How do I cope with the memory of discovering my deceased grandfather?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

I was caring for my grandfather, who's health was declining. He lived next door to me, and I would go over twice daily to bring him food, clean, visit with him, etc. I wanted to do more, but with two small children it was tough getting over there for longer periods of time. I feel so guilty, at least that's what I think I'm feeling. I went to bring him his breakfast this morning and there was no answer when I called goodmorning to him. I knocked on his bedroom door and the bathroom, no answer. I already knew what had happened, I opened his bedroom door and found him. He had passed away. I can't shake that image from my head. I loved my grandfather very much, he did so much for myself and my family. I can't get the image out of my head, his lifeless body in an awkward position, the look on his face. I keep asking myself what I was doing over at my house when this happened? If I had known, is there anything I could have done? I was just going on about my life, completely oblivious to the fact that my grandfather had passed away until the next morning. I've never dealt with a death before, and I'm having a hard time. I don't know if its the fact that I'm the one who found him, I know everyone grieves, I guess I'm not sure what I'm trying to ask, it just makes me feel better to type this out and talk about it.

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

{{{YOU}}} need a (virtual) hug. Finding your grandfather already deceased is traumatic; especially, after you've been caring for him every day.

Without knowing his condition, I can only imagine he died alone because he didn't want to traumatize you. If his body began shutting down while you were with him, it might have been worse for you.

Sadly, his "quietly going into that good night" is now more upsetting to you as you recall the image of his body in an awkward position and the look on his face.

It is natural to question what you were doing as he died. You wanted to help him as he helped you. As you deal with this image and the loss of your beloved grandfather, be confident that your grandfather didn't want to upset you even more.

This man who cared so much for your family as you cared for him must slowly find a place in your memory--one that is less upsetting and maybe even more joyous in remembrance of the gifts he left behind. Until then, keep him close to your heart and know he would be heartbroken to learn he has upset you like this.

Community Answers

Ca-claire answered...

My dear anonymous - I am so sorry for you to have that image in your mind. Your grandfather would have said something to you, if he wanted more of your time. My guess is that he was very grateful for the time you were able to give him. He was not alone when he passed. Those who loved him that passed before were with him to help him. His body may have been in an awkward position, but that was most likely because we try to hang one to our body because we are accustomed to it. He would be very sad for you to remember his sad empty shell of a body. Please focus on and look at pictures when the two of you were happy together!

A fellow caregiver answered...

Dear Anonymous,- you should feel no guilt for not being with you Grandfather. I agree he was not alone when he passed. It is hardest on those of us who are left behind. I personally take comfort in knowing my Father is at peace, and whole. He is with family who have gone on before. I look forward to the day we will be together again. In time the image you are having will fade. Remember the good times. If you have a photo of him, put it in a place you can see often. This I know will help. <<<<>>>.

Cmlandau answered...

If we remembered and knew what was on the other side, there would be no fear. It is a passing into another wonderful one way door where we are free of this vessel we become so comfortable being in. Guilt is the most crippling emotion; time will heal this. You really love him, remember and honor him in the way your heart knows he wants you to. Talk to him out loud and then allow time/space to listen. That's how we learn. And if we were perfect, we would be here?