It’s not just a weird experience, it’s a weird word. Grief. It rhymes with ‘brief’, but it isn’t. It can follow ‘good’ but it isn’t that either. It is too many things, and – for the terribly British among us – more than a little uncomfortable to feel in a way that people can see.
I lost someone very important. It brought closer the losses of other very important people, and kicked the foundations out of my world a little. Grandparents who were so important, who took us in when we were young, who homed me when I was lost, who guided me and raised me and taught me and loved me. Who held me, and who offered the same to so many other people.
And my grief feels…raw. Lonely. Vast.
I haven’t just lost a Grandfather – I’ve lost a parent, a role model, a guiding star and a friend. I’ve lost a possibility of redemption, for the many times I should have called and didn’t, the visits I should have made and never made time for. I’ve lost the chance to fix all the ways I should have been better to him, and let him down.
I’ve lost hearing more stories of his time in the forces, his many and varied business investments, and the way he once helped an Escort to reclaim the cost of her stockings on a tax return as a business expense.
I distanced myself from him at a time I should have been by his side, giving support in the way he’d given so very much to me, because I was afraid.
I lost my Grampa, and feel anew the loss of two magnificent Grandmothers, and fear for what losses may come.
I lost someone who was so much more to the world than he was to just me – he was more than Grampa, he was adventures, tall tales, grand gestures, sound advice, hilarious anecdotes, witty responses and culinary genius (aside from the boil in the bag rice phase we should probably gloss over).
He spent the last days of his life eating only sweets and dessert – because, as he said, “I’m dying anyway, what the fuck does it matter?”
He loved beauty and grace, he married the most powerful feminist I’ve ever met in person, he fathered four children and they had dozens more. He headed an empire, and guided us all. He was hilarious, serious, incredibly bright and totally oblivious.
He was my Grampa. And he was a whole lot more.
And now I am supposed to say goodbye – and I don’t know how.
So instead, I am telling my very young children stories of him so they remember they knew him too, I am re-framing a beloved photograph, I am speaking more with my family, and I am eating a slice of battenberg because it was one of his favourites.