Living While Grieving
What does grief look like?
This newsletter contains discussion of the death of a grandparent.
On the day of my grandma’s funeral, I woke up hundreds of miles away. Instead of sitting in a room full of my grandma’s friends and family, I sat on my couch with Dylan. When the service was about to start, my phone vibrated, and I took a deep breath and answered the call.
I had an Alice in Wonderland moment as I peered through the looking glass that I now held into my hand. Through the magic that is the internet, I saw the small podium that stood on a platform in my grandparents’ country church. My dad sat at the piano in the background just out of sight, playing his mother’s favorite pieces.
But while I watched the funeral in my workout clothes and gym shoes—incredibly underdressed—I struggled to really feel like I was there. I couldn’t smell the old wooden pews or feel the warmth of light streaming in from the tall windows on either side of the sanctuary. How could I say goodbye to my grandmother over FaceTime? How does that even work?
I tried to place myself in the scene, imagining what it had been like over ten years ago when I sat exactly where my mom was now, but this time we were saying goodbye to someone else. When my grandfather died, it felt surreal, like someone larger than life had left us. Everything seemed mundane without him. But Grandma was made of more everyday, no-nonsense sort of stuff—the reminder to take your boots off coming into the house, the solid wood furniture, and ridiculous number of bird watching books.
The absence of each lost family member feels differently. For my grandma, my grief is the postcard I pick up to send to her. It’s in my hands before I remember. My grief is watching Gwen toddle around in red long-johns that my grandma had given to Dylan when he was a puppy, knowing Gwen will never meet her great-grandma. My grief is a Christmas tree full of ornaments signed on the bottom with “Love, Grandma and D-dad” in her handwriting.
For weeks now, I’ve sat with this post sitting in my drafts. I pull it out, tweak a couple of things, and close it again. Over and over, I revisit this testament to the absence of someone who gave me everything from my overly generous forehead to the steel in my spine. Gwen came home the day after the funeral. Now when I pull Gwen into my arms, I measure how long I have lived without my grandmother by how many inches my puppy has grown.
Since I couldn’t attend the funeral, I made a video to commemorate grandma’s life (you can find the video here). If I’ve learned anything from the last few months, it’s that grief looks differently for each person lost and for each person left behind grasping at memories. But I’m so grateful for each and every memory I can hold.
Podcasts I’ve Been Listening To
Appodlachia - #120: Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns w/ Dr. Bill Turner
I’ve listened to EVERY episode of Appodlachia, and this has to be one of their best interviews. Dr. Bill Turner is a treasure. He’s an academic, but really breaks things down in such a wonderful way, making it very easy for anyone to understand. I already had Dr. Turner’s books on my wishlist, but I went ahead and ordered them immediately after listening to the episode.
Imaginary Worlds - Beforeigners
As a huge nerd, I love fantastical stories of all kinds. Imaginary Worlds is the perfect podcast for anyone who loves fantastical worlds of any kind. This particular episode looks at Beforeigners, a show where people from different time periods suddenly show up in the present. It’s on HBO, so I’ll watch it and report back!
Things I Made That Went Up This Week
Over on Book Riot
I find myself still thinking about Wintering and Can’t Even, so I wrote about how I’m processing them.
For the love of all that is in this world, don’t just caption your videos—support d/Deaf creators! I curated a list of books with d/Deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) characters. In my research, I discovered so many wonderful books. It was hard to narrow down my selection.
After listening to Blacktop Wasteland, I HAD to find more audiobooks that Adam Lazarre-White has narrated. He’s definitely a new favorite.
Book Riot’s Audiobooks Newsletter
I write Book Riot’s weekly audiobooks newsletter. You can subscribe here to read all about my favorite listens of the week, and you can read back issues here. This week, I share the last installment of my series “Audiobooks Apps I Can’t Live Without.”
Linking Links Linking
“Profiles: Late Harvest” by Dorothy Wickenden (The New Yorker)
Kentucky writer and environmentalist Wendall Berry is a living legend of Appalachian Literature. I own two of his books (narrated by Nick Offerman!), and I definitely bumped them up my TBR after listening to this feature.
“It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart” by Jennifer Senior (The Atlantic)
The title says it all. My biggest heartbreaks have been from broken friendships. I felt so seen by this article in a way I never expected.