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Reflecting on Love, Life, and Loss

A reflection on death and grief.

By Ash TaylorPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2023
Reflecting on Love, Life, and Loss
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I don’t think I ever fully conceptualised the reality of my grandparents’ mortality until my grandmother died. Her body broke down, leaving her mind intact. I cannot think of a worse fate. Motor Neurone Disease is a vicious, cruel beast that takes and takes and takes. My grandmother went from a vibrant energetic woman who loved drinking champagne and cloudy apple juice and sitting in tide pools to someone who could do little more than grunt. After my cousin died, she couldn’t go on, and I lost her at the end of 2021.

Now whenever I look at my maternal grandparents I am gripped by the fear of loss. My Nan (mum’s mum) posted a photo on Facebook today, and my first thought was “she looks old.” I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, or as a scathing remark. Women should be allowed to age. But I am 25 years old, soon to be 26, and grew up with great grandparents around me, many of which are still alive. To lose my grandmother in such a devastating way broke an innocence in me that I didn’t know I still had.

Today while working on an article about voluntary assisted dying for my work, I thought about love, loss, and dignity in death. Sometimes we don’t get to say goodbye to the people we love. They leave us, undignified, to deal with complicated and messy feelings that we can never truly untangle no matter how long we scream, cry, or meditate.

We are left with guilt, fear, confusion, anger, and worst of all – grief.

Grief can turn you into a monster – the crazed monster that chews its own leg off to escape the pain of a bear trap. We lash out, at ourselves, at others. We become terrible, hurt people. In between the sex and irreverence of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy Fleabag is some genuine hard-hitting moments that speak to us about life and grief. After losing her mother, Waller-Bridge’s eponymous character Fleabag talks to her closest friend, Boo, and this exchange takes place:

Fleabag: I don't know what to do with it.

Boo: With what?

Fleabag: With all the love I have for her. I don't know where to put it now.

Boo: I'll take it.

[Fleabag laughs]

Boo: No, I'm serious. It sounds lovely. I'll have it.

Fleabag is at her core, a hurt person struggling to cope with grief and loss.

Grief hurts because it comes from love. It’s an outpouring of all the love we couldn’t say, all the love we no longer have a place for. It’s hard, it’s raw, and it’s vulnerable. It forces us to face our fears and our regrets. Because now that our loved one is gone, we have to live with those regrets. Every harsh word, every missed call. Every year we don’t visit a grandmother. We have to live with that pain, with the knowledge that sometimes there is no closure in death.

Death is, inevitably, something we all must face. A pet’s, a friend’s, a family member’s.

Our own.

Death is frightening because it’s the unknown. The only people who know what lies beyond can’t tell us, and even if they could – would we want to know? Some take comfort in faith, others in science, but in the end we simply do not know what lies beyond the long dark of our final sleep.

Death is, in a way, integral to life. Without death, without loss, how can life have meaning? Life has meaning because it ends.

All we can do is make as much of it as we can, while we can.

CONTENT WARNINGgriefgrandparents

About the Creator

Ash Taylor

Lover of fantasy and all things whimsical. Currently studying Writing and Publishing at UNE in Armidale, Australia. Living on Anaiwan land.


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Comments (20)

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  • Colleen Flanagan10 months ago

    Love what you wrote about grief, as well as the rest of this story. Grief is so painful it almost forces us to accelerate our healing in any way possible just to get out of the horrible pit of sadness sorrow and despair. Congrats on your top story!

  • Jack Runner10 months ago

    Sad and love, Congratulations on your Top Story.

  • Heather Lunsford10 months ago

    Beautifully written. I'm so sorry for your loss. They say time heals all wounds but in my experience of losing loved ones time just lets you get used to how much it sucks that they are gone. Which is not really the same as healing but it is better than the rawness of recent loss. Thank you for sharing.

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🎉💖

  • Eric N.11 months ago

    Thanks for the story. I lost my mom to a failed liver when I was 15 It took me until mid- late 20s to let her out so I could live A, the woman I would marry

  • This is very insightful and introspective. There are a lot of thoughts. One thing I know is that when a person you love goes those harsh words or things left unsaid don't matter anymore. The good times, the smiles, and laughter fill those spaces in your memory. Usually the feelings of guilt are saved for those people who did not have the love or did not make the time for their loved ones. The ones that made the time and have hearts filled with love don't feel the guilt. They feel the love that we shared with that loved one, all the other stuff goes into the background. Here is the kicker. The black sheep of the family, the one that didn't make the time or the one that does not have love in their heart, the one that's going to feel the guilt is the one that will make all the problems for the family when the loved one passes away. They're going to be the one who wants to take everything that's left behind. If there's a house they are going to try to get it by any means, even dishonest means. Be on the watch out for that person. It seems every family has at least one. I speak from experience I've been there a few times. Now I'm dealing with my mom, my very own sweet little mom. It is her brain that is deteriorating. The body is healthy but the brain is going away. It's very sad to see and I am not looking forward to that day. But then when she goes I, unfortunately will be dealing with my sister. That is not going to be pretty at all. She's already tried tearing me down. She's tried to get my power of attorney revoked. So many things just to make my life miserable and I do not need that because taking care of my mom is a very very hard thing to do. It's good to be prepared for these things.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)11 months ago

    Ash, this was a heartbreaking and very relatable piece. Your description of grief and the innocence that’s robbed of you after you lose a grand parent is so well said! I relate on every level, from the bear trap analogy to multitude of emotions you described. I so sorry for your loss but I fond it inspiring to see you creating such a moving article out of this hurt! Well done! I love your opinion and idea of where grief comes from, a place of love. The idea that it hurts so badly because we have no where to place this love for the person is such a beautiful and heart-warming concept! It gave me a sense of healing when I think about the grief I’ve dealt with in the passed. It made me less angry at myself for being so hurt when it comes to my losses, thank you for that! This was an enlightening and encouraging piece, it was such an uplifting read for me. Thank you and congratulations on Top Story, it was well earned!

  • Alex H Mittelman 11 months ago

    Sad. I lost my grandmother too! Good writing m!

  • Lamar Wiggins11 months ago

    Your wisdom shines through here. It's not easy trying to connect the dots on the subject of death and the hereafter. Yet, I agree with your thoughts. All we can do is speculate and wait for our turn. Life is amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  • KINGMALORO11 months ago

    When I was little boy, my brother wrote a piece about our great grandmother who raised us when my mother worked as a helper in Pretoria. After the passing of my great grandmother many years ago, I recently asked my brother of where that piece he wrote was and he couldn't remember. You just reminded me of Kokwane, my departed great grandmother.

  • Armando Onhintie11 months ago

    Very compelling I love the style. Beautiful and emotional story.

  • Winnie Asare11 months ago

    This is a true and beautiful piece.

  • Babs Iverson11 months ago

    Well done!!! Congratulations on T S too!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Real Poetic11 months ago

    Congratulations on your top story! Well done. 🎉🎉🎉🥳

  • Dana Crandell11 months ago

    A very thoughtful and relatable piece, and your conclusions are spot-on. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

  • Heidi McCloskey11 months ago

    This is so heartfelt. Thank you for sharing!

  • Donna Renee11 months ago

    This was a beautiful reflection piece. I definitely relate to much of what you wrote. Thanks for sharing, Ash!

  • Phil Flannery11 months ago

    Thank you Ash, it can be difficult to share these things. Perhaps relative anonymity on Vocal helps. I am glad to hear how close you are with your family. Loss is difficult, as it should be.

  • Cendrine Marrouat11 months ago

    Ash, I can relate to your excellent post in many ways. I cared for my grandmother during the last months of her life (she had chosen to starve herself to death due to cancer taking over her entire body), and this was an incredible experience for me. Yes, it was very sad to lose her, but the time I spent with her allowed me to grieve in such a healthy manner! Our relationship deepened as well. My condolences on the loss of your grandmother. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, I really enjoy reading them.

  • Grz Colm11 months ago

    Love this piece Ash! 😔 I’m so sorry to hear of your Grandmother’s passing in 2021. My grandma passed midway through that year too. I liked what you said about grief being “of all the love we could not say, and all the love we no longer have a place for”. That’s some powerful writing and highly relatable. Not to mentioned the regrets we have as you mentioned in that same paragraph. Thanks for sharing this & Kudos on this thoughtful piece. ☺️

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