Experiencing Your First Real Grief Period Can Be Hard When You Are Older

A lot of people in my family passed away when I was very young. During those years when I would go to those wakes and funerals, weather it was for an aunt, uncle or grandparent, I really didn’t understand how it felt to experience a real grief period.

That was true until I was 16.

It was April 3, 2016, and I had just made an appointment to go with my mom and aunt to the doctors due to being extremely sick. The nurse came in to take information: how I was feeling, did I have an appetite, etc. After that was done, I sat in agony facing my aunt and mom while we waited for the doctor. After a while he finally came. He sat down to ask me questions and examined me. He finally diagnosed me with a virus.

“I’m going to need you to get plenty of rest and stay in bed. Getting rest is the only way to regain your strength back,” He said

He restricted me to bed. My body was very weak and I couldn’t move anything without feeling pain. I couldn’t even walk without feeling pain.

Afterwards, I knew I had to follow doctor’s orders. I didn’t want to but I knew this time my sickness was more than just a common cold. I needed to get better and regain my strength. I went home, changed my clothes and crawled into bed.

Meanwhile, that same day, my mom was going to go visit my grandfather in the hospital. He had been in the hospital for quite some time now (two months to be exact) and his heath was slowly declining.

After I was settled in and napping, my mom got ready to leave. My dad was on the couch watching TV. He’s always the one to care for me when she isn’t at home.

“What time will you be home?” my dad asked her.

“Probably around 8:00-8:30…regular time.” She replied. That was the time she always came home from the hospital.

“OK be careful.” My dad said cheerfully.  After saying their goodbyes, my mom left.

Little did my dad and I know in the next 24 hours, things were going to take a serious turn for the worst.

My mom came home at her regular time that night like she always did. She had to get up for work early the next day. She worked from home for an answering service at the time.

That day, while working, my mom was taking a call. It was a normal work day like any other, calls coming in like crazy and my mom working her butt off. She always had her cell phone near her while working, even though you couldn’t use your phone while working, my mom kept it close because through the two months my grandfather was in the hospital she had to stay in contact with all of his doctors and nurses in case of an emergency.

That day while she was on a call an unexpected call came through on her cell phone.

No, it wasn’t an answering service customer.

It was my grandfather’s doctor.

My mom put the customer on hold and picked up her phone. “Hello?” she asked.

The doctor didn’t say “hello” or “how are you?” All he said was:

“I think you should get down here now.  I think it’s getting close to the time for your father to go.”

My mom knew what that meant. She dropped everything, including her work shift and left.

That same night, something didn’t feel right. My mom never came home at her regular time or never called us to say she was on her way home.

I knew something was wrong. I just knew it.

I couldn’t sleep at all that night and broke the rule of staying in bed and getting rest to regain my strength like the doctor had told me to. I just got up and paced the floors nervously – my anxiety was through the roof. I was wondering where my mom was and why she didn’t come home.

I frantically looked for my phone. I wanted to call her to find out what was wrong. I couldn’t find my phone in my room and was getting frustrated. I sat on my bad so I wouldn’t overexert my body. I was somewhat better but still very sick.

My bedroom door was open. I heard someone quietly crying while texting my mom in the living room.

It was my dad.

I ran out to look for my phone in the living room, trying to sneak by my dad so he wouldn’t see that I was up when I wasn’t supposed to be.

He caught me and laughed saying, “What are you doing? You are suppose to be asleep.”

“I can’t sleep,” I said. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” He said “Come on, I’ll put you back to bed.”

I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t argue with him and he put me back into bed.

It was about 3-4 in the morning. By the time I settled down, closed my eyes and opened them again, it was daylight.

That next morning, lying in bed trying to get rest I could hear both my parents sniffling and talking.

I heard my aunt come in the door.

I really knew something wasn’t right now.

I got up and went to the bathroom. My mom heard me get up and asked me happily if I slept okay.

“Yeah, alright,” I said “How’s grandpa?”

She looked at me with a blank stare and started to cry.

“How’s grandpa?” I said again, this time I rasied my voice.

“He’s gone,” she said crying even harder now.

I looked at her in shock. “What do you mean?” I asked.

She explained that she and her sisters slept at the hospital and stayed by their dad’s bedside as he took his final breath on earth and was called home to god at 7:00 that morning.

My whole body became numb.” NO,” I screamed,” NO……WHY GOD???…..WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? WHY?”

That same  night after we went to plan his funeral, I banged angrily on my bed sheets,  pleading for my grandfather to forgive me for not spending enough time with him, for being a jerk every time I would talk to him on the phone – I would talk so fast to try and get him off my back, for not realizing he was lonely and needed someone to talk to.

“I’M SORRY GRANDDAD,”  I screamed while looking up at the ceiling and banging on the bed sheets. “I’M SORRY…..I’M SO SORRY……PLEASE FORGIVE ME.

The day of his viewing emotions were running high for our family. It really hit me when we walked into the room and I saw his lifeless body lying in the casket.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

He looked normal. Not sick or suffering. In no pain. Like he was sleeping. I wanted to visit him in the hospital but couldn’t due to getting sick. I have not really seen him in person since we celebrate his last birthday in January.

I gave a reading at his mass. Everyone that was there was so proud that I did it, which made me feel better, but I still had a long road of grief ahead of me.

After everything was said and done and he was laid to rest, that’s when my first real grief period started.

I had my emotional and rocky days where I just needed to let the tears and grief out – no matter where and who I was with.

One of the lessons I hope you all walk away with is:

Find yourself a good, healthy and strong support system that way when something like this happens, you’ll be able to lean on them for support or a shoulder to cry on. I relied and vented to others the first few weeks and that helped a lot. To this day, it’s still hard and I still cry and have my good and bad days where I’m emotional. The strong, healthy support system is what I needed most during this time to help me get through, and I had it.

When you grieve when you’re older for the first time like I did, just know:

It’s okay to cry.

You’re going to be okay, it may take some time to heal – days, weeks, even years – but you’re going to be okay.

Be strong.

Juliana Ruggiero
Juliana is 18 and fresh out of High school. She graduated with High honors. Writing is something she really enjoys doing and everyone that knows her tells her she has a gift for it. Juliana is a hopeless Italian food addict, loves meeting new people and making new friends. She is very laid back and easy going. Juliana is here to inspire everyone and give it her all. She doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. Her career began in July of 2016 after reaching out and offering to be interviewed for The Abler Blog. Since that interview, after seeing all the positive feedback she was getting from everyone, it pushed her to do more with her writing! Pushing herself to do more has lead Juliana to some of the most kind and supportive people she could ask for! She is grateful that she took that “leap of faith.”