Dear Hope: My Grandmother Is Sick

Dear Hope,grandmother
My family is a little different from the average I guess. We spend a lot of time together. I don’t mean just my immediate family, but I see my aunts/uncles and cousins at least once a week. I love how close we all are. Ever since I was a baby the “home base” for my family has been my grandmother’s house. She’s what holds it all together. (Just as a side note my grandfather died before I was born.)

Anyway, last summer my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Of course I was really sad but it helped a lot with the fact that she still seemed normal, well as normal as an 87 year old woman can be. I tried not to think about it and it worked. But over the last two weeks things seemed to have taken a down hill slide. Now it all seems so real. She’s not at all the same person she was a year ago and I can tell the end is coming soon. (I think she can too) But the thing is I don’t know when the end is and that terrifies me. It could be tomorrow or in a month or two months.

At first I thought it would be good to know ahead of time but now I really wish I didn’t. The other day I overheard some of my family quietly talking about funeral plans. (Not around my grandmother of course.) I’m so scared that after this the whole family will fall apart as my grandmother has always been the rock. I’ve spent every single holiday at my grandmother’s. This is going to be a really hard blow for the whole family and I don’t think I’ll be able to stand to see them so sad, especially my mom.

I’ve been fortunate enough to never have to cope with the death of a close family member before and I guess I don’t know how. I don’t want people to hug me and say they’re sorry for me and I hate crying in front of other people but I doubt I’ll be able to hold it together. I haven’t talked to anyone about this before as I don’t want to upset any of my family or burden any of my friends. Mom says I’ve been really good about everything but I guess that’s cause I’m keeping everything bottled up inside. If you have any advice on how to cope with everything, I would really appreciate it.
– Anonymous


Dear Anonymous,

I’m so sorry you have to go through this. There are no words I can say to make this better, but I will try my best to give you some ideas on how to cope with everything.

When you’re with your grandmother, focus on the present. Don’t concentrate on what will happen, think about the fact that she is still with you now. Remind yourself that you still have this time with her. It is great that your family spends so much time together. Surrounding her with love and letting her know you appreciate her is what she needs now.


Try journaling when you are thinking about it or start to feel sad. Get it out of your head. Writing about your feelings can help you process what’s going.


Losing a loved one is never easy for anyone. Everyone deals with it in their own way. Don’t worry about holding it together. When someone dies, people grieve and grieving is a different experience for each person. Some people cry uncontrollably, some never shed a tear and others may even laugh. Some will become quiet, while others can’t stop talking. Our emotions don’t always work the way we would like them to. They can also change minute to minute or day to day. One day you could be crying and the next day laughing. Emotions are okay and healthy. There is no right or wrong way to deal with the loss of a loved one.


Some people will hug you and say they’re sorry. That’s their way of saying they feel for you. When my grandmother died, I was young and so many people hugged me. Most of them I had never met before. It was awkward and uncomfortable for me, but I later realized they didn’t know what else to do. It was a way for them to express that they were sorry for my loss. The easiest thing to do is just to say thank you and move on.


Don’t be afraid to talk to your parents and family. Even when it’s hard. I know that it will be difficult to see your mom sad, but she needs love and support too. Remember they are probably having similar feelings and want to talk about it also. It’s a time to support each other. Don’t forget you are a close family; don’t let that go.


Make sure that you are taking care of yourself through all of this. A healthy you is a happy you. Being tired and run-down can make you feel worse. Eat, exercise (yoga, taking a walk), and rest. Actually, yoga can be a great way to get rid of stress and it can help you sleep better. Be honest with your feelings and your family. When you need a break or some alone time, take it.


If you need support, don’t be afraid to get it. Peer support groups can be a great way to help you heal. You can share your feelings with other teens that have also experienced a loss.


I’m so sorry. Going through this with someone you love is difficult and painful. I know you are a strong and caring person, but don’t be afraid take time for yourself and feel what you are feeling.

I will be thinking about you and your family.

Thank you for being brave and sending in your question.

Dear Hope

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