Hannah Schulz is the Head Copy Editor for the Newswire. She is a senior Digital Innovation, Film and Television major from Cincinnati.
My dad’s dad, an 85-year-old sports-loving Army veteran, passed away on Dec. 12. My mom called me after being let out of a movie with my roommate, but his passing did not come as a shock to me.
My grandpa, whom my brother and I affectionately call “papaw,” had been sick for the last few years of his life. His final months he spent in a nursing home, despite his distaste for them.
While my grandfather’s physical health declined, so did his mental health. Some days were better than others, but I always got lucky and saw him on days that weren’t so bad. Unlike my dad, I never had to see him struggle to remember my name. Watching him get more frail and less happy about being alive is a pain you can’t describe, and a pain that you feel with all of you.
Initially, I cried when my mom told me he had passed. I sat in the parking lot of the movie theater sobbing, my roommate rubbing my back. At the funeral, though, I didn’t. Every day that I saw him while he was sick, a tiny piece of me was letting him go. The last time I saw him was on Thanksgiving. As my family left, I squeezed his hand and said, “See you later. I love you.”
A part of me knew that was the last time I would see him. He was the worst I’d ever seen him. His skin was nearly translucent, his body and wardrobe and room devoid of color, except for the talkative roommate that my grandfather was not a fan of.
Grief takes a lot out of you. My other “papaw” died just a year and three months prior. While I was closer to that grandpa, my mom’s mom, having both deaths come together in such a short period of time added up to an insurmountable loss.
I have a hard time with grief. Some days I don’t think about them, those I know that have passed on. Other days I curl into a ball, feeling their loss from the deepest parts of me. It’s so important to not let grief completely debilitate you for long periods of time, or else it can affect your mental health. Some have a harder time than others when going through a loss, and it’s important to talk to someone. Sometimes just a friend can support you, and sometimes you’ll need a professional. And there’s no shame in needing help to come to terms with a death.
I was lucky to grow into adulthood with all four grandparents here for me. I had never attended a funeral until I was 18, and no one close to me had died until I was 21, when my first grandpa passed. I didn’t know how to deal with grief. I didn’t know how to feel the pain, let myself cry and be devastated, and then pick up and carry on. I’m still struggling with this, but I’m learning. Because I know it’s what my grandpas would want me to do. They’re both stubborn like that.
Both of my grandfathers were strong, loyal and very sarcastic. They loved their lives and their families fiercely. I am choosing to remember them as funny, caring and healthy men rather than the sick men they were at the end of their lives. And I’ll continue to make sarcastic comments in their honor.