What I learned losing someone close to me

My life is a roller coaster of crazy events, I have probably experienced more than the average person has, and I am not even 30 yet. I think I have gone through enough tragedy now to last a lifetime, but I am sure I will experience more. I also spend a lot of time alone, now and when I was younger, so I self-reflect a lot… Doing so has taught me a lot about myself, who I am and where I am going. I also think a lot about the past, and what I have learned through my experiences, why they happened, and who I became because of it. I know now that with every up, and every down I experience, I learn a lot of valuable lessons. I look towards bad stuff happening to me with open arms knowing that I will learn greatly from the experience.

From my experience, I don’t think that many people view the world the same way as I do. When bad things happen, they seem to go into this deep pit of despair and it becomes hard for them to get out. It seems like more and more people are starting to realize that stuff happens for a reason, and its how you handle the tough times that makes you who you are. For me however, when bad things happen I try to see it in a positive light and see how I could grow from the experience.

Growing up I felt like I was an old person, stuck in a kids body. I loved to talk and get to know the seniors, even though most adults would try to avoid them. I on the other hand latched on to them hoping they would pass down their wisdom and experiences with me. I knew that I could learn valuable lessons from them. I felt wise beyond my years, but it also didn’t make sense, because I was only about 7 years old. I guess the term for that now is called an old soul, but heck if I understood that when I was a child, I just thought I was really weird, which also made it very difficult for me to make friends growing up.

I am going to take you back now to when I was a child, and I will let you into one of the worst experiences I had growing up, what I learnt from it, and what I could hopefully pass along to others. To me this was one of the most defining moments of my life, and while I have moved on from the events of this day, it still sticks with me and always will.

I should be open though and say, I am not writing this post to make you feel sorry for me. I am far beyond wanting sympathy for this. I simply feel the need to share my story, and hope that this might help someone out.

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When I was growing up, my mom was raising me as a single parent. So she sent me to stay with my grandparents quite often. The first 5 years of my life I probably spent more time at their place than I did with my own mother, which was fine because grandma and grandpa loved to spoil me. They also taught me a lot of life lessons, I knew how to cook pretty well before I turned the age of 6, and my grandpa always had a new skill to teach me.

Growing up I remember I just wanted to learn as much as I possibly could, I never wanted to become the “best” at something, but rather, I just wanted to become good at many many things, I knew early on that life was a wonderful experience, full of ups and downs as well as trials that one needs to overcome in life.  I also knew the importance of building strong relationships with people, which is why I think I worked a lot on this.

My grandma and I were two peas in a pod, we did everything together. I think she saw something special in me, which I wouldn’t realize or understand for years after ( I am still trying to understand it actually), but she saw it and wanted to take my hand and help me the best she knew how. My grandma and I did everything together, she took me to church (which was a catholic church) where I would usually sit, extremely bored, not understanding anything that was said, but I also think its important for a child to be bored as I think it helps them use their imagination… Which I had a very active imagination, still do actually.

Anyways you get the point, my grandma was my best friend, as I really had not made many friends in school yet and the closest family member to my age was 5 years older than me.

Here is a few pictures of my grandma and I hanging out 🙂

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This last one is my grandma, grandpa and I on a picnic!

 

The day that my whole world flipped upside down, was December 5th 1998, I was 7 years old the day  I witnessed my grandmother die right before my eyes… I remember everything about that day, even though it took place almost 20 years ago. I happened to be at her house that day, and we were all putting up the Christmas tree. She decided to sit down on the couch and take a short nap, before making dinner for my grandpa and I. The TV was set to the channel 2, which back then was like a news network that wrote out the news on a blue screen so you could read it, but they also played music, which at this time of year was Christmas music. (which I grew to not like at all anymore)

I could tell time as my grandpa had taught me that skill, and it was just shortly after 4 when I realized she wasn’t breathing or moving at all. Somehow, I knew instantly what was happening, and I couldn’t bare even the thought of it, I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore, like I was about to pass out. So I quickly went to hide in my room, feeling my emotions getting the best of me, wanting to cry and scream so bad it hurts, but I can’t right now.

I felt paralyzed, and I was absolutely terrified to go tell my grandpa, praying that I had just imagined the whole thing. I cried silently in my room, before coming to the conclusion that this couldn’t be happening, maybe I was imagining this, maybe this is just a dream, and somehow I got the strength and courage that I needed to go back out there and deal with this head-on.  I went back out to continue silently helping grandpa put ornaments on the tree. I didn’t say a single word, as I don’t think I could have in that spoken moment. I am still shocked that he didn’t sense something was wrong with me, but I guess he was lost in his own world. Little did he know what was about to snap him back to reality.

After what seemed like hours, he finally decided to go wake her up so she could start making dinner since it was now nearing 5 o’clock. Realize though, that for about 45 minutes, I was stuck knowing what I knew, with no one to talk to, and I struggled very hard not to show my emotions. I was trying still to remain positive though, hoping beyond hope that I was wrong, and she was fine. After all, I was only 7, what did I know anyway?

So he called her name, and when she didn’t stir, he went over and gave her a little nudge, still nothing. I am standing there watching this unfold, praying that she would wake. He gave her a final shake before he realized she wasn’t going to wake up, he said, ‘I have to call 9-11’ and that is when my world fell apart.

When you lose someone, it feels like this part of you is being ripped out of you. It’s like this heart-wrenching feeling that takes the wind right out of you. You realize in that moment, that things will never be the same, and you feel no longer yourself, it’s almost like your sense of self-diminishes and it isn’t all about you anymore.
Time completely stands still, and you become extremely aware of the present moment cause that is all there is. All of your prior worries and concern seem to vanish as well, and anything you may have been thinking about is now gone. Nothing else matters but this moment right now. 

I became quite hysterical at this point, for lack of a better way to describe it. I had been holding it back for so long, and now it seemed like I was accurate in my predictions despite praying that I was wrong. So I started just howling, and I mean that. Howling so loud that the 9-11 operator had to ask what that sound in the background was. My grandpa explained that it was his granddaughter who is crying very loudly, which normally would have embarrassed me, but this time I could care less. Like I said, nothing mattered in this moment.

My grandpa was a great man, but he lacked sympathy. When he got off the phone instead of trying to comfort me, he said, ‘we need to clean up before the paramedics arrive’. Like the mess really mattered in this moment. I tried to help him for a couple minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore and went to my room to be alone. I stayed in there and looked out the window and cried, and cried, and cried. the snow was falling, and before I knew it the fire trucks were outside my window. Through my tear-filled eyes, I just remember red lights of blur and snow coming down.

Even though I was only 7, I was extremely aware of what had happened. I knew exactly what was going on, My grandma has died and I would never see her again. It was plain and simple, but devastating like nothing else I had experienced so far in my 7-year journey.

I knew that this really sucked right now, but one day it would get better, I knew it would be hard for awhile, but eventually, I would smile again, one day I would be happy again. I would never see my grandma again in the physical world, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t remember her in my thoughts.

It was a strange realization to go through, but once I did that everything was okay. I don’t know why, but living through that experience was the most life changing event for me. I felt like, something was there helping me get through it. Like a voice or something, that was gently guiding me through this traumatic event. It said, ‘yes this is a very hard experience, but one day it will be all be okay again, it will all make sense, and you will be stronger because of it.’

It sorta felt like I had my own guardian angel that was looking out for me, and teaching me about what I needed to learn from this life experience. I think we all have that inside of us, now I call it my intuition, but back then I just considered it my imaginary friend, and that it decided now was a perfect time to start really talking to me, maybe because I had let my mind go numb, I didn’t want to think anymore, which is when it began speaking more loudly to me.

That was the hardest day of my life, but it taught me a lot, and it also made me realize that life is precious, and you should spend time with people you love before it is too late. I saw more sadness that day from relatives because of the fact that they felt guilty for not visiting more often than they felt sadness for her actual death.

To me, that seemed strange like surely they knew she would pass away one day? Why hadn’t they tried to spend more time with her? I assume now looking back that they probably expected more time… which inevitability they didn’t receive… Life doesn’t always turn out the way you intend it too.

When the family started arriving one after another, it was very hard for me to watch in a way. I already went through that heart-wrenching experience, but to watch my loved ones go through it tore me apart. By this point, though I had cried all that I could, and there were no more tears left. So it became my duty now to help comfort the others. I felt it was my duty right than to serve and help the others, that it wasn’t just all about me anymore.

My mom and I had talked briefly on the phone prior to her arrival, as she was at work quite a far distance away, and I didn’t want to worry her, so all I said was ‘There is something wrong with grandma and you should come over” I knew she had a long drive ahead and it was snowing heavily, so I chose my words carefully.

I remember my mom arriving finally, she walked into the house, saw her mother lying on the floor at this point, turning blue, and she turned around and walked outside onto the porch, and it became my sole mission to go outside and comfort her. At one point my mom joked and said, ‘it should be me comforting you, not the other way around’ But to me that didn’t matter, I hated attention anyways so I wasn’t looking for any, even in my darkest hour I just wanted to help.

There are many reasons I believe that God took her on that specific day with me being there and all, and I understand why it had to happen that way. I am not sure if I would have grown into the person I needed to become without going through that traumatic experience at such a young age.

The biggest lesson I have learned I guess from it would be not to take others for granted, their time here is temporary and we never know when they can be taken from us forever. To this day, it makes me really sad when I see someone not visiting an elder because they are “too busy.” Like I literally wish I could go and visit all the old people, but I just can’t do that… I wish we would just realize how limited our time is with them, and that there might not always be a tomorrow.

I learned that no matter how a person passes away, (my grandma died from a heart attack in case you were wondering) we will always find ways to blame ourselves, which I saw over and over that day. People saying “Oh I wish I had done this with them like we had talked about” Or “I wish I had visited more often” Or the worst one I heard “I wish I never got into that fight with her”

Some of this guilt is still with them almost 20 years later… Unfortunately, if you can’t learn to forgive yourself, it will loom over your head forever.

My grandma was my first but not last experience with death, and while I learned many life lessons on that frightful December day, I will never forget the impact this wonderful woman had on my life. I cherish the times we spent together, even though I only got 7 short years with her, only 3-4 of which I was even old enough to remember. I think about her all the time, and will never forget the impact she had on me.

Please do yourself a favor, and take this as an opportunity, to call your parents and tell them you love them, and go visit any older relatives you may have. You will regret not spending time with them once it is too late. Seriously do this though, right now! Don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow, it might be too late…

In loving memory of
Marge Heap 1926- 1998

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Here are a couple of articles I also enjoyed reading regarding the topic

7 Lessons I’ve Learned About Life & Love From Loss

Life Lessons Learned through the Death of a Loved One

Losing Someone Close To You – 5 Things You Can Learn From It

 

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