User Stories

Losing My Grandparents: Izumi’s Story

5 min readApr 25, 2021
Ah Ma and Ah Kong with a younger me.

In this series of real user stories, we’re bringing together a bunch of people from different backgrounds to share their most intimate experience dealing with the loss of a loved one. We hope that by reading all of their stories, you’ll understand that everyone grieves differently and everyone’s journey is just as valid.

If you would like to submit your own story, please do so here. Today’s story is shared by Izumi Inoue who is also the founder and CEO of Bereev, she lost her grandmother in 2015 and then her grandfather soon after. This is her story.

What happened to them?

My grandmother was admitted to the ER one night after complaining of breathing difficulties, she was soon diagnosed with pneumonia and died after a 1-week stay at the hospital.

My grandfather on the other hand noticed a strange lump growing aggressively on the side of his face so we brought him to the hospital to get checked, it turned out to be stage 4 parotid cancer.

What was the most difficult part of losing them?

I had a very close relationship with my grandmother especially, throughout my life she had always been very affectionate and caring towards me especially at times of need. My biggest regret was knowing that I didn’t visit her as often as I could and now I no longer have the chance to do so.

Do you remember your last encounter with them, what was it like?

When my grandmother was hospitalised, I spent a couple of nights sleeping over to accompany her. At that point, she was no longer able to speak so she responded mostly by nodding or shaking her head. On her last day with us, I was supposed to travel to Penang for work so I told her about it and asked her to wait for me to get back. She squeezed my hand and nodded.

The last time I saw my grandfather was when I dropped him and my aunts off at Hospital Putrajaya. He was feeling especially weak and they wanted to get him checked out. I had a flight leaving in a few hours to London and was contemplating whether I should even leave. I left and I remember seeing him through the glass doors of the hospital entrance, hunched in his wheelchair. It was one of the saddest moments in my life, I’ve never seen him in such a state before. He was always very independent, active and strong.

Visiting my grandfather at the hospital, a few weeks before he passed.

How did you cope with your own feelings?

My emotions were mostly up and down for the first few months, one of my biggest regrets was that I wasn’t present when both of them took their last breaths. I started spending hours on Reddit reading about other people’s experiences of losing a loved one and watched countless videos on Youtube of families surrounding their dying loved ones. My search history back then was pretty dark, haha!

I tried to cope with their passing by looking at photos of them on my phone, it was strangely comforting and was exactly what I needed to transition into this new phase of life without the both of them.

A gloomy day in London when we found out my grandfather has died.

If they could hear you now, what would you say to them?

Mainly I would like to apologise for not visiting them as much as I could have and I want them to know that I’ll always appreciate everything that they’ve done for me. I hope they know they’re one of the most important people in my life and I think of them all the time.

What is your favourite memory of them?

Definitely, the time when my grandfather taught me how to drive a car when I was 15 years old! He even joked that 15 was too old as he learned to drive when he was only 12.

I also think about all the times I would hang out with my grandmother chatting about my day at school, I remember complaining a lot but she always listened no matter how much I whined.

How do you feel now, are you still struggling?

It gets more manageable in time but I still think of them very often, especially my grandmother whose bed I now sleep on. I still end up crying whenever I talk about them but I’d like to think of those as happy tears.

I once heard a grief counsellor say that losing someone you love is like having a 50kg dumbbell thrown at you suddenly. At first, you struggle to carry that weight but in time you’ll get stronger and it becomes more manageable. But, the weight stays the same, it is you who’ll change.

What advice would you offer someone who is grieving?

Don’t rush to feel better, grief is a lifelong journey and you can’t expect to wake up one day and ‘move on’. Embrace your own feelings because it only means that they mean so much to you and that’s a good thing. And cry whenever you feel like it, emotions are meant to be expressed not suppressed. I‘ll leave you guys with one of my favourite quotes about grieving.

“Some things cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.”

Izumi, 29.

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