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grief and loss of loved one

What Should You Really Say to Someone Who’s Just Lost a Loved One?

My grandmother died this morning. She was sitting at the breakfast table, chewing her food, and suddenly just stopped breathing..

I wasn’t there to see her on her last day and now I really don’t know how to feel about it. I was in Monterey having a family holiday with my son and husband.

Alzheimer’s Disease

My grandma suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease and it changed who she was in so many ways. The thing is, when you tell someone about dementia and Alzheimer’s, they listen and then nod and say, “yes, that’s very normal” and then it’s left making you feel like shoulders had just been shrugged at you.

I know death is inevitable, but when someone you really care about dies, you can’t help but think about life. Then of course you think about what else you could have done to be there for that person and did she know she was loved?

The last few months of my grandma’s life was extremely difficult for her and for the family. Taking care of someone with dementia AND Alzheimer’s requires a lot of patience, because neither of you knows what type of day you’ll have. It’s been said by many people that taking care of the elderly, and even worse with someone who suffers from dementia, is worse than taking care of a child. And it’s true.

My grandma had some very weird days. Some days she can remember things quite well and sometimes she can’t remember something that happened just a minute before. Then of course they do things that make you wonder how in the world they could ever think to do something like that.

My grandma had some crazy antics. For example, she was once given about $800 pocket money by my aunt. This was of course at the early stage of her disease and we weren’t ready to start accepting that she was quite there yet. Anyway, she’d put 8 of the hundred dollar bills in a gum packet that was nearly thrown in the trash. She said she’d done this because she was worried it was going to get stolen.

regrets after death loss

My mom refused to have my grandma in a senior home of any kind. She wanted her to be with her family, but it wasn’t easy. My dad (a nurse for over 30 years) was her full-time caregiver.

Just a few months ago, we were starting to get a little impatient with her. It was exhausting to repeat yourself every 5 seconds and watch her like a hawk, because you have no idea what she’ll do at any given time. We all just kept saying, “she’s not even in there anymore.”

When regrets kick in

Now she’s gone. She’s gone and I have some really deep regrets. I keep thinking about the times I could have sat longer with her, told her I loved her, or even hugged her more. People say I can’t think that way, because it’s going to send me into a downhill state of sadness or even depression. But it’s always easy said than done, right?

I guess you could say I’m grieving right now. My grandma has been a big part of our family all my life. So I don’t know quite how to handle it just yet. I’ve lost people I love before but it’s been a really really long time.

I never really know what to say when people lose someone, because it all sounds the same. “Sorry for your loss” or “I’m praying for you” or “she’s in a better place now.” I mean, do you really know if she’s in a better place? I know we all have to say something kind, but what I’d really love is for someone to just say something funny to me so I can laugh. Even just for a few seconds.

Karlyn Bishop

Karlyn Bishop

Karlyn Bishop is the proud mommy to little Oliver and wife to hubby. She is a resident of Laguna Beach and a big player in the web's large social media circle.

19 comments

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  • When mom passed, I was 36 weeks pregnant. Imagine all the pain and sadness I had. The very moment that I learned that she passed, I cried and cried and the best things that I heard from my now husband were words of care and love and nothing else. He cried and hugged me all through the night and the next days and then the next nights until it got easier as time goes by. I am so sorry Ate, but I promise you that it gets easier.

  • When I found out that my friend lost her loved ones honestly, I can’t say anything and I am just only thinking that time a way on how to comfort her.

  • Thanks for sharing your new post.
    When I found out that my friend lost her mother, I find it really awkward to say “I’m sorry for your lost” because first, saying “I’m sorry” is only when you do harm or inconveniences to others.
    So I just gave her a sympathetic smile, and gave her a hug. In this situation, actions speaks louder and sincere than words.

  • I remember when I lost my grandmother. I had a hard time with trying to deal with it. I am glad for my mother though. That last year she really got to spend some quality time with her and was able to connect with her in a way she never was able to before. She really needed that I think.

  • This is very sad. My son died 12 years ago now and I wish that people had known what to say to us. I think a hug and I’m sorry is all that needs to be said. xx

  • Sorry to hear about your grandma. Alzheimer’s is an awful illness. My grandma had it too, it’s heartbreaking to see them deteriorate and I really wouldn’t wish it on anyone. We had to get a live in nurse to help as the family decided not to take her to a home too. Sending hugs x

  • I know of a friend who’s taking care of her father who has dementia and I can only imagine what she goes through. The one thing I can say is that it’s the cycle of life – a new life begins, and another life ends. I hope you and your family are holding up well in this sorrowful time .

  • This was a tough read and made me cry :(. I’m sorry that you had to witness and experience the devastation of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I cannot imagine the pain of someone I love no longer recognizing who I am. These are two of the diseases that I fear getting the most. As someone who is also going through the grieving process (for something else), all I can say is to not rush the process and to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are going through. If you need a specific type of support from your support system (e.g., having someone make you laugh), then I would communicate that to them. Support looks different for everyone, and both parties benefit the most if it’s clear what is needed :). I wish you happier days ahead and I hope that time heals your heart.

    • Thank you so much. It really means a lot when you write something so heartfelt and it resonates with someone else. Thank you for your helpful comment and advice.

  • This is really sad to read, specially because my granddad just passed away recently too! I always think if I could just go back and give him another hug, it’s really hard to say anything to someone who’s experienced this kind of loss!

    • You’re very right! It makes it difficult to think about all the family gatherings, especially since my grandma was a part of everything. I hope you can find your own peace and comfort about your grandad’s passing. I know time will pass and help us through it some day, but for now, perhaps it’s ok to think all that we have to, whether anyone thinks it’s good or bad for us, right? We are providing comfort with each other and just knowing that they’re no longer suffering … is probably better. My grandmother was crying out in pain every day and telling us she just wanted to go and rest and although we will miss her, I think she’s much more comfortable now.

  • I am truly sorry to hear about your loss. The loss of a family member, especially someone we are closest to, is really the hardest. I find this very hard because now, my relationship with my mother has not been very nice. She is sick and aging, but she has shunned me from her life. 🙁

  • I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandma and having lost relatives to Dementia, I know how difficult it can be see the person who you love not even remember your name or who you are. But if you do need someone to talk to, my virtual door is open x Sending well wishes and my consolidations your way.

  • It’s always hard to know what to say. I suppose the best possible thing you can do is let someone know that you are there for them. It was very brave of you to write this post! I honestly wish you all the best

  • Just offering a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen with is all that I can offer. Losing a loved one is so hard. People handle it in different ways.

  • For me the best thing to say is I am sorry, I am here if you need me. That’s what I needed to hear and that’s what people tell me they need too.