planned a family dinner to honour her. I cried for hours while scrolling through old pictures and spent time digging out and searching for more. I went to a yoga class. I went to a breath work class with 25 women who held space for each other’s souls to be expressed and experienced. I cried there too. I laughed with my cousin and parents and aunt again over old stories and memories. I cried when I didn’t expect to. I smiled to myself over a memory that I also didn’t expect. I drank wine. I showed my kids pictures of Nanny and retold the story of whatever that picture was of. I also made the choice with my partner not to try and explain what happened to our kids just yet at their age. My family made the choice not to have a traditional funeral for her and to honour her in our own way which I didn’t like at first but am ok with now.

What I’ve taken away from that reflection:

There’s no such thing as crying too much or not crying enough.

It’s OK to not even cry at all, just as much as it’s OK to cry so hard you can’t speak in that moment or catch your breath.

You do not feel the loss any less if you choose not to post about it online, or any more if you post 10000 pictures.

Your loved one is not honoured any more or any less by a traditional funeral or a celebration of life, or a private event, or no big event at all.

There is no set time frame of how long you can or can’t grieve for.

No one else can decide if “they” consider you close enough to the person (or animal) you are grieving.

I grieved in ways others could see, and in ways others couldn’t. The process is personal and individual. The one thing that matters most, is that you don’t let it consume you. Those pieces and activities in between the grief, they are part of the process. They are part of not being consumed with grief. A break between the sadness. That rest for your heart, that can come in many forms and only you know what you truly need. It might be a long walk, a visit with a loved one, a bath, going to the gym, playing your favourite music….the list goes on. If its getting your haircut that means an hour away from the tears just to let your heart have a rest; girl get that hair cut.

Love you Nanny Chan.

01/05/1925 – 22/01/2020 <3