Response

Response #
16
Person who died
Grandfather
Category
Past experience of grief
Respondent details
25-34 | Female | British
Q1: What was the nature of your relationship with the person who died?
My Grandfather (Father's father)
Q2: How has the person’s death affected you during the hours, days, and weeks that followed?
The atmosphere around the family home changed. My mother and father were upset, my father more so. My sister did not really seem to process what had happened, but was upset because the family was upset. I felt like I should have been upset, and guilty that I was not visibly upset. I knew that he had been ill for a long time and so it was easier to come to terms with the fact that he was no longer suffering. Some of the requests that he had made for after his death were quite amusing - and that is the kind of person that he was. His funeral car was decorated with football memorabilia, and he requested that guests at the funeral wore football shirts. I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral, and this really annoyed me.
Q3: How, if at all, have your relationships with other people (particular individuals and other people in general) been affected by the bereavement?
Following his death there was a lot of upset between my father and his siblings over my grandfather's possessions and how best to remember him, which was very upsetting to overhear. There were also other, unrelated, shifting family dynamics over this period (my uncle and aunt getting divorced), which added to the strangeness over this period and strained relationships. There was more anger towards my uncle leaving my aunt (my dad's sister) at that time - because, in part, it was so soon after her father's death - than I think there would have otherwise been.
As I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral, I was upset that I wasn't allowed to see all of my cousins - as selfish as that sounds.
I found it very strange going to visit my nan when he was no longer alive. The house didn't smell as strongly of smoke, and he was no longer sat in his chair. I don't remember finding this particularly upsetting, but I remember finding everything quite strange and as if something was out of place.
Q4: Does the surrounding world seem any different to you while grieving? If so, how?
My nan's house seemed very different, and at special occasions (such as Christmas) certain traditions were no longer followed, which added to the strangeness. For about a year my nan wore black.

As my sister was just starting secondary school and I was studying for my GCSEs, a lot of the experiences of change and stress were combined, so it is difficult to say what was and what wasn't part of grief. I don't think that I viewed my other grandparents any differently, but I always saw them more frequently because they lived closer.
Q5: Has your experience of time changed in any way?
I don't think so, because there was more of an emphasis on mine and my sister's schooling. This became the focus for my parents as much as myself, and time seemed to continue as normal.
Q6: Has your body felt any different during grief?
I was sad, but it was more that I felt that I should be crying. I wasn't sure why my body didn't react in the way that other people's did. I was more concerned with the fact that I wasn't crying when I felt I should be, and I only felt more upset when I saw other people upset (this being one of the only times I have seen my father cry).
Q7: Has grief interfered in any way with your ability and motivation to perform various tasks, including paid work?
My school and teachers were aware and understanding, but I don't recall any increased lack of motivation - I certainly don't remember using this as an excuse. Following the bereavement, my parents had tried to keep everything as normal as possible, continuing with extra-curricular clubs as normal in addition to school.
Q8: Is your experience of grief changing over time? If so, how?
I remember that a while after the death my parents were willing to talk about my grandfather's death more. Looking over photographs and recalling fond memories was more positive for everyone, and allowed us to look upon his life more fondly rather than focusing on his death. I did feel that my response was very different to other people's. My friend's grandfather died at the same time and she was very visibly emotional and upset, so I felt that I was grieving in the 'wrong way' and my response was somehow inappropriate. I wonder if I had gone to the funeral if I would have responded differently initially, but we shall never know.
Q9: Have you ever found yourself looking for the person who died or expecting that person to appear?
No, I wouldn't say so. There were objects in his house that reminded me of him, and which looked strange without him. But I did not expect him to re-appear or to be sat there in his chair.
Q10: Are there times, places, and occasions that have made you especially aware of the person’s absence?
Yes, mostly occasions. Very shortly after the funeral it was my father's birthday and he did not want to celebrate, and the whole day was abnormal and made us think of my grandfather's passing. Certain key events, like weddings in the family, also make his absence apparent (such as him not being there to give away my auntie when she remarried).

Whenever I call my nan to give her news, I always wish that I could have told him. I wish that I could have introduced my fiancé to him.

There are some places that make me aware of it too, such as his house and his chair. I always think that [country] is in some way linked to my grandfather, as he had previously been there and we visited shortly before he passed away. Photographs also, of course, make me especially aware of his absence.

The smell of tobacco always reminded me of him growing up too, as he was the only family member who smoked and the only person allowed to smoke in our house.
Q11: People who are grieving often report experiencing the presence of the person who died. Have you had any experiences that you would describe in those terms?
No, I don't think so (though perhaps in dreams - but I would be aware upon waking that this was just a dream).
Q12: Do you still feel a sense of connection with the person? If so, could you say something about when you feel this and what the experience is like?
It's not so much a sense of connection, but when I am told that my grandfather would be proud (like when I got my degree, or my blackbelt) I feel happy knowing that he would approve - though there will always be a sense of wishing that he could be here, or could know about my achievements. But, at the same time, I appreciate that no one lives forever and he was very ill; given the life that he had, he did very well to live for as long as he did.
Q13: Since the person died, is there anything that you have been doing in order to feel close to them?
My sister had my grandfather's aftershave on his [football team] teddybear (and she still follows football, and I believe that this is only for my grandfather), but I didn't really do anything like this. I would make sure I was in touch with my nan, and there for my father, but this wasn't really to be any closer to my grandfather.
Q14: Is there anything that you do in order to avoid being reminded of the person or of their death?
Not really. Even looking at pictures I am reminded of times with him, rather than being reminded of his death. I did not seek out extra ways to remember him, but nor did I avoid them. There is still the sense that my nan's house is also still his house; his belongings and pictures haven't been removed. This makes me happy, and I think that I would find it odd if she had taken everything down.
Q15: Has anything in particular helped you to cope with grief? Has anything made you feel better or worse?
Seeing my parents upset made me more upset, but being distracted by other things - and continuing my routine as normal - made me feel better.
Q16: How understanding have other people been? Have others said or done anything that you've found especially helpful or unhelpful?
This is a difficult question. I found the school very understanding, but I didn't really find that I needed them to be. My nan wearing black was her way of grieving, but it annoyed me that she didn't honour my grandfather's wishes. I think I would have liked to have gone to the funeral, though I respect that my parents had mine and my sister's best interests at heart.
Q17: How, if at all, has your experience of bereavement changed you as a person?
I think that, since then, my reaction to other losses has not really changed. I have become aware that this is okay, I no longer try to make myself visibly upset and accept that people react differently. I would like to think that I would now appreciate that others grieve differently and I would try to be more flexible with people, giving them a choice where possible rather than trying to encourage them to grieve or behave in one way or the other, but I still don't feel confidently in supporting others (as I don't seem to react typically, and so worry about being insensitive).
Q18: How, if at all, does grief over the death of a person differ from other forms of loss that you have experienced?
I think that grieving over pets and humans is very different. I don't think that one is necessarily more difficult than the other, or that one is more valuable, and I think that the main thing that can be the same is largely down to how you see 'the other', which can be the same or different across humans and animals. I have certainly been very upset at the loss of pets, but the absence of conversations with pets does make a difference. I think that we can have an emotional bond and connection with pets, but in the absence of conversations there is something less to remember them by.

Other losses, such as theft, I have found shocking but largely not upsetting because those items that are lost are general replaceable.
Q19: Are there any aspects of grief that you find particularly puzzling or difficult to put into words?
I find it difficult when children ask questions that I can't answer. When thinking about 'why them?' or 'where do they go?' questions, the uncertainty in answering these questions seems to be part of the grief experience, but it is difficult to give voice to these uncertainties.
Q20: Are there any important aspects of your experience that we have not addressed?
Possibly negative things, such as negative realisations about a person after their death that make the grieving process feel odd. At this point, it isn't that you are any happier that the person is no longer alive, it doesn't mean that you don't grieve for them, but it certainly changes how you view the person and this is a peculiar experience.