Yesterday my grandmother passed away. I suppose it wasn’t completely out of the blue, but it was. If I take the time to consider her age and health condition, I guess I could rationalize that it makes sense. That doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t hurt. I don’t like surprises, especially death surprises. Being in recovery means that there are a fair share of death surprises that come with the territory, but never do they get easier.
I was at the gym last night when my mom called me. It was atypical for her to be calling me at that time, so I worried something was wrong. I immediately called her back and she broke the news. My grandma had gone in for (somewhat) routine heart surgery, but afterwards suffered a major heart attack and they could not save her. My first thought was to ignore what she had just tearfully told me and get back on the treadmill. I ran (pun intended) from my feelings for so many years and that was what got me into trouble coping with life. I knew that as much as I wanted to just run and run and block everything out, I had to feel the feelings.
So I called my husband in tears, in the middle of the gym, my nose running down my face (also from the sickness that has not abated). I got in the car and I cried. I drove home and I cried. I thought about the thank you note I was going to send her this week and I cried. The whole time my brain was telling me to stop and that it wouldn’t hurt if I just regressed to shutting down emotionally. I’ve learned that the more times I do that, the longer it takes me to get over something.
My grandfather (her husband) died last Thanksgiving as we were on our way to say our goodbyes. We missed it by a few hours. He would never get to meet the man who I was going to marry. For as long as I can remember he told me he wanted to dance at my wedding. As his health got worse, I at least wanted him to meet Neil. He didn’t. I wasn’t secure enough in myself or my recovery to handle that situation the way that I needed to. I let myself feel a little sad, then told myself to skip to the part where I got over it. I detached. Hearing my mom tell me that my grandmother didn’t make it brought up the feelings about my grandfather that I hadn’t processed.
I still want to turn it off, but I know that I need to give myself time to grieve. I don’t know how to do this (like there is some kind of step by step manual), but what I can do today is let myself feel whatever feelings come up. The good thing through all of this is that my first thought was not of drugs or alcohol or something to take the pain away (besides the obvious detachment). I was able to make the harder decision to face life as it comes and I know I will be stronger for it in the end.