After a painful battle with dementia and being bedridden during the past 6 months, my grandmother passed away on Thursday night.
My grandmother pratically raised my sister and I when she was living with my parents, who were both working full-time and relied heavily on her help. Oma was an awesome grandparent! She took us to kindergarden, cooked, painted with us and did all sorts of activities with us when we were small. She lived until the ripe ol' age of 86 but the last 7 years were absolutely shit - my mother, her only daughter, passed away from cervical cancer seven years ago. There was no other family on her side - she was divorced, her entire family was either dead or she lost contact and she was an intensely private person and never talked to us about these things, only about the happy times when she was a child. I had already moved abroad at that point and my grandmother became utterly fixated on my sister, who was still at school and living at home at that point. Even after moving out, my grandmother was very much of a replacement parent for her.
Two years ago, she took a fall during a holiday with my sister and broke her hip. Long story short, she moved into an assisted living facility and shortly after, underwent a rapid outbreak of dementia. It was heartbreaking to see the person just gone - she went from depressed to.. not really there at all. My grandmother had always been a private person but she still had some friends and activities - but shortly before her accident she became a recluse and depressed but never talked about it. She never wanted to "be any bother" but by doing so, she was only making things more complicated and painful.
After her accident, my younger sister (at the age of 22) became grandmother's legal guardian. I could not have done it and I really admire her for it. It was an odyssee of paperwork and emotions, not to mention the fact that she was finishing university and spent 1.5 years of looking for a job whilst doing internships and working p/t but she pulled through (she has found an awesome full-time job a few months ago btw). My relationship with my grandmother was complicated and strained at times so I decided that my best way of action was to support my sister in any way possible - not because I did not care about my grandmother (I loved her) but because it was easier. Was I a coward? Sometimes I feel like it but in the end, I was glad that I could help in my way.
Fast-forward through 2 miserable years in the care-home with failing health and everything that comes with it. Visiting my grandmother was horrible and I absolutely dreaded it. I hated seeing her like this, I did not want to see her cry and weep about everything but I obviously did not want to tell her to "cheer up!" - her sadness, the depression and the fact that dementia also manifests in crying and emotions were just a terrible bundle of awful. When she was too weak to hold the phone receiver I wrote letters and when she could not read them any more, my dad visited and read them to her. I wanted to show her my love but I could not visit her, it was too much. Especially because she was forgetting things and forgot that I had visited her in the first place - cue more weeping when I visited her again.
My grandmother just would not let go. During the past 6 months, we had numerous false alarms of "this is it!" where my sister and I would rush to her side to make tearful last goodbyes (we also both live 1.5 hours away) - she was not suppposed to make it to Christmas and she still clung on, despite only being sustained on morphine since the beginning of December.
She died with my sister at her side.
I phoned and messaged my sister throughout that evening and night and despite not being there, I at least had the feeling of lending family support and helping both of them getting through. I just could not bring myself to be there - there are a number of reasons which I wish to keep private (for now? I don't know).
Yesterday, my sister and I went to clear out her room. It sucked. I was pretty much okay as I was mainly glad that my grandmother was not suffering anymore but everything else was hard. We packed up her music CDs and paintings but left all of her clothing and this part was actually the worst bit, seeing all these things she had worn when she was still happy and healthy.
The past two years were hard on me. I felt sad for what was and sad for what wasn't any more. I mostly feel guilt because obviously I did not suffer as much as grandmother or my sister. I had it comparatively easy. I had capriciaMAN who helped me tremendously with working through my feelings and being okay. I used to displace my sadness into anger - my first thought after my grandmother's accident was rage (that is after almost fainting because my dearest father, bless his heart, does not have a good way of delivering bad news). I was so upset and so ANGRY and I remained angry to hide my guilt of not jumping at the chance to take over the care, despite everything my grandmother had done for us.
It is over. I try to not feel guilty anymore.
My grandmother was a difficult person and the illness absolutely destroyed everything but I loved her and I will not let the past 2 years taint that. I think she was happiest when my sister and I were little and my mother was still alive so I will concentrate on those feelings. I have found a beautiful photo from my uni graduation five years ago and she looked so gentle, happy and calm. This is how I want to remember her, as a supportive grandparent. The funeral is in two weeks and I am dreading it. I am trying to help my sister as much as I can - not only with organising stuff but also giving emotional support. My grandmother and her developed such a weird co-dependency and in a way, my sister lost a parent (figure) again.
Also, my beloved cat is going to be put down today, too. I am at work and my dad was supposed to call me but he hasn't so far and I am just so anxious about it. I just want it to be over.
My spelling etc are probably all over the place because of FEELINGS and stuff. I just wanted to get it out. I have hardly told anybody IRL.
I wrote this post in the morning. Now it's evening and my cat is gone, too. I cannot stop crying.