Today’s blog post will be a personal one as today marks the 16th death anniversary of my grandma (or Ba as I called her). I knew I would always miss her, but dealing with long-term grief was not something I fully accounted for.
I started this blog to post helpful tutorials, advice, and tips about everything self-fulfilling, creative and healthy. I think that while we should strive for a positive outlook, life is filled with ups and downs. Grief is a natural part of life and it should not be put into a corner.
It is perfectly normal to grieve the loss of a loved one over time. There is no expiration on grief and it will come in waves.
My Zaver Ba
My grandmother, Zaver Ba (the Gujarati word for grandmother) was my rock. She moved to the US from a small village in India a little before I was born and she lived with us in CT until she died.
I don’t have enough words to say how grateful and lucky I am to have spent so much time with this kind, gentle, woman. She raised my sister and me while my parents worked long hours. She played every game we could think of and watched all of the 90s TV shows we us. Even though she barely understood English.
She only wanted to spend time with us. She held our hands for our hours when we were sick, yelled at anyone who mistreated us, and taught us about our Hindu culture and traditions.
She was a strong and smart woman who learned to change with times.
Born in 1912 in pre-Independence India, she grew up in a poor household in Gujarat, India. She was orphaned at a young age, as well as married at 12 to a much older man. Due to the Spanish Influenza wiping out the population in India, my great-grandfather made the decision to marry his daughters off so that they would be provided for in the event of his death.
My grandmother dealt with a lot in her early life. Though she never once complained about her life to me or others in her later years. She was happy with the way her life shaped out, her 7 children who settled in America with a growing brood of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She had a simple mindset. Do good, think positive, and live by our Hindu Gods’ moral ethics. She was deeply devout and prayed for hours daily. You could always find her chanting Hindu hymns while she got her daily steps in or reading from the Bhagavad Gita. She found happiness in simplicity and it was so beautiful to see how content she was.
A Loss I was Not Ready For
I was 18 when my grandmother passed away. It was my sophomore year of college and I’ll never forget that dreaded phone call from my dad. My grandmother was in excellent health at 90. She practiced yoga every morning up until a couple of days before she passed. She had been ready to go for some time, telling us she lived a great time and when time is time, she would embrace it.
But, I was not ready. I was embarking on a new journey away from my home and I lost the person who raised me. It was a huge blow that took years to recover from.
That is the thing about grief. It comes in waves and can hit you when you least expect it. Most days I am fine talking about my grandmother, telling strangers about the lovely memories we shared.
But, then there are milestones that trigger an avalanche of feelings. Coping with the loss of a loved one as you move through life’s major events is difficult. I wanted to hug her when I graduated college, I wanted to call her when I moved across the country to LA, I wanted to see her smile when I told her I got my first job at a major movie studio.
Every achievement and life event came with the realization that there was a person missing in my life. A hole that cannot be filled.
I got married a couple of weeks ago and it really hit hard that my grandma was not at the ceremony. She would’ve been so ecstatic to see this day. She probably would’ve grabbed a duffle bag and started dancing with it like a drum. She was always the playful one.
Dealing with Long-Term Grief
There’s no easy answer to this question. For me, it’s about honoring my grandmother’s memory, living a life she would be proud of, and being happy.
I know that is all she would have wanted for me. She would not want me to be sad about her loss. She would want me to build upon what she taught me, and to grow every day.
I take comfort in knowing that she is still a huge part of my life, through my personality and actions. She instilled values in me that will never disappear.
Everyone deals with grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to handle your feelings. My sister writes a birthday card to my grandmother every year and keeps her sweater as a security blanket.
I keep a framed photo of my grandma and me from my childhood on my office desk as a daily reminder of an unconditional bond.
Celebrating Your Loved One
Every year on my grandmother’s death anniversary, I wake up with heavy sadness. It takes me longer to get out of bed and to move through my day.
The one constant that I have kept up with every year is to pay a tribute to her on social media. Every year I write a post with memories, stories and little tidbits. I love these posts as it lets me reflect back on things I may have forgotten. It also lets me celebrate the woman my grandma was. I love sharing about her, it’s one of the easiest things to do.
Today, I shared some fun memories:
- Zaverba fueled my love for horror. I am obsessed with all things supernatural even though it scares the crap out of me. My grandmother started this fascination by telling me ghost stories when I was young. Some were tales that she heard from others and some were true stories. The one that sticks in my mind was the time she told me my grandfather seemed possessed by a ghost and started speaking in different voices. She promptly called the village priest to perform an exorcism.
- Despite living in a foreign country where she barely knew the language, she was confident. However, there were times when she would get really scared. When I was a baby, the fire alarm went off (a sound she was unaware of and had no idea what to do). She grabbed me and ran down the street to an Indian neighbor’s house. We laugh about it now, but she must’ve been so terrified. And, this was before cell phones.
- My grandmother loved everyone and never saw any difference in people regarding race, class, gender. During Pre and Post Independence in India, Muslims were persecuted in Gujarat (this is a lot of Hindu/Muslim fighting that happens). My grandmother had Muslim friends she loved. She gave them Hindu clothing and hid them so they would not be harassed and killed. She is definitely someone to look up to.
As I get older, I’m more aware of the memories I will build without my grandmother. It’s been 16 years and there will be more years added to that number. I’ll always miss her and will probably deal with long-term grief my whole life.
This is okay.
I know that she would want me to live a happy and healthy life. And, I will keep doing that.