Today marks 21 years since I lost my Grandpa Snyder (my maternal grandfather). I’ve visited his grave many times over the past two decades, but today I finally had an epiphany on why I struggle so much with his loss. This realization has come after a year long period of making several self-discoveries about who I am and what effects the various abuses I experienced have had on all aspects of my life.
Grandpa passed away when I was twelve years old. Even though we lived in the same town, we didn’t spend large amounts of time with him because my mother had converted to Christianity when she met my dad, and Grandpa was still a Jehovah’s Witness. Even though I was too young to understand that kind of separation at that time, looking back now I believe it caused distance that wasn’t there between Grandpa and his other daughters and grandchildren. His death happened just months after I had stopped allowing my cousin to molest me. As I’ve stated before, my little girl mind thought that my cousin had loved me because of what he did to me, so I was probably struggling mentally and emotionally with the loss of “love” from one male in my life when another was ripped from me.
What dawned on me today was that Grandpa was the only male family member whom I felt showed me true affection, and it rocked my world when death stole that away from me. I truly believe that my history of abuse and his death triggered my bipolar disorder. I don’t remember him hugging me except for when we said goodbyes, but you could tell with his jovial, lighthearted manner that he had with all his family that he truly loved every one of us. Grandpa had been ill for a long time, and I remember one instance where I had to leave his room because my stepgrandmother needed to help him use the restroom. He seemed ashamed to admit that he needed help with something so basic, but to me it showed a strength and humility to state out loud this weakness he had.
My friend Nancy and I had a lengthy discussion tonight about my Grandpa, and I so cherish the questions and insights she provided to help draw the answers out on why I still feel this pain so deeply. She helped reveal that I’ve struggled with seeking and maintaining male approval even to this day, but that my identity lies in the God who created me and loves me unconditionally and eternally. She praised God for all the work He’s done in my life over this past year, but God couldn’t start this progress in me until I took the first step back towards letting Him have control. I am still battling my depression, low self-esteem, financial difficulties, and family stressors, but God is opening several doors that will lead to my full recovery and reestablishment of my independence. She told me to cherish the time I had with Grandpa, and to count it a blessing that I saw what love from a male figure should be through the way he lived. Grandpa was definitely not perfect by any means, but the love I saw him demonstrate to his family is probably the greatest quality that I long for in a relationship of my own someday. I searched for love in the wrong places, and they were a sorry substitute for what Grandpa showed me can be a reality out of a partner. But even then, Grandpa is a tiny comparison of what love exemplifies next to my Savior who died for me. Jesus gave His life willingly so that I could be restored on all levels and enjoy eternity with Him in a place with no more tears or heartache or pain. So as I mourn my grandfather’s death on this anniversary, I will thank God for the legacy Grandpa left behind and continue to grow to become the type of woman Grandpa and God would be proud of.