On Grief


Grandma died two Fridays ago. Last week we had the wake and the funeral. And now we are back to ordinary life. Without her.

Aging and dying–is there anything more cruel, in this world? Grandma had 93 years on earth, almost 94. But it’s still not enough. I haven’t gotten married yet, and she would have liked to be there for that. I haven’t published my book yet, and that would have made her so proud. I haven’t had kids yet, and now they will have to come into a world without her.

People generally sugarcoat during eulogies, but everything we said about Grandma was true. She loved to read. She was a great storyteller. She loved us. She lived for us. We didn’t visit often enough. Or call often enough. And now we have to live with that.

The wake and funeral were not too bad. Then again, they never are. Flowers and old photographs and wine and endless amounts of pasta (at Italian funerals, anyway). There are hugs and smiles from people and relatives you don’t always get to see. Everyone who knew her and loved her, coming together. One last time.

The worst part is when the afterglow fades. It’s going on with life, without Grandma in it. It takes getting used to, mostly because we don’t want to get used to it.

The flowers are wilting, the lasagna is eaten, friends and family have all gone home. And I go back to normal, mostly. Soon I will stop waking up in the morning only to be hit with it, just as I’m regaining consciousness. Soon it will be just another loss to live with. Soon my eyes will stop prickling with tears when it really gets through to me, that I won’t get to talk to her again, at least not for a very long time.

They read this poem, at the funeral, by Henry Scott Holland. I hope it’s true.

Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

Above: me, my sister, and Grandma, circa 1987.

3 thoughts on “On Grief

  1. So sorry to hear about your Grandma. Your post was a simple, beautiful tribute to her. It’s so weird how life does go on after a loss like that. The poem is very comforting – you should read it often, until you believe it 100%. Also wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying the sage tea that you recommended. I’m going to start The Secret Place this week. I waited this long because I love knowing it’s in my reading queue.


    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! And glad you’re enjoying the tea. I’ve found that rosemary and thyme and also quite good, but the sage one is my favorite. Enjoy the Secret Place. Have you read any other Tana French novels? She’s the best writer out there today, in my opinion.


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