Today it has been a year since my Grandad died.
But this is a post of two halves. This first section, I wrote back in December. A year after I last saw my Grandad in person.
It was the 24th of December. Christmas Eve - one of my most favourite days of the year - possibly even more so than Christmas day. Every year, we would go visit my family at each of their houses and we would always finish at my grandparents where they would have nuts, chocolates, my Nanna's yummy sausage meat pie, tea and hugs waiting for us (and of course presents that my parents sneakily escorted to the car which we pretended not to excitedly see). I loved that tradition and I especially loved that last stop and getting to see my Grandad's happy face. He had the best happy smile.
Even now we still see our family and in 2016, we visited my Grandad in hospital after seeing everyone else and it was wonderful - even in the hospital. Looking back through my diary, I knew he was so sick then - and really we were lucky he managed that Christmas and Winter at all. I'm so lucky I have the memory of telling him about the house we'd just put the offer on, of showing him the photos of it, of hearing how excited he was about my nephew existing. I remember he couldn't get his headphones to work on the radio things they have in hospitals, so I helped him put them on and I was so close to his face, a face I loved so much... I just wanted to make everything better for him, but all I could do was sort out his radio. We were both happy I could do that but its a bittersweet memory.
I'm sure that visit wore him out - he always put on the best show for us. Unlike everyone else in my family who saw him regularly, I don't think I ever really saw him at his worst, he never let me see it - and I love him even more from that - we both needed it I think, that illusion of everything being ok. And although ultimately it might have made it harder for me when he did eventually die - I don't think either of us could have handled a goodbye in any way. I think that is why the universe had it so I wasn't there when he died - I wouldn't have been able to let him go and he probably would have tried harder to stay.
I often feel guilty that I wouldn't have been able to let him go - that I still feel like I cant let him go now but maybe it would have been different if I was actually there? I'll never know and I'm glad, its not a test I would have been wiling to take part in - I don't feel like I'm doing particularly well in the test that is grief as it is.
Today is the 1st of February and its been a full year since my Grandad died. And a year and 39 days since I last saw him.
In many ways I think the year mark of me last seeing him was harder for me than today is going to be for my family. And now I feel guilt that I wasn't there for them on such a terrible day.
There is a lot of guilt in grief I've found - guilt for not seeing your loved one more, guilt for not telling them you loved them more, guilt for continuing to live when they aren't anymore. Guilt that time just keeps on passing - without them - and that they can't enjoy in the things that you're enjoying. We bought the house I mentioned before (after 6 long months haha) and also a car in the same year - in some ways, 2017 might finally be the year I grew up - not only because I finally made adult purchases, but also because the childish part of me that so desperately needed my Grandad in so many ways, that part died a little along with my Grandad.
I never could have anticipated how big that part of me was until it was gone - I'm not only mourning my Grandad but the relationship we had together - a relationship that now only continues in my own head. I'm mourning the parts of me - and our family - that left when he did. His eternal optimism, his brightness in room, his laughter. Those things come harder to us all now, because we all share that awareness of what we're truly missing and how it really feels to miss something so integral to your being.
A year is an odd amount of time really, its a long time but it goes in the blink of an eye - especially as you age - and you almost think that things will ease by then, you've got through that first year - you've done it. But grief to me feels more like a beginning rather than an ending now - the beginning of a new me and the beginning of a new existence, one that needs love and attention like a newborn in the those first months - and then nurturing and tending to further as it grows older and you go through all the different stages and emotions together.
In losing one relationship I've started a new relationship with myself - one governed by the idea of how would my Grandad feel if he saw me treating myself so poorly. 2017 was the year I finally listened to my body and I started trying to take care of it - I cut out dairy, wheat and 90% of my meat consumption. I started walking every day to the train station when we moved house and now walking is so important to my soul's happiness. I still have a long way to go but in losing something, I also gained something else - they're not the same of course.
Have you ever seen Steven Universe? In one of the episodes Rose Quartz leaves a video to Steven saying that the half of him that is her is the part of him that is his own self love. I cried. Because that's kind of how I feel now my Grandad has gone - that the part of him that is also me, is the part of me trying so hard to love myself now - in spite of grief, depression, anxiety and loss. In spite of the pain, fear and difficulties that every day life presents.
Its been a really hard and long year and I honestly feel as sad and heartbroken now as I did 365 days ago when I sat on the floor, crying, looking at old photos of my Grandad in our bedroom with Thomas waiting for the call to tell me that he had slipped away. But rather than just despair, I feel the tiniest bit of hope - the hope that he can continue to live through me if I try my best and also the hope that I can continue on for even longer somehow without him here to support me.
Grief and depression both teach you that time always passes - no matter how much you want it to stand still or that part of you has sat down and can't move forward - it shows you that you can get through the bad, bad, bad days somehow and come out the other side. Not unchanged and definitely not unscathed - but you come out - and you resolve to keep doing it - day after day.
A few months ago we saw Mount Eerie sing about the death of his wife. I cried. A lot. But I also empathised and that feeling of understanding and sharing - encouraged my hope - as did his words. I didn't feel so alone. So to finish this post I'm going to share some of his lyrics.
"Death is real
Someone's there and then they're not
And it's not for singing about
It's not for making into art
When real death enters the house, all poetry is dumb
When I walk into the room where you were
And look into the emptiness instead
My knees fail
My brain fails
And I don't want to learn anything from this
I love you"