How to handle the death of a loved one

daisymimi22 asks: My grandma had died yesterday. I am really sad about it, and think of her all the time. Can you please tell me how to turn back to life and be normal?

Hi daisymimi22 –

I’m awfully sorry to hear about your grandmother.  I know what it’s like to lose someone I dearly love, and it’s a devastating feeling.  When we dogs feel that way, we do something I think people should do more often – we howl.  We go outside and look up at the sky (especially if there’s a moon) and yell out a plaintive cry from the bottom of our soul.  It’s the saddest, loneliest sound in the world.  Which means that everyone who hears it instantly feels a part of the deep sadness and loss we’re feeling.  And that helps.  It really does.  Their feeling some of our sadness makes us feel a little less alone.

You might not like the answer I’m going to give to your question, daisymimi22, but here it is:  Why would you want to be “normal” now?  Wouldn’t that kind of dishonor your grandmother?  Why not honor her by being a total mess for a while?

In some societies, family members who’ve lost someone dress in black for days, weeks, even months.  More “modern” societies deal with such things in much more antiseptic ways, like wearing a black armband, or even just having a funeral for an hour or two.  But grieving doesn’t happen quickly, or cleanly.  It takes time, and deep-down it doesn’t make any sense.  Maybe you’re going to cry every day for weeks.  Maybe you won’t cry at all.  Maybe you’ll need to talk about it a lot, and maybe not.

What you want to do is two things:  First, whatever your family’s culture does, you want to do.  Have a funeral, have a wake, leave flowers at her grave, whatever is the accepted ritual of your world.  And Second, do some thing, or some things, that are just about your feelings about her.  Maybe you could paint a picture of how you’re feeling.  Maybe you could write her a letter.  Maybe you could write a song about her.

I knew a girl whose grandfather would cheat on his diet by going out with her and buying candy bars they’d share.  When he was buried, she walked solemnly up to the open grave and dropped a few candy bars in by his coffin.  A man at that funeral was inspired by that act’s beauty, and when his dog died sometime later, he buried the pooch with all the foods she wasn’t allowed in life (chicken with bones, chocolate, beer!).  Another man I knew had written his grandmother a humorous song for her 85th birthday; when she died he printed copies of it for the whole family to sing after her funeral.

I can’t tell you what to do for a special personal act, because that’ll all be about you and your grandmother, what you two shared.  But what I am saying is to do something like these examples.  Honor what you had, and what you’ll always have because of your relationship with her.

And then… trust.  Life will move on.  As much as you love and miss her, other things will become important in your life, and you’ll start to “live” again.

But I really say, don’t rush to move on.  Your grief is your remaining connection with her.  Keep the memory of her love and her great qualities in your heart.  Let them live in you for the rest of your life.

And if so, while it might be hard to conceive of such a thing now, maybe many years into the future, a grandchild of yours might be grieving the loss of the best grandparent they ever knew.  And that’ll be you.  Partly because you kept part of your grandmother in you, and that’s just what that kid learned to love so much.


My deepest condolences to you for your loss,




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