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Grieving…Deeply…at a Distance

At some point, all of us encounters loss, including death. Grief is complex and has many stages that may not flow in a chronological order. Based upon my own past and current experiences with bereavement, I wanted to speak about the wrinkles of managing death in a digital world.

This past week I lost my Grandfather from the Philippines. He was not a grandfather by blood, but he is a grandfather in my heart. He has been my grandfather since I was 6 years old. He took me in and treated me as a granddaughter and that was all I needed to belong. I was able to see my grandfather about 7 years ago while living in Arizona. He then returned to live in the Philippines and the times he returned to the States I was not able to visit with him.

It’s worth noting, I am familiar with the numbing trauma of loss from way back. With few exceptions, I have always been able to be with loved ones to say goodbye and be surrounded by others during the feelings of loss felt during that time. The togetherness makes a difference. You can share moments to cry, smile or laugh. However, when you are not able to be there — the loss can leave you feeling numb, detached and alienated.

Like many people separated from loved ones and friends by time or geography, I discovered that my Grandfather died via Facebook. At the time, I was posting a request of prayer support for my grandfather’s health. The news was stunning. With a 12 hour time difference between my home on the East Coast of the United States to their home in the Philippines, I immediately called my Nanay to support her. She was trying to call everyone and, was trying to be considerate of all the different time zones. This is the reality of social media, sometimes we find out about big happenings in families in impersonal ways. My main concern was to give love and support and ask how I can help her.

This is what I posted on my Facebook wall after a full day of processing his passing:

My Grandfather passed away early this morning. I know he wasn't my grandpa by blood, but he treated me like a granddaughter since I was young. He was my grandfather in my heart. I always did joke around that I am part Filipino.

I spent many summers with him in the Philippines where he spoiled me and my siblings rotten. We always ran to him when Grandma got mad at us and threatened to twist our ear. I was lucky to see him again when we lived in Arizona and even help him by taking him to a few appointments.

He was an amazing cook, family man, had a sense of humor, a hard worker, talented with his hands and a huge blessing to our family.

He has been ill for some time now, and I'm happy he is at peace because he is no longer suffering.

My Nanay, and my brother and family were able to see him a few weeks ago. I'm thankful they shared pictures on Facebook of their trip. It helped to make me feel like I was there.

I wish my passport was current so I could say goodbye, but I know later this year our family will get together to share his memory.

It will take some time to accept this, but I know he is with his family in Heaven. I'm grateful to have had the honor to call him Lolo/Grandpa. 💜

Sending love and blessings to all that are missing and grieving him today.

Here are some words of advice I would give when you have to say goodbye to someone and you can’t be there is:

  • Make sure you take time for you.

  • Do something to honor who you lost.

  • Write a goodbye letter.

  • Reflect on memories of the person you lost.

  • Ask your friends and family for support – (you don’t have to put on a brave face)

  • Cook a meal that reminds you of them.

  • Light a candle and have a private memorial to say good bye.

  • Let go of the guilt.

  • Call family members and share stories of your loved one.

  • Laugh, Cry, Smile and then Cry some more – grieving a loved one takes time.

Also, it’s good to write a blog post as it has encouraged a very healthy cry for me. I want to send out love to all my family that is grieving the passing of Grandpa.

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