What It’s Like To Lose A Grandparent As An Adult


My dad had her in his life for 58 years, my mom for over 24 years, myself for 19. I understand this is the way life works — where the old die, leaving their family behind — but it still hurts.

Grandma had been gone for a while now. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and I cannot remember the last time she knew who I was. I became “little girl” to her. The only person she recognized at the end was her husband, and even that memory failed her a week ago when she was moved from her comfortable house to an unfamiliar nursing home. The thing about Alzheimer’s is that those affected do not only forget faces, they forget how to do simple tasks like eating.

When my mom texted me asking me to call her after class, I had an awful feeling. In my family, whenever something bad happens, we wait to tell each other until we know it is a good time.

Sitting in my statistics recitation, I felt uneasy. The class was not ending fast enough. I was one of the first people done with my quiz. As soon as I finished I walked out of the classroom, calling my mom. She finally answered, and confirmed what I feared to be true. Grandma had passed away that morning.

For a while I sat on a bench, hugging my knees to my chest.

It did not seem real. We all knew it would happen, but just last week my parents had gone to see her and she looked her usual self. My mom even made a joke that grandma would outlive us all. Nothing could stop this woman.

It is strange talking about my grandmother in the past tense.

I have never had to deal with the loss of a grandparent. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had all four grandparents in my life for this long. Some kids never even have the chance to meet their grandparents, but here I am at age 19, saying goodbye to one for the first time.

I want to be with my family so bad, comforting my dad, uncle and grandpa, but I am stuck at school. I want to hug them and help them through this. But I lead a separate life from my parents, and I am especially feeling the impact of it now. Life continues on in my world, with classes and homework and activities. Life here does not stop for death.

I enter the dining hall to a crowd of strangers. They do not know they are looking at someone who recently lost her grandmother. All they see is a girl with puffy eyes, hugging herself and trying to act like everything is normal.

My roommates and friends partially make up for the fact that I cannot be with my family. They hold me tightly and let me cry to them. One even tries to tell jokes to lift my spirits. We drink chocolate milkshakes and watch reruns of Drake and Josh, a sad attempt at distracting me from the pain.

As I lay on the couch hurting, I try to remember when the last time was I had seen my grandmother. I think it is natural to do that when someone dies.

It was in June. My dad unexpectedly decided to stop by my grandparent’s house on the way home from our cottage. My grandfather had gone shopping and left my grandmother alone. Of course she did not know who we were when she answered the door, but let us in the house anyway. I am thankful that my dad made the decision to visit them that night. I think he knew that time with her was running out.

I could say that my grandmother having Alzheimer’s made it easier to handle her passing, or that because she had lived a long life and I am an adult I should be better at accepting loss. But death is never simple. And like a child, I could really use my mom and dad right now.

featured image – Leanne Surfleet