Hi and welcome to my latest blog – if you have not listened to my podcast – this is the blog version:
Last week, was the anniversary of my grandmothers passing. Two years since I lost her, and today, this podcast is devoted to her and the subject of grief.
My nan was called Ann Tomlinson. She was 82 when she passed and would have been 84 come June. She was born in Cork, Ireland and came over due to marriage to my dearly departed Grandfather. Stanley Tomlinson. Together, they raised three children losing one in his 20’s and were especially close to my mother. My nan and I always had a special relationship. We lived together on and off since I was 15 years old, and I loved the bones of her. Her and my Grandfather divorced when I was still a kid, and he lived his retirement travelling until ultimately passing away in Thailand three years ago. My nan faced and beat cancer once, moved in with me to be looked after when I bought a house in Wales, until a fall a month before her passing caused a bleed on the brain, and her cancer had aggressively returned. She was a woman full of wisdom and instruction. Telling me exactly what she wanted, how and what she hoped for me. I cared for her throughout her time with me, ensured she received the best care and ultimately lived a peaceful life, enjoying the company of my babies. She had specified that no matter what happened, she wanted to pass at home, and we made it happen though we had a few close calls in hospital as she had developed sepsis.
One of the hardest things I had to do – to follow her wishes to the letter was to fill a do not resuscitate form. She had always made it clear that if it came down to it, she never wanted to be brought back to suffer. I understand that. She had funny moments in the hospital, though, like telling a nurse that she will shoot her! Luckily, the nurse thought it was funny and chided nan playfully. When she was more herself, she laughed and did not believe me that she said that!
Caring for someone is hard; I won’t sugar coat it. As she lost mobility and perception due to the brain bleed, she always recognised me, my mum and eldest boy as we had been a constant in her life. Towards the end, she forgot that she no longer lived in London and wanted to go back to her flat, but of course, due to others’ actions, and the state of her health, it was not meant to be. She also forgot that she wasn’t married to my grandad anymore, so worried about him. She also began to see people and children who we could not see, visit her and would talk to me about them, before she lost her speech. Every day I asked her “do you know how much I love you?” and she would squeeze my hand, right up until her last day. I would carry her to her commode, clean her, feed her, organise her medicine, organise nurses to check on her and help, because, in the last week, it became incredibly difficult to carry her. I knew if she was off, just by looking at her, and I always acted quickly. Her last fall haunts me – I had gone to sort her medicine, reminded her to use the toilet in her room but as I went to a room to sort it, she had got up and attempted to go to the bathroom – she hated me watching her every move, and it was then she fell, hitting her head on my bath and within minutes, she was found in a pool of blood. I will never forget that. The scream that left my mouth wasn’t my own. Within a month, she died. And to lose someone you deeply love, someone who was a constant in your life, your best friend, your company, your everything, Is like your heart has been ripped out and shredded.
After she passed, I went into “auto” mode. Organising everything to the letter. Making sure she had peace and dignity. I stood up for my mum when someone was incredibly inappropriate, and I protected my nan in both life and death. I also did when she wanted me to do – to learn how to drive – for independence and did my masters degree in her name. I finished my first book, and though most of the time, I still grieve. I push forward, hoping that I am making her proud.
The hardest things are that I can no longer pop into her room for a chat. I can’t share my stress, and I can’t make her a cup of tea in her favourite mug. But I do dream of her, often and feel that she is close in spirit. No one loved her the way I did. We drove each other crazy, but we were and always will be close.
But I grieve and I always will.
I have been working through the five stages of grief:
The first being Denial/isolation: I think I took more on the isolation side of things, and still do. Lighting candles in my room and opting to be on my own in here. But I am starting councilling and trying to find my way out of my head.
The second is anger. I have been angry; over the last two years, I have felt rage. Not over her passing but over how she was treated in her life and the stresses that were unduly placed on her by others. I am not going to name names, but if you are one of the ones listening and think it is about you, it probably is. I am now looking to get justice for my nan, and she will have it. I have let a lot of this anger go, only recently. I have given it to someone who will act on it, and though it feels like rage has lifted, I won’t stop – nan never deserved the treatment that others gave her. She had a heart of gold and always did her best by people. Often, by a select few, it was thrown in her face and made her health a lot worse. Until the last six weeks of her life, I cut them all off so she could have peace. I looked after her, and ultimately it was my decision to make what was best for her, and she passed peacefully.
The third is bargaining – the “if only I…” I came to terms with this early in grieving because I know I did everything I could and what was right. I followed all instructions to the letter by the nurses plus I had a family to look after. My nan had to best care and even the nurses who visited said how well she was loved and looked back. I faced my own fears and grew strength to ensure she had exactly what she needed and wanted. As my mum said – if she were in the same position, she would want the same thing as nan. She passed in her sleep, medicated by nurses and was as comfortable as can be. I slept in the living room and was there right until the moment came.
The fourth is something I have always dealt with – depression, it has made it worse, losing my nan, and I went to some pretty dark places in my head. But I know she would have wanted me to seek help before it escalated so I did and I am on medication for sleep and depression, starting councilling to work through my grief and also trying to look to the future. I keep her in my heart and head, so even in the days that I can barely function, I know she would be there to lift me up.
The fifth is acceptance. She had always said to me that everyone has to go some time, I’d always reply – not you, you’re immortal. I cannot accept that I won’t see her again. I know I will. I can’t fully accept that she is gone. I won’t. I pray for her, surround her ashes with flowers and candles and follow catholic rites to send that message to heaven that she is alive in my heart. I can’t let her go. But what I can do is give her final peace and ensure that all of her wishes her fulfilled. I am working on that part. Because she was my nan. And my nan was my hero.
Grief is entirely personal. My stages were not in this order; yours may or may not be too. But if you are struggling, like I was, talk to someone, your doctor, your partner, a friend. Do not suffer alone. You can even call anonymously to a local hotline if you do a google search.
Thank you for listening, and I wish you a wonderful week.
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