Chapter 2: Impact of your grandparent’s death on you

Thoughts and feelings

The grief expert says
Chris explains how some people grieve through activity rather than through talking. (3:22)Video transcript

After her funeral, this strange numbness came over me when I felt like I should be falling apart. I wanted to be falling apart. It’s what would have made sense, given the depth of our relationship and how much I love her.

I was quite young when my grandfather died and didn’t think much about it at the time. As the years have gone by, certain memories have come back to me, and I now wish I could talk to him again.

After your grandparent’s death, you may have different and sometimes conflicting feelings. Click each one to read more.

If they suffered pain, decreased abilities, or loss of independence, you might feel relief that their struggles are over.

If you were a caregiver or if your grandparent’s personality or behaviour created problems in your family, you may feel relieved that the burden has been lifted.

If you feel relief, you may then feel guilty.

Even if you know that your grandparent wanted you to live your life as fully as possible, you might feel some regret about not spending more time with them or not taking time to learn more about their life. You may grieve the lost chance to “soak up” their knowledge or wisdom.

You may be angry about something your grandparent did or said; or you may be angry with someone else for their treatment of your grandparent.


It is not uncommon or abnormal to have feelings that seem strange or “wrong.”  Some of these feelings may be expected, while others might surprise or even shock you. You may feel worried or confused by the intensity of your feelings, especially if they are “mixed” or they catch you off guard.


Considerations

Remember that feelings are just feelings; they are neither right nor wrong. A feeling of relief, guilt, regret, or anger is only one among many. You may also feel sadness, which is not lessened by relief or other feelings.

What may help

Take some time to think about where your feelings are coming from and what they might mean to you. This can lead to learning and healing as you come to new understandings of your grandparent, your relationship, and yourself.

Reflect on the impact of your grandparent’s life on your own life and on the lives of others. Consider your grandparent’s legacy, whether it is positive or negative. There may be “life lessons,” values, or beliefs that you have adopted or rejected. Perhaps your grief will change how you think or act in your relationships with other people.

Remember that thoughts and feelings can change over time. Be patient and expect some ups and downs. If you are suddenly overwhelmed by intense feelings, this doesn’t mean you’ve gone “backwards.”

Trust yourself.  Some people like to talk about their thoughts and emotions and others don’t. Some people need time to process feelings while other people need to keep busy. It might be that both apply to you depending on circumstances. It might be that you use both approaches, sometimes talking and other times doing. Trust yourself to know what feels right for you.

Explore local and online supports and resources, including bereavement support groups, that may help you to feel less isolated as you connect with other grieving people.

If thoughts or feelings are very intense or interfering with your day-to-day life, consider speaking with your family physician, a faith leader, or a grief counsellor.