Hallmark movies always give a happy ending after a complicated story.
But what do you do when you don’t get that Hallmark ending?
Two days before Christmas Day 2021, my last grandparent died. My maternal grandmother. The weekend before, I had tried to go and see her as we knew she wasn’t going to last much longer. I bought the plane tickets, reserved a car, and got the time off work.
But I was given the message that she was refusing to see me, and if I showed up at the nursing home, I would be turned away.
To my knowledge, I’d never done anything that would warrant this. I felt hurt and conflicted, to say the least. I wanted the chance to say goodbye, and I knew this would be my only chance. Grandma left instructions that there would be no funeral, no graveside service. No gathering of any kind.
The truth is, my grandma was difficult in many ways.
Many of my siblings have had no relationship at all with her because she couldn’t be bothered to have a relationship with them and show up. Some only saw her once at our brother’s funeral. As the oldest grandchild, I had more of a relationship with her than most. But even for me, she couldn’t be bothered to show up for my wedding.
When I was a little girl, it was my grandma who showed me the world of books. She and her husband had previously owned a used book store that closed, and many of the books found a home with them. Every wall in their house was lined with books. Every time Grandma came to visit, she brought boxes of books.
Initially, I was a struggling reader. She brought me Nancy Drew books and introduced me to the world of mysteries. Nancy Drew was followed by Agatha Christie, and then I moved on to biographies. Biographies taught me how to view the world from other people’s eyes and made me curious as to how they survived the emotional trauma they experienced in their lives. You could draw a direct line from my reading experiences early in life to seeking to become a therapist.
To this day, one of my greatest joys is a good book. It brings me so much happiness. Reading has opened new avenues and ways of thinking, helped me dream and move forward in life, and escape for a few hours when life becomes too much.
I didn’t get a Hallmark movie ending with my grandmother.
A lot of times with families, we don’t.
So what do we do when that happens?
We should take the time to mourn the relationship that never was.
This is, I think, a very important step that gets missed a lot. We get angry, we avoid, but do we take the time to mourn?
Knowing that I needed some time to mourn the situation, I took my bereavement days off work. I spent time reconnecting with books and remembering the good things. It’s important to recognize the good things the relationship brought us. Even in the worst relationships, there is something.
My grandmother’s refusal to see me? It re-emphasized how I did not want to be a grandmother like her should I ever become one. It made me hold my kids closer and remember how important other people are, that we need to let them know that often and make room for them.
I’m grateful for these reminders even if I didn’t get the closure I wanted.
Our relationship was strained.
Even if I didn’t get the Hallmark ending I wanted.
Because I can become a better person because of it.