Having some time to relax and contemplate life over Easter has got me thinking about life and death. I don't pretend to be religious or to even understand what happens to people we love after they die but I hate the thought of never seeing the people I've lost again someday.

I am fortunate enough to have lost just 3 people so far. Both my parents are still alive (not surprising you may think at 27, but some of my friends have been unfortunate enough already to have lost a parent, and I cannot begin to imagine how they must feel.) I have 3 grandparents still alive but, as is the case when 2 are in their 80s and one will be 80 next year, you're alwys waiting for that phone call...

That brings me to my Grandad. I have been thinking a lot about him today, maybe because it would have been his birthday on the 20th April. He passed away on 4th July 2003. The hardest part was that he was due to come out of hospital that day, and we had been doing up his spare room, for him to have a nice chill out space with family photos and memories. That room was never used afterwards. I can still remember crystal clear my Mum coming into my bedroom (I was working in Somerset all summer in between finishing my degree and starting my MA) and telling me that she had some bad news, that my Grandad had died in the night. I felt so bad for her that she had to be the one to tell me and my Granny, she took the call from the hospital. The rest of that day passed in a kind of haze, most of the family rallied round, and me and my sister tried to take care of most of the practical stuff (ringing drs, sorting out death certificates etc.)

One moment of that day will always stay with me, going to see my Grandad in the chapel of rest. It was the first (and only)time I had seen someone after they had died and I will say that is was an experience I wouldn't repeat. I don't regret ny decision but that is my last image of him now. It wans't him there, his soul had left his body and he was at peace. The thing that shocked me the most was when I kissed him goodbye, was that his face was cold. It sounds stupid but I didn't expect him to be cold, he hated being cold. Suffering from appalling circulation is something that I share (thanks Grandad!) No one told me that all the heat goes out of someone after they die. The blood stops pumping, their heart stops beating and their name is erased from databases and records. But they live on in our hearts and minds, every time my 9 month old nephew twists his nose at me in a cheeky moment, I see my Grandad. Athough I wouldn't do it again I think seeing him after he had died made me actually believe that he was gone and that it wasn't all a bad dream.

It took me months to even be able to look at pictures of him without getting sad. My one regret is that I never told him how much I loved him. We are not really the overly expressive type in my family, we hardly used to even hug each other, but since Grandad died we always hug and kiss my Gran every time we see her and tell her we love her. Six years on I have got used to him not being around, but you never really 'get over' someone you love dying. I'm just glad he knew I had got a 2:1 in my degree (I got the results on the 2nd July.) I really hope that he would be proud of me and what I have achieved in the last 6 years. I know that I am a lot like him, I love going for walks, travelling and- not by choice- am always getting lost!

Which brings me to the rhetorical question; how long does it take to get over someone once they have died, or a relatonship that ends unexpectedly? I don't have the answer, expects say that it takes 2 years for a death, and an amount of months/weeks proportionate to the amount of years/months you were together for a relationship. But how can you match your heart and soul to a textbook prescription of grieving? 'We are not robots' says boyf, and I think that is possibly the best summing up I have ever heard. What can you do for someone is grieving, who lashes out at you in times of sadness because you are the closest thing they have to family and they can't just say 'I miss my *replace with family member or previous partner* so much.' I think just being there for someone goes a long way and getting to understand the times they get sad and act accordingly. Mother's day, Father's day, birthdays that will never be celebrated again,can all be triggers for an outpouring of emotion that you wonder at times when it will ever get easier.

My experience of bereavement is that it does get easier. 'Time is the best healer' is a cliche but cliches are there because most of them ring true. Listen to 'Cured' by Catatonia. A lifetime friend from uni played me this song when I was getting over a guy and it really spoke to me. You really can feel as though you will never feel normal again, whether it's through the end of a relationship, depression, or passing of a loved one. But it's as though someone flicks a switch and you can see everything clearly again. The people we love and lose map our path in life and I really belive they give us the help we need when we are struggling. Although it a religious passage I have found a lot of comfort in 'Footprints' in the past. If you've never read it, look it up. But I think for me it's your friends and family who remain that carry you. Ultimately though, you carry yourself.

Rest in Peace Grandad, Russell, and Edmund. I'll always remember you.


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