How Do You Mourn the Loss of a Loved One Still Living?

Amanda Hanemaayer
3 min readAug 6, 2021
Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels

I lost two people this year.

The first, to a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

The second, to a difference of opinion.

My grandfather’s death was calculated — anticipated — with well-known odds of survival telling us at every point of his battle with cancer just how little time he had left — six months, three weeks, tomorrow — maybe. Not one of us wanted to say goodbye, but we all knew that it was coming.

He was the single greatest man I ever knew until I met my boyfriend. My opa was a rough-around-the-edges, jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, with a tough exterior wrapped around the heart of a teddy bear.

He had a brilliant mind but never feared getting his hands dirty — a combination that allowed him to rebuild a cherry red ’68 Beaumont entirely on his own. He was stubborn — and worse because he knew it — but absolutely unbending in his devotion to my oma and our family.

I wish we had more time together — I wish I had more time to say the things I should have — but he was ready. And you can’t ask someone to keep holding on when it hurts them.

I lost my boyfriend to a prejudiced opinion — the irrevocable opinion of someone who has never known us together — and, in fact, doesn’t actually know me at all. His father.

It didn’t matter that we had been together for three years; that we dreamed of a life together and had started to create one within the four white walls of an altbau apartment in Europe. It didn’t matter how much we love each other. I was simply too white to be worthy of someone who is Arab.

We had all the signs but refused to give space to the idea of an end we never wanted — an end that made no sense to us. But remaining together would have meant separating him — likely forever — from the people who were his family long before I ever had the chance to be.

Even if our relationship hadn’t died, he still would have.

No one ever tells you that the loss of someone still living can hurt just as much as the severance of death.

It’s different — of course, it’s different — but in both cases, you’re left trying to figure out what to do with the…

Amanda Hanemaayer

Striving to live a life defined by empathy | writing about climate change, public health and social justice