Julia Halvas | Staff Writer
I close my eyes, and I can see it clear as day. It’s Thanksgiving from years ago. The family is gathered all around. The only cares we seem to have are whether or not we are going to eat by six or whether the rest of the family can hold their patience for a few more minutes to enjoy the food as a family.
As we are now in full swing of the holiday season, it is important to cherish the moments we share with our loved ones. One of the most beautiful and painful things about life is that it is finite. Tomorrow is never promised, and the holidays are a perfect time to show our love and appreciation to those important in our lives.
It’s hard to watch someone you love die. My 91-year-old grandmother, who is so full of life, is struggling. There are times now I just watch her sleep and reminisce on the ways things used to be. It is hard to fathom that even though she is right in front of me, I feel her slipping away.
Having all four of my grandparents alive is the best gift I could ever receive. They were there on my first birthday, they taught me to swim, and most importantly they helped shape me into the person I am today.
I will forever be grateful for the things they taught me and the memories we shared. And while it is a blessing to have so many shared experiences with my grandparents, I sometimes grapple with the emotional complexity that comes with losing them.
When I look back on the past, I get angry at myself. I get frustrated that I wasted so much time taking life for granted. As I reminisce, I wish I would have stopped being so worried about things that did not matter. I spent so much time worrying about the future, when I should have been enjoying the moment.
I wish I would’ve taken each day, eventful or not, and soak up every little bit.
Acceptance is hard. I have tried countless times to slow down time, I have never been successful. The truth is, time cannot be stopped or slowed, so it is important to make every moment count. Yet, I remember, it was my grandmother who always reminded me to live in the moment.
My days with my grandmother now consist of tucking her in and forcing her to eat breakfast. To be honest, even though it hurts to watch her age, I am grateful.
Even though this person in my life is not yet gone, anticipating the inevitable is part of the grief, too. Anticipatory grieving, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, is a common grieving process that occurs before the death of someone. It is usually the result of a terminal diagnosis.
And while common, it can be difficult to navigate.
But one thing I’ve found that helps is verbalizing what I’m feeling. And, as it turns out, this is scientifically proven to help people deal with grief.
Allison Werner-Lin, Ph.D., a licensed clinical social worker and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice in Philadelphia, suggests that if one is having a hard time with the grieving process, talk it out.
“Grief is a universal human experience,” said Dr. Werner-Lin “And discussing it with others is how you begin to work through it.”
According to Dr. Werner-Lin, some common counseling interventions include narrative therapy, which can help the grieving person reframe loss as well as active listening which allows the grieving person the time and space to talk out their feelings,
“This type of out-loud musing can help a person process their grief,” Werner said
I have found comfort in spending as much time with Grandmother as possible. Even though she may not be able to do the things we used to do together, like play board games or share popcorn together while we fall asleep watching television, it is still nice to just be around her.
For the woman who always found time for me, who made me a priority in her life, I feel both honored and lucky to have the opportunity to return the favor of love.
As her granddaughter, I want her to be able to enjoy her days, no matter what they consist of. I want to embody all the life lessons she taught me.
This is not a tale of caution, but a reminder to all those that have aging loved ones in their life that there is no time like the present. We can get so caught up with the everyday actions of life that we forget what matters most to us. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to show our appreciation for those that mean so much to us.