How do I deal with the grief I still feel about my grandfather's death two years ago?

14 answers | Last updated: Nov 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm 25 and my grandfather passed away two years ago. I'm still mad that he died and still cry when I think of him. Am I still grieving? How do I stop thinking about this?

Expert Answers

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

If you still cry when you think of your grandfather, it's probably because he was very dear to you, so his death hurts a lot. It’s not unusual for grieving to last quite a while, especially if there are unresolved feelings about the person who has died, or how they died, or the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

We live in a world that sometimes expects us to "get over it" a bit too fast; this expectation often just isn't that realistic.

If you hope to stop feeling angry and sad about your grandfather's death, you might consider talking about your feelings with someone you trust, or with a professional counselor. Many communities have organizations that provide, or could refer you to, a grief support group.

If none of these suggestions are appealing, try sitting down and writing a letter to your grandfather. Tell him about every single feeling you've been struggling with since he died. Then read the letter out loud to him.

More than likely, if you give your feelings some "air time," the grieving and persistent thoughts of your grandfather will lessen. But remember: Grieving takes time.

Community Answers

Allfiredup answered...

My dad was an only child and I grew up right next door to door to my grandparents. My grandfather was more of a dad to me and my sister than our actual father. We adored him, to say the least.

I graduated high school in 1993 and moved about an hour away to go to college. I'm ashamed to admit that, despite being an hour away, I rarely made the trip to visit more than three or four times per year. He had a series of strokes and heart attacks during the last year of his life, then he died in late 1998. I hadn't seen him in almost three months and I didn't even rush to the hospital when my sister called that last time....he'd always pulled thru in the past and he'd do it again, or so I told myself....

I struggled with grief, guilt, anger and depression every day, starting a few weeks after his funeral. Most mornings, I had no idea how I'd make it thru that day. After about five months of living in that hell, I knew that I needed help if I ever hoped to get past the pain and sorrow and get back to living, just as my Pop would have wanted! I found a local counselor (a Licensed Clinical Social Worker) who specialized in grief counseling. We met weekly for the first few months, then every two weeks for more than a year. It didn't happen instantly, but I eventually learned to let go of most of the painful feelings and move on with my life. Most importantly, I learned how to forgive myself for the mistakes I made.

I worried for so long that Pop didn't know how much I loved him, but now I have no doubt that he did...and does!

Here were a few of the things that helped me move on:

  • I visited his grave and talked to him whenever I wanted to be near him. He is buried at a small, country church without a groundskeeper, so I made certain things are up to his tidy standards. I still go by there at least once per month, even though I live three hours away now!

  • I spent at least one or two weekends per month at my grandmother's house taking care of her finances, washing her car and having it serviced, maintaining her house and the rental property they own nearby....all the things that weren't getting done or weren't being handled properly since Pop died, I took over those responsibilities. He wouldn't have wanted my grandmother to stress or worry over them, so that was something I could do for him even after he was gone.

  • Remember the good times and acknowledge how blessed you were to have him in your life for the time that you did. My Pop loved to go fishing and always took me with him when I was a kid. I hadn't touched a fishing pole in 15 years or more, but I went to his favorite fishing hole (with his rickety old lawn chair and tackle box) and I always felt very close to him there.

  • I also asked my grandmother for Pop's money clip, so I'd have something of his that I could always carry with me. I still carry it to this day. I also have an old pocket watch and shaving kit (with an old-fashioned straight-edge razor) that were given to him by his father. I keep them in the top drawer of my dresser and they remind me of him every time I open it.

He has been gone for almost 12 years now, but there are still some days when I miss him like he just died last week. Most of those days, I have a good, long cry and remember all the good stuff, and somehow life goes on....

Kidme56 answered...

Grieving is personal.No body can rush it.But when it becomes destructive to ones live then one should seek professional help.

Msbarneybutt answered...

TO: allfiredup

I understand EXACTLY how you have felt & still DO feel right now. THE man for me died New Year's Day, 2009. We had all of these plans that we were both very excited about going through & doing together as an extremely "in love" couple. We lived an hour +/- from his family & my family respectively, one to the North & the other to the South. After he died at my parents' house VERY, VERY, VERY unexpectedly, I met with his family of four brothers & one sister each with their respective spouses &/or significant other. At the funeral home & at the memorial service for Paul, all of them, the siblings & their respective spouses ALL told me how very, very happy Paul was with me, that they hadn't seen him as happy as he was with me in more than ten years; that I was considered a part of the family even though we had only been together little over a year. The first 5 - 6 months, I called them regularly just to check to see how they were doing & to just TRY to stay in touch with what I had hoped would be my second family since my own tends to make me "crazy as a bat." At any rate, not even one of them has reached out to me one time since the service. I too have a counselor that is rather costly, & I DO NOT have health insurance. Paul & I had just found a house that we were going to purchase; he had just received a raise & a promotion at work & soooo many other good things were ahead of us, but now he's gone.

I too have a counselor/therapist who means the entire world to me, but talking anything "out" can only do so much for someone. I struggle to get to sleep at night, & when I do, it's almost as if I am literally passing out from pure exhaustion. Today was the first day that I have earnestly put forth some effort to keep my house that my parents assisted me in acquiring in the year that I have lived here. My mom also assisted me in getting a dog that means the entire world to me. I DO have siblings & three nieces (worst-behaved yet beautiful children) that you would ever see, & I know they love me, but they also have their own lives to lead.

I don't think I would get so "down" as often as I do (I AM happily medicated & DO see a psychiatrist on a regular basis as well as my therapist/counselor) if I had some REAL "friends." I haven't had a TRUE, GOOD & REAL "friend" in many, many years now. I KNOW a lotta people, & a lotta people know me. However, to be labeled a "friend" of mine is something entirely different. Prior to meeting Paul, my only TRUE, GOOD & REAL friend was my counselor/therapist which I have mentioned above. (/)

Oh, I HAVE gone on & on & on & on as I so often do. I COULD go into many more details, but I truly don't think there is enough space here nor do I realistically foresee anyone taking the time to read it all. With that, I will close.

Cyndi, of Columbus, GA & Phenix City, AL barneybutt at that hot mail site.

P.S. I am NOT suicidal, do NOT wanna hurt myself or others. I am just soooo lonely & do not know to whom or where to turn.

Robw answered...

I have taken the time to read your message and would love to know more if you wanted to email me. I am very sorry for your loss its sounds similar to mine on many levels, maybe we can help each other. Its worth a try. I don't know what the lessons are that we are supposed to take from our experiences when we are in the midst of such complicated grief, maybe that will only become clear with time and hindsight. I pray you find a coping strategy and the verve that life can have. God bless. Rob from England

Mimi mateo answered...

It's strange that I would say that I'm happy a stubbled across this thread, but I am, albeit in a bittersweet way. It helps me feel less alone in my grief. I feel I've been grieving for a lot of my life having lost my father at 16 and all my grandparents, and even some friends.

I am afraid to give any advice to people because, well, who knows? I myself could be grieving in an unhealthy way and I don't want to make anyone's experience worse. I don't know if the sadness ever completely goes away, but at least from my experience, other more pleasant emotions gradually take up more space, allowing joyful memories to dominate.

Thank you all for pouring your hearts out. I rarely find people who are even comfortable talking about subjects as disturbing as the death of a loved one. I feel very touched by everybody's posts and I hope that your memories of your beloved ones will be more of a source of joy than pain.

Perfect stranger answered...

I understand how you feel. It's been 10 years since my grandfather passed away and he has been closer to me than my father most times. A year after his passing my father passed away. Both deaths impacted me greatly and I was still in University at the time. I went from A/B grades to almost being kicked out of school. Even today the feeling of grief still creeps back, but it takes a different form. It is more of remembrance and gratitude. If it wasn't for him I woulnd't be who I am today.

People say it takes time to heal, which I believe is true, but it doesn't mean you have to fight it alone. The advice here of having a support group or counselling is absolutely true. Fortunately, for me, I had a sister, around my age, who was going through the same feelings, so there was someone to share my pain, but to deal with it alone would have been much more difficult.

I can tell that you love your grandfather greatly, and just hold dear to everything you shared with him and remember the joyful moments. I believe everything and everyone around you makes who you are, and that piece from your grandfather will be with you forever. Cherish the memories and remember that he would want you to live a full and happy life as well.

Chelseabonaventure answered...

My grandpa passed away February 8th which was only a little over a month ago. He was my role model and like a father to me. He raised me and he had been sick for 15 years and on dialysis he kept having heart attacks and the last time I saw him I knew it would be the last and it truly broke my heart. He passed away on my wedding day. His heart stopped. I miss him so much. At times I just wish I could be in heaven with him when I look up at the sky I know he's looking down on me. My life seems to be going down hill now. I'm miserable, nothing can make me happy. And it's making my wife miserable as well. I don't know what to do. I just want to wake up from this nightmare!!

Skylover answered...

My Grandad passed away about 3 months ago - he was a short, feisty man who was incredibly strong and managed to get through a hard childhood and a troubled life. He had 3 daughters, 9 grandchildren and a wife. However, out of his grandchildren, I would say me and my Grandad shared a very special bond with each other. He was like my second dad, I saw him nearly every week, sometimes more than that. He was always there, showing me support and helping me out, no matter what. When he had his heart attack, he was rushed into the ICU where he was on life support; life just suddenly didn't make any sense. I hoped and hoped with all my life that he would just wake up. I begged to whoever, to bring him back. But he never did.

I wrote a letter to him which I read beside his bed, because the doctors had said that he could still hear me, and while I was talking to him, his body language changed slightly; almost as if he was trying to respond to me but he couldn't.

He left this world and it's been 3 months and it's almost like, the grief hit me now, harder then ever. I'm going through a rough time, graduating school and doing my finals. I have an operation to go through and I know he was the only one, apart from my parents, who would cheer me on. However, I know he's inside me, he's around me and he's certainly a part of me. I just wish I could hug him one last him, hear him chuckle and see him smile again. To deal with this, I know that he wants me to live life to fullest and keep going on, even if it gets tough. He wants me to be happy. I'll always remember the wonderful memories which will be cherished forever. And I hope that your grieving becomes a little easier. It's okay to feel pain but you mustn't keep feeling it, feel the warmth of what was, not the coldness that is trying to overcome you. Look up to the sky, talk to him, he's with you.

I know mine is.

A fellow caregiver answered...

my grandpa died 3 years ago. from cancer. we have many pictures of him. last year on his b-day I took every single one of those pictures and burned them. yes i do feel bad but I had to. he kept smiling at me and winking at me. and yes i do mean winking. the pictures would actually wink. he was haunting me. he haunted because when he died I said to him "Dont leave. if you do ill die" and so he didnt. he stayed and he still is haunting me to this very day.

Anji 7 answered...

Well don't feel sad U lost your grandpa. I lost my grandpa this year . I will list a couple of answers to help you. I hope this helps you out . 1. Think about the memories of your grandpa so u feel close to him 2. Look at the materials that he used 3. Talk to your friends/ relatives

A fellow caregiver answered...

Losing your grandfather is the worst feeling you can ever come across. I lost mine almost 5 months and I still sometimes cry when I think about him. But you know except the fact that he is no more with me I am happy for him . I will tell you how I dealt with it my granddad's death. 1. Surround yourself with people. I did not do much of it and I did not talk about him much, which is something I should have done. You should talk to someone you can confide in and spill your feelings. 2. Write. You can always write to him. That's what I did and I still do. You don't have to do it every week but at least once or twice a month. You know that he can't hear you but you still write thinking that he is somewhere around us reading what we have written. 3. Although you should be surrounded with people, you also should spend time with yourself. Go for a walk in a nearby park and relax. 4. As childish as this my sound, you should listen to music as it always makes our feel better. Along with that watch some YouTube videos. When you see happy people and watch cheering stuff, it always makes you feel good. 5. Remember the good times you spent with him. Don't just think about the fact that you can never see him again but think more about the memorable moments, his habits and characteristics. Make him a happy memory. 6. Don't avoid talking about your granddad. Talk about him very casually without feeling the need to cry and be sad about it. I hope this helped a bit.

A fellow caregiver answered...

my dad say to me grandparent old grandpa died i was freaking out what is going on im still crying about him if i thinking about him i be all sad all day not talking is lots of sad memories of my grandpa i can not belive he left my hospital i doint know what to say is too painful hurts me really really hard time my heart cries i will cry if i talking about it my friends talks to me really painful to understand me my boyfriend feels bad about me he worries about me to cheer me up isint working he needs to cheers me up he prays for me my grandpa in heaven

A fellow caregiver answered...

Yes, well, my grandfather passed away in June of 2013 unexpectedly. I'm crying even as I write this now, practically 3 years later in April of 2016. I didn't know you could grieve this way, as a young and usually happy person. I'm 24 now and perhaps my outlook on the world today makes me sensitive to the past and how precious it was - or seems. You know, nothing is ever as it seems at first. I can still feel his skin on my lips when I kissed him on the forehead, being just a touch taller at the time. I used to tell him I would miss him, and he would say the same. He was a great friend to me. Good company is hard to come by, and for 89, he was simply brilliant. They don't make 'em like that anymore ... 1924. I dream of him if I look at his photo before bed sometimes or if I meditate and pray intently then he stops by at times when I truly need him. I try not to call on him too often. Sometimes I'll go by the old house and look up at his balcony where he used to wait for me whenever I would come over on a nice day. What's important is that you realize how deeply you loved. Because of this love you have abilities you may be unaware of. To love so much is not a flaw! It is currency. Your sadness is valid. It is better to feel too much rather than not at all, in my opinion. Please know you are not alone. Many of those you pass by day-to-day on the street are missing someone they feel was taken from them, and many of those someones are grandfathers - miss your grandfather. Chances are he misses you too, darling. Wherever you are, whatever you believe in, remember him and hold his memory near and dear. Have no fear. His love is here.