When death comes knocking

I’m not quite sure how to start this blog, but I wanted to give people an insight into something not often discussed, but often mentioned: cancer and death. People read about it, people go through it, people talk about it. But it’s actually really hard to discus it and not many people talk about the journey, just about the ending.

So this is my open and honest view of how my journey through losing someone so far.

I have never really had to deal with death before. It’s a strange topic in New Zealand; we don’t really talk about it. When someone says something about death it’s almost immediately after the ‘oh no, I’m sorry to hear that’ that you change topic and continue on with a conversation where no one will have to deal with emotions.

Perhaps that’s why whenever I bring up the fact granddad has cancer, I follow it with a shrug. I mean, I don’t even want to deal with those emotions.

But it’s been a year since he was diagnosed and I feel it’s time I wrote about my experience so far with someone dying.

It’s a matter of life. It happens. We can all count on that fact. Death itself doesn’t concern me, nor is it hard for me to comprehend. When my nana died she was 100, and had been in a home for a year. One day she was awake, the next she was not. There was nothing painful about the death, she just left. We knew it was coming and I felt sad, but not really anything else. Just like one less wonderful person was on earth, but sure she was off doing great things in heaven.

But with granddad it took us all by surprise. He had prostate cancer which has now spread to his bones and doctors say it could be months. I don’t really think it matters what sort of cancer it is. Cancer is a bitch.

At first I was in a bit of shock, my reaction was pretty cold to the news and I thought, ‘oh well that’s life’. What an awful thing to think when you’re told your grandparent is dying. But that was how I processed it. Matter of fact and with no emotion. After a few months I moved onto feeling awkward about it. Because it is my grandparent, at times I feel like I can’t be as sad as someone who is loosing a parent or a sibling or a partner. So I battled with my sad I tried very hard to be strong about it.

Strength like that is sometimes the biggest weakness. And that’s how I ended up crying in a bar in front of my ex, who very unfortunately happened to start talking about grandparents. It hadn’t bothered me before, but that particular conversation lead me to actually feeling the emotion of loss.

He is dying. And in that moment I had to accept that.

But now I’m just onto denial. I don’t want to hear about how he can hardly walk, or the fact his muscles have wasted away. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I am terrified I will forget how he used to be. I pretend I’m going up north this long weekend for a holiday. ‘Oh I might be going up north’ I said to someone today. What the hell? I said to myself. You are going up North, and you’re going to see your grandfather who is sick. But processing that fact is difficult. I am aware as to why I am going up, but it was not until I was standing in the shower thinking about this blog post that it sunk in.

I’m going to see my very sick grandfather who is dying, and this could be the last time I see him.

I battle with my sad because I want to save it for when he is gone. It seems silly to be sad when someone is still around. But it’s the waiting for what you know will happen, and trying to make every moment left count. And cling onto every memory I have.

It is through tears I finish this post, but it is not so much sadness anymore, as it is acceptance.

I have always thought I would be ‘good’ with death. But I’d never had to experience losing someone like this, and that makes it easy to think you’ll be ok. I don’t think anyone is ever ok with losing someone in any capacity. I always looked at death like ‘one moment you are alive, the next you are not’ it was something that happened to people, it was a statement, an ending.

In fact death is a series of things. It is the roller coster of emotion, it is watching other people you love hurt because they too are losing someone, it is watching someone you love suffer, it is trying so hard to remember the good times, it is wanting to make the best of what you can, it is a long process, even if sudden, death never just ‘happens’ it is a long road which every person must walk.

Death hurts even the people who aren’t dying.

And that’s really hard to learn to understand.

But I know now, it’s ok to just be sad.


2 thoughts on “When death comes knocking

  1. I lost my Dad in January this year… Nothing could have prepared me for the devastation… I had not lost anyone close to me before… I struggle daily with sadness but it does get better and slowly the minutes become hours and the hours… Well I’m sure they will become days. Sending you much love hunny xxx

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the journey, for that’s essentially what it is; a God-given process that prepares us for the inevitible. We are feeling for you all, as we know the struggle our loved ones are havig with expressing grief whle having to be strong for each other – and for your granddad especially. I had the privilege of nursing a good friend in my own home early this year who died of a brain tumour. Somehow, in the giving of myself, time and confinement largely to home over those months, I experienced amazing grace and inner strength not just to cope, but to experience a gradual transformation in my friend; his acceptance of his lot after initially going through denial, and an inner peace and even joy as he became aware of his eternal future being in the hands of His creator – an assurance he had never had before. For me, having experinced the death of my own father when I was only 10, from brain cancer, and being separated from him and my family when he died at a time when I most needed them, it became an important part of my own healing and release from some hidden grief and fear of death. “Death” and grief is experienced in various ways not just in physical dying, but in the loss and unexpected changes, broken relationships, leaving home, losing jobs, retirement … changing cities after 25 years … which is the journey Dorothy and I are going through right now. It’s a bitter-sweet experience: sorrow and excitement; loss and anticipation, an emotional and practical stretching. It is said that you dont really appreciate something – or people – until you lose it, or them, and realise that you’ve perhaps taken them for granted in a way, and then see them in a new light; how they have impacted on your own life; how yours has on theirs; familiar faces and places. Yes, grief is a process a very personal one – for the living as well as the dying; but there is purpose in it all if we can recogise what is going on and have others to share it with.
    I heard it said recently that grief is the price of loving. Keep loving
    Just a little ramble from another grandfather, looking forward to being more a part of our famlies’ lives and events up north. It seems timely.
    My love; Bruce (Poppy)

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