The Finality of Life

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Sitting alone in my room, working on some homework, it seemed to be a normal, uneventful day in my fourteen-year-old existence. I could hear footsteps ascending the staircase leading up to my room and I am thinking, "What does she want? All I want is some peace and quiet!" Of course my mother opened the door, and as I looked over to her, a sad, yet serene expression washed across her face.

"Julie, Grandma passed away today," she said.
"Oh … that's horrible," is all I could say. Instantly, memories of my childhood flooded through my mind. I spent countless weekends with her watching her cable television because I never had it at home, playing in her backyard, and eating macaroni and cheese practically every time I visited. She's really gone. We all knew, however, that it was coming. She battled Alzheimer's disease for years, and it finally took the last breaths she had. It seemed like only a few shorts weeks ago when my father and I visited her at the nursing home. I couldn't help but smile a little when remembering how she introduced us as her niece and nephew to the nursing home staff and residents. The disease was cruel and it stole away her ability to think and remember things accurately; she hadn't known the real me for years! Reflecting on the sudden news, I realized that although I feel sad, it's okay because Grandma is in a better place now. At age six, I lost my grandfather on my father's side to multiple heart attacks due to a lifetime of smoking. Like most children who experience the death of a loved one, I was sad over the loss, but overall unscathed because I did not fully understand the concept of death. Years later, at age twelve, my great-grandmother on my mother's side passed away. Having not experienced the passing of a loved one for quite some time, I was very downcast. Because the death was expected, however, we as a family were able to accept the loss quickly. So far, the two deaths I had experienced were unfortunate, but not particularly difficult for me to handle. At age fourteen, I was faced with yet another family member passing away; my grandmother on my father's side due to Alzheimer's disease. Her death was the toughest to overcome because both of my father's parents were gone, and the shock that I only had two grandparents left (on my mother's side) set in. Even though I was somber for several days over her passing away, I was still able to move on in a timely manner. We have all heard stories of grief-stricken family members mourning the deaths of their loved ones for weeks, months, even years. Why was I never inundated with grief and affliction? Was there something wrong with me? Or did I just have my own way of dealing with the deaths that was different from others?

Death is a significant part of life, one in which everyone must face. The grief that is experienced afterwards is another natural part of life and no two people grieve exactly the same way. For many people, the initial reaction is shock and disbelief, and physical reactions such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness often occur (Martin 1). Other physical reactions that lead to temporary changes in behavior can occur, such as sleeplessness and changes in appetite, and one can even have nightmares about the deceased (Martin 1). The emotional response to the death is just as varied among individuals as the physical response. People often have feelings of fear, hostility, apathy, emptiness, and they can develop depression, extreme anger, and sadness (Martin 1). When dealing with the deaths of my loved ones, specifically the ones that occurred when I was older, I experienced sadness, numbness, and disbelief. My reactions were not as strong and long lasting as some, but I did feel the initial shock and pain that almost always accompanies the news of a loved one dying.

When suffering from a terminal illness or coping with the loss of a loved one, people often go through the five stages of grieving. Each...
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