Time is Too Short: Lessons from a Death in the Family

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This past month has been draining. With Grandpa getting sick on the 18th of January up until his memorial on the 9th (I just got back yesterday from being at my aunt’s from Sunday until now) — I’m officially spent!

Here’s some things I’ve learned though:
1. Take lots of pictures with folks you love. You’ll never, ever regret it. — My mom is the picture taker of the family and she gets some grumbles whenever she wants family pictures, but they were a great comfort. During the funeral we played a slideshow my mom and I worked on with pictures of Grandpa. I adore the pictures I have of him and me together. They remind me that Grandpa loved me.

2. Get over it if you can, especially with family (obviously the emphasis is IF YOU CAN). No one’s perfect, but being bitter just rots you inside out. If you can be the person to forgive, do it. Tiny slights, hurts, and misperceptions can grow into a much bigger thing than it actually is. It’s best to remember that you probably hurt your family member too along the way – grace is much better than bitterness.

Side note: I have friends who have terrible family members. I’m not suggesting that everyone just kiss and makes up. Obviously, forgiveness doesn’t always mean restoring the relationship, but at least making some progress before it’s too late.
Related: sometimes your perception of events is radically different than anyone else’s.

3. Don’t delay to see someone in the hospital. I’m eternally grateful that I saw Grandpa sick and was able to help him in the hospital. He was grateful. I’ll always remember him as the big, strong Grandpa he was, but I also know I made his last days more comfortable.

4. Have a plan for your own funeral, write down things you’d like, share them with someone who can tell others. This is a morbid one, but we found ourselves going “what’s Grandpa’s favorite hymn?” It would have been nice to know those things. Also, on that include important dates others might not know (like when you graduated, moved places, etc). Mine is in a GoogleDoc I shared with my best friend. I also have a list of people to contact that may family may not know, music I liked, and who I’d like to do the service. Related lesson: put aside some money for your funeral. Any money helps.

5. Write names, dates and places on the back of your pictures. Please? This has happened at the death of almost every one of my grandparents where we go, “who is this? WHEN was this? WHERE is this?” Don’t let a future generation lose their history.

6. Always say I love you. This is a lesson that has been haunting me for awhile now. Tell people, even your friends, you love them. Tell them how much they mean before they pass away. Saying it at a funeral is nice, but telling them before they go is even better. Some folks NEED to hear it. Even if they know it intellectually, hearing it again and again is amazing.

7. Best thing to say to someone who has lost a family member is actually not verbal – hug them. Every single hug was such a comfort to me. Sympathy cards are pretty amazing too. I never understood that until I got some.

8. Everyone’s grief looks different. I didn’t really cry at the funeral. I felt bad. But I cried later. I realize every time I go through grief the same truth – grief is different for different people.

9. Sleep is always needed. Giving yourself permission to sleep is the best thing you can do when you’re sad.

10. It’s hard not having any grandparents left. I miss them all. I really wanted them at my wedding. It’s hard to think that I won’t have any there. But, in the end, I’m glad they’re in heaven and I can’t wait to see them. It just sucks for me here.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted February 13, 2015 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    *hugs*

  2. Posted March 12, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Although planning your own funeral seems pretty morbid, as you put it, I think it is a huge relief for the family. Your family is already going to be grieving when you die, and making them work extra hard planning a last minute funeral is going to stress them out even more. I am a huge believer of planning your own funeral as your last gift to your family, they will be so grateful in the end.

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