Maya Wilkins is a junior journalism news major and writes “Girlboss’d” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
It was Dec. 7, 2021. Around 9 a.m., I awoke to multiple missed calls and a text from my dad telling me there was an emergency and to call him as soon as possible. I had hardly slept the night before, almost like I knew something was wrong.
Disoriented and confused, I called him. My heart was racing, and I was not expecting the news I was about to get. After the phone rang for what felt like an eternity, he picked up, and I could immediately tell he too had hardly slept. It sounded like he had been crying.
My Granny Rose died that morning.
Nothing could have prepared me for that news. Last I knew, my grandmother was happy and healthy. She wasn’t very old. She didn’t have any severe or serious medical conditions. She was fine.
She was supposed to have more time, but she didn’t.
Out of all my grandparents, Granny Rose was not the one I was closest with. Honestly, my relationship with her was the most strained compared to my relationships with my other grandparents. It had almost always been that way, and you would think it would make the loss easier, but it actually made it a lot harder.
Granny Rose and I never truly bonded over anything — I would talk politics with my Papa Doug, watch college basketball with my Grandpa Tim and talk about my faith with my Grandma Pat. Granny Rose always seemed a little distant toward me and my sisters, and I never felt like I could talk about my life with her like I could with my other grandparents, so I gave up trying.
My sisters and I each have a middle name based on one of our grandparents, so the only connection I had to her was through mine: Rose. I had nothing in common with my grandmother besides my middle name, and I never tried to find anything else.
I would go on shopping trips with my grandparents and make conversation with my Papa Doug, and when we went out to eat with her, I talked to my sisters instead. I don’t remember the last time I said “I love you” to her or gave her a hug before she died.
And now, every day, I wish I had tried harder with her.
When I called my dad that morning, the first thing I felt was guilt. Before I even had time to grieve, I was consumed with guilt I couldn’t shake, guilt that made me feel like I couldn’t grieve, that I wasn’t worthy of feeling those emotions. After all, I’m the granddaughter who never tried to get closer with my grandmother. I’m the granddaughter who failed her.
How could I mourn her death when I constantly wished for a better grandmother when she was alive?
Very few people acted like her loss should have been easy on me, but the voices in my head were consumed with what I could have done better. I have been way too hard on myself, and I’ve taught myself I’m not allowed to be upset or take the time I need to mourn. I have to get over it.
This whole time I’ve been trying to grieve, I’ve felt like I had to be strong, like I had to be the sister who keeps her emotions in check, the grandkid my Papa Doug can count on to help plan the celebration of life — the one who can call him to just check in.
I am all those things, but I also want to allow myself to be locked in my room, sobbing about what I lost and what could have been. I want to take a day for myself to watch my Granny Rose’s favorite shows and eat her favorite foods. I want to read her friends’ comments and messages to me on Facebook without feeling overwhelming guilt about what I should have done differently.
I want to grieve in a healthy way — to be able to acknowledge this isn’t all my fault, that there were two people in this relationship, and she gave up trying just as soon as I did.
I’ve tried each of these methods time and time again over the last month and a half, but I can’t do it any longer. I can’t shake the guilt I’m feeling, and the feeling is too painful to talk about, so I bottle it up and try to act as if I’m fine.
I am mourning the death of Granny Rose, but the entire time I’ve attempted to grieve, I’ve made myself feel like an imposter.
I wish for more time with her, time to make everything right and for me to mature, grow and be the granddaughter I am capable of being. I wish I could go easier on myself and allow myself to not feel guilty, but I can’t do it. I wish I hadn’t realized that so late, that I hadn’t been so bitter and could have improved my relationship with her rather than using it as an example of what not to do.
Granny Rose wasn’t a perfect woman, wife, mother or grandmother, but she was my granny and a huge part of my life. No matter how much I wished for a different or better relationship with her, she was what I had, and I loved her for that.
I love my Granny Rose. I probably love her more now than I did six months ago, or even a month and a half ago when I first learned she was gone. I have learned a lot about how I want to build relationships with my future spouse, children and grandchildren through the ones Granny Rose had with my Papa Doug, my mom, my sisters and myself — but I also remember how difficult it was for me to bond with her.
I wish I could say I have the answer to grieving without guilt, that I have tuned out the voices in my head telling me to get over it, but I don’t. I talk to my Granny Rose every night in my dreams, trying to repair what we broke many years ago. I know she’s gone and I know it won’t make a difference, but I feel like I owe it to her and my Papa Doug, who lost the woman he loved for almost 50 years and who I admire more than anyone else.
I don’t know if I’ll ever truly move on or stop feeling guilty, but maybe that’s how Granny Rose would have wanted it. Maybe she’s listening to everything I’m saying, and maybe we’ll laugh about it one day when I pass away and can be with her again.
I’m not trying to move on anymore, but I’m also not going to try to forget her. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go a night without thinking of Granny Rose, and that’s OK. I am allowed to grieve, and I am going to grieve until I learn to do it without feeling guilty anymore.
Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.