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Grandad – living with grief

My love for history and music comes from him, as he would constantly say “‘Ere, have you heard this song” or would be singing at the top of his lungs. One of his favourites was ‘It’s a sin to tell a lie’ by Vera Lynn. He would often sing this to me and my little cousins.

He would also tell us a lot of stories, including historical facts. “Did you know this is where so and so from back in the eighteen hundreds died”. Sometimes he would repeat these stories. For example, I think he told me 100 times that he had Zoe Wanamaker in his cab. He was the kindest man I have known and would have given me the world if I had asked for it.

Becoming ill

When I was around 13 my grandad got sick, but at the time the rest of the family did not tell me and my younger cousins what sickness it was. We just knew he wasn’t very well. He recovered and all was normal again.

We were back to the stories and singing, not that he ever really stopped. In 2017, I moved to London and got to see him more often as he was there for work. During the Summer of 2017 my grandad got sick again and this time, as I was older, we were told it was throat cancer, for the second time.

Everything happened very quickly that summer.

My grandad had an operation to remove his voice box and could no longer talk. This was very difficult for him, but my family quickly got accustomed to understanding his facial expressions and using whiteboards.

Towards the end of 2017, we learned his diagnosis was terminal.

Losing Grandad

I moved home and spent a lot of time with my grandad. My nan would call it ‘grandad sitting’ as he needed someone to stay with him whilst she did the shopping. We spent most of that time together gossiping.

In February 2018 my grandad was moved to Macmillan Caring Locally in Christchurch and sadly, in February, passed away.

At the time, I had never lost someone close to me before, it had always been distant family members. This made the experience feel ten times harder.

The evening it happened my family were all together with him and we were all heartbroken. That evening seems like a blur now and I found it very difficult. It almost didn’t feel real.

Coping by avoidance

During the years that followed, I often would avoid talking about him, leave the room when people were, and would turn off the song that played at his funeral. I found at the time this was the ‘best’ way I could cope with losing someone who was so important in my life.

In the last two years, I have realised that pretending that he was just in London driving his cab, made it that bit harder when I heard his song, or I was around people who spoke about him – which is a lot of people as he was so loved.


I now make sure to reminisce as often as I can, whether that is just looking at photos, mentioning him in the stories I tell, or messaging my cousin asking if she remembers the stories he told us when we were little.

I still struggle to listen to his song and think I always will.

It is also difficult when I achieve big milestones that I can’t tell him, but I make sure to visit him at my nan’s as he sits on her mantlepiece. He is in a very pink and outlandish urn, but he would have loved it because that is typical of my nan. He would be saying “can you believe she has put me in this”. I often go into the lounge and say hello to him and tell him about my achievements, whereas a couple of years ago I would of found that very difficult.

Talking helps

I think what helped me most during my grief journey is what my therapist explained to me one day. She told me that life is a box and within this box is a red button labelled pain and a big ball of grief. She said that in the early stages of grief the ball is so large it has little room to move without hitting the red button. As life goes on, the size of the box increases, and the ball begins to press the button less.

I have noticed that grief does not always have to be pain and sadness. I often find myself smiling and laughing about possible things my grandad would say in a particular moment or things he previously has said.

My grief has been a long journey over multiple years. I feel now when I think about my grandad it isn’t always sadness. I am able to remember the happy times and feel lucky that I got to know him for as long as I did.

Thank you…

Huge thanks to our guest blogger, for sharing their beautifully written story about their relationship with their Grandad. They wish to remain anonymous.

Support for you: 

  • Our Active Monitoring 1-2-1 support contains a ‘Grief and loss’ pathway, which you can find at the GP surgeries listed here.
  • Our Group and 1-2-1 support can help adults and young people with anxiety, depression and loneliness you might feel following a loss.
  • Douch Family Funeral Directors deliver six bereavement support groups that help people connect with others undergoing similar experiences.
  • Dorset Open Door is a partnership of local and national bereavement charities and health and care organisations working together to make sure you get the support you need. Call them on 01305 361 361.
  • Call Samaritans for free 24/7 emotional support on 116 123 
  • Call Dorset’s mental health helpline Connection for support on NHS 111 
  • Text the word ‘SHOUT’ to 85258 for 24/7 support for young people and adults 

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