Facing University After a Funeral

Written by Kira Taylor |

I’m the sort of person who has their life down to a tight schedule. I know where I’ll be, who I’ll be with, when I’m doing work.

Only over Christmas did I realise what a fine balance that is.

We lost my grandma on New Year’s Day. In some way, it was a blessing. She wasn’t really herself anymore because of dementia and she had been in visible pain. Plus, she had a faith. As a Christian, I believe she will be in heaven.

“As a Christian, I believe she will be in heaven.”

But there was also that sadness. As much as we were relieved the pain was over, the person before the dementia set in came back in our minds and we began to miss her – and realise just what we’d missed for the past 5 years.

I pride myself on knowing a little about dementia, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

“Grief is honestly the strangest thing.”

Grief is honestly the strangest thing. There is nothing comparable to it. It’s beautiful because you remember the person; the idiosyncrasies and little things they taught you. It’s painful because you know you’ll never hear those words or be taught by them again.

Because of the date of the funeral, I had to come to Falmouth before to get some exams out of the way. I found myself surrounded by the teapot and crockery that I had inherited, when my grandma moved into a care home.

I think I buried the pain then, focused on my exams and the effort it took the get through each day. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that, when you bury grief, it worms its way up in other places and can mix up your emotions and life.

The homesickness was unexpected, too. I’m a second year – quite used to fending for myself and sorting out problems – but something about this whole thing dragged me back to that childlike state. I could still cook, still drive and pay bills. But there was a vulnerability in me that just wanted to go home.

The funeral took place right in the middle of my exams. I went, of course, bookending it with two exams and studying the entire time I was away.

“I’ve always seen grief as something which happens in the moment or at a funeral, but then fades.”

By the time I came back to Cornwall, I assumed that everything was out of the way. I’ve always seen grief as something which happens in the moment or at a funeral, but then fades. I guess I thought I could put the grief on my schedule:

1. Be sad this day.

2. Now recover.

3. Now get back to normal life.

Except that’s really not what happened. The grief lingered, beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered.

Last night, I finally faced it. And I cried. I cried quite a lot. But goodness, did I need to.

“It was intense and painful, the type of pain you know you have to endure in order for it to go.”

As soon as I actually appreciated what was happening, that I hadn’t actually come to terms with it yet, I was able to really grieve. Oddly enough, it was only a few minutes. It was intense and painful, the type of pain you know you have to endure in order for it to go.

Then it stopped. And I felt lighter.

I don’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert on grief. In fact, I think I am quite the opposite, but I now know you cannot shove down those feelings. They will find their way to the surface somehow.

I feel better now. I’m not perfect. January was a whirlwind and I’ve hit the beginning of term way sooner than I had hoped. My feet still aren’t quite on the ground, but I know they’ll find it eventually.

“I would not have made it through without film nights and late-night messages, smiles in the mornings, and fleeting conversations in the kitchen.”

With the help of friends my house down in Falmouth is slowly becoming home again. I would not have made it through without film nights and late-night messages, smiles in the mornings, and fleeting conversations in the kitchen.

You may go through this whilst at university and, if you do, I will tell you to be brave – it will get better. You may know someone who is going through this and, if so, be there for them, but equally give them some space.

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