My family is incredibly fortunate to have experienced very few losses. I grew up with all four of my grandparents and have wonderful memories with each. On Sept. 15, 2016, my mother's father passed away due to complications from catching pneumonia. It was one of the most shocking and numbing days of my life. At the age of 23, I had lost my first grandparent.
Nothing can really prepare you for something like this. I felt denial for days and kept saying to my family that it felt like a horrible dream I'd never wake up from. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I am now describing him as was instead of is. There's something extremely surreal about experiencing a loss this close to your heart for the first time. It's crazy that we, as people with such strong connections to others, are just expected to accept death as a part of life.
The magnitude of sadness you feel is directly correlated to your love for someone.
In the days following his passing, a colleague told me, "The magnitude of sadness you feel is directly correlated to your love for someone, so it's OK to be sad." This resonated with me and helped me come to terms with my grief. You hear over and over again that he would have wanted his family to celebrate his life and not be sad, so there's a degree of guilt that comes with feeling that way.
Every person mourns differently, but the one coping mechanism that has proven to be the most comforting for me is writing down all of my favorite memories of him. Every time I feel completely unable to go about my day, I jot down a specific story about him or a dinner-table conversation we had. Doing this allows my brain to focus on the happiness he brought me instead of the sadness I'm feeling in the present.
The emotions are all still very raw, and I'm waiting to begin feeling like my normal self. Nothing will ever be the same as it was before that day, but life must go on. I gained an angel, and his vibrant memory is going to push me forward.