Recently my Great Gran (hereafter referred to as Granny Smith) died. She’d been sick for a long time and I’d last seen her about a week before for her birthday. I’ve seen her regularly for most of my life and I was definitely close to her. She’s perhaps the only person I’ve met that would just tell people exactly what she thought of them (I inherited that trait from her, naturally). Everyone in the family has heard a comment about their outfit or general appearance at some point in their life. My cousins and I got the ‘hair comment’ the most. We’d walk into the house with a great new cut or color we were dead proud of and she’d be straight in with: “What have you done to your hair?!”
About 2 years before this my Grandma Jean died. I’d seen her two weeks before her death but I wasn’t as close with her (due to family issues I won’t go into). When my mom told me she’d died I was devastated. I cried for hours, I couldn’t speak to anyone, I cried myself to sleep that night. When my Granny Smith died, I cried for about a minute. I couldn’t figure out why I had reacted so differently. I felt awful about it, as though it must have meant I loved one more than the other
After some frankly limited research I have come to the conclusion it is due to anticipatory grief. According to the one single article I read, anticipatory grief is when a loved one suffers from a long term illness so that you already have the emotional response of grief before they’ve actually died. Surprisingly, it makes a lot of sense. I’ve been feeling terrible because I’ve been feeling nothing, as though she’d died ages ago. After reading about anticipatory grief I’ve realised she did die ages ago. At least part of her did, she’s always been strong and able to live alone and do things for herself, but after she got diagnosed with her brain and lung tumors she couldn’t live alone and soon after she stopped being able to leave her bed. She spent her last months in bed, in the living room of her daughter. She was barely living, sleeping most of the day and spending all day in her bed.
If anything I’m relieved that she passed away. She’s not in any more pain and she can’t feel as though she’s a burden on anyone like she did in her last days. She’s with my Grandad now, and while I’m not certain on an afterlife, I can always hope she’s in a better place.