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We said our final goodbyes earlier this week to my grandma. After 93 years of life, her health had been failing recently, and she left us last week.
I was very close with my grandma and the loss hit me pretty hard. I actually wrote about my grandparents on my blog several years ago.
As I began to grapple with my grief last week, I sat for a guided meditation on the topic. The teacher of this meditation instructed that grief itself isn’t a singular emotion but several of them all happening at once.
She invited us to try to name the different emotions we were feeling. For me, I could identify three:
- Loss. There will be no more long conversations, no more hugs, no more card games. The loss feels profound.
- Heartbreak. Sadness doesn’t really do it justice.
- Gratitude. Intermingled within these two heavy emotions was an acute sense of how lucky I was to have so much time with such an extraordinary woman.
My grandma Lois was an exceptional human being. The legacy of her life was love. To know her was to know what it meant to feel loved and seen.
Grandma showered us with her love in the most important way possible–through her time and attention. She loved spending time with us. It didn’t matter what we did. She just loved being together.
She loved us without judgment or conditions. No matter what was going on in my life or if I felt fully worthy of it, I would always get her full love.
This past week, as I reflected on her life and our relationship, I wondered if my experience of her in this light was simply because I was a grandchild. It’s easy to love your grandkids.
But, it wasn’t. As we celebrated her life with family and the friends she’d known for longer than I’ve been alive, they all described her in the same way.
Her legacy reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from great Maya Angelou:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
To know my grandma was to know what it meant to feel loved. I cannot imagine a better legacy or a more powerful lesson to leave behind.
As I continue to process my grief, I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I’m carrying forward from my Grandma. Even though you probably never had the opportunity to meet her, perhaps you can carry a piece of her legacy forward as well.
1. Invest your time in the people you care about.
One feeling that’s not in the soup of my grief is regret. Maybe it was because of my grandma’s example, but we made time to be together.
Sometimes that meant making road trips to visit her with my family. Often it meant sitting down to chat over Skype. It wasn’t as frequent as we’d like (always my fault), but we did it.
That time spent together is among the best investments I’ve ever made.
2. Talk about the stuff that matters.
We mourned the loss of my grandma almost one year to the day after losing my grandpa, her husband, just shy of his 100th birthday. As you would expect, the past year was incredibly hard for her.
When we talked, I always tried to check in with her about how she was doing and she would tell me. On the good days, we shared memories of grandpa. On the not-so-good days, she talked about how depressed she was feeling.
Those conversations were hard because it hurt to see her hurting. But, they were conversations she needed and they brought us closer together.
Too often, we avoid the conversations we need to have because they make us feel uncomfortable. Don’t allow that to happen. Ask the questions that matter and allow yourself to feel vulnerable. It is within these conversations where true human connection lives.
3. Let go of judgment and resentment. Just be kind.
In case you missed it, my grandparents lived to be 93 and 99 years old. Certainly, some good genetics are going on there, but I attribute their longevity to something else.
My grandparents were the most positive and forgiving people I’ve ever met. They didn’t judge other people, they didn’t hold any resentments toward anyone, and they never gossiped.
As a result, they had so many friends. People loved them and they loved everyone back.
Grandma always seemed able to see the positive. She led with kindness in everything she did. It was remarkable.
What a great example for us all to follow. I’m certainly going to try.
Thank you, Grandma. I miss you already.
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Jason, thank you for sharing about your grandma – she sounds amazing and what a legacy your grandparents built with your family! I pray that the peace of warm memories help you through your sadness and may little moments that make you think of them grace you frequently. For our family, every time we see a cardinal, we are reminded of my papaw and feel that he is close. Loss is so hard but the gratitude of our time spent with the ones we love make it worth it all.
I love reading your insights and anecdotes. I am so sorry to hear about your Grandma but glad that you got to spend quality time with her. She left very good lessons behind and we should all take note. I also love that quote by Maya Angelou…so true. Take care and my condolences to you.