Posted by: Kathy | April 18, 2012

When the Journey Began

Most of my posts have focused on the loss of my mom. But my journey with grief and healing began on May 4, 2000, when I lost my beloved grandfather. Although he was almost 93 years old, Pop Pop’s death came as a shock to me. He was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night, but because of his age the doctors decided that they couldn’t operate on him. My grandparents were living in a retirement home, although my grandfather had been in the assisted living section since a fall, while my grandmother stayed in their apartment.

My mother was the one who received the call in the middle of the night, telling her that her father was dying. She rushed to be with him, but waited a few hours before waking her mother and bringing her to the hospital. During this time, my grandfather was on life support, and he stayed on life support just long enough for his wife of 63 years to say goodbye. When the phone rang at 6:30 am, I knew something was wrong. To this day, nearly 12 years later, I can still see myself answering the phone, knowing that only bad news was to come. Pop Pop died before I could get to the hospital to say goodbye, and for a while I was angry with my mom for taking him off life support and not giving me a chance to get there in time. Although in all honesty, this anger toward my mom was unfair. My grandfather had a DNR and really should not have been on life support in the first place. And I didn’t race to get to the hospital after dropping my son off at daycare that morning. I was terrified of what I knew was coming. I had never lost anyone that close to me before.

After watching my mom’s mother, Mom Mom, live for 9 months after suffering a stroke, followed by my mom’s battle with pancreatic cancer, I am grateful that I didn’t see Pop Pop in his final moments. The last memory I have of my grandfather is a good one – a short phone conversation about 10 days earlier.

I have been dealing with grief and loss for almost 12 years now. After losing Pop Pop, my dad’s father, who I called Grandpop, died a little over a year later on June 15, 2001, most likely of a heart attack in his sleep. Grandmom, my dad’s mom, who had been living with Alzheimer’s for many years, died on May 2, 2003. I said goodbye Mom Mom on December 15, 2005, almost 9 months to the day after suffering a major stroke. I was pregnant at the time and about 2 months later I found out I was having a little girl.

Why am I writing about all of this? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, except that maybe now I understand how the sadness of grief and loss can linger, so that when someone else close to you dies, it just adds to the pain that’s already there. We are a small family, and losing 5 family members in 8 years left me feeling empty and sad, and I become lost in the depths of grief when my mom died. For years, I just kept moving forward without really grieving or finding some sort of closure for myself. Each loss needs to be grieved for in its own way so that true healing can take place.

This picture was taken on Christmas Day 1971. It is the only picture I can find of my entire family together. Starting with my dad at the head of the table and going to the right around the table is Grandmom holding my brother Paul, my mom, me at age 2, Mom Mom, Pop Pop, Aunt Laura, Aunt Katie, and Grandpop.



  1. I remember dinners with my grandparents and parents, our family get togethers, and cherish those memories. I spent a lot of time with my mom’s parents growing up and my mom continued this tradition with my kids. I wish we could all be together again.

  2. Unbelievable, but true, that grief extends to even losing a grandparent or great grandparent. We are a close knit clan so losing someone within that circle is devastating because you know someone once used to be with you. Thank you for sharing your story. And I love your family photo! Nowadays it’s hard to find that one picture where everyone’s in it.

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