My grandmother was my biggest supporter; I lived with her and was her caretaker for three years.
I moved to the United States in May 2023.
In November 2023, she died, and I can't shake the guilt I feel for moving away.
After my grandfather died in February 2020, I moved into my grandmother's house in Manchester, England, to care for her. At the time, I'd just embarked on my freelance-journalism career, and I was already working from home before the pandemic lockdowns.
Since I was a teenager, I'd dreamed of moving to New York City as a working journalist à la Jenna Rink, Betty Suarez, and Andie Anderson. As my journalism portfolio grew, I started thinking it may be possible and weighed my options. After speaking to various industry professionals and immigration lawyers about my options, I learned I was eligible for a work visa.
I began the application process in spring 2022 and spent a long time building my case and gathering evidence of my work as a journalist. After a long and anxious wait, in early 2023, my petition was approved.
Though my grandmother was extremely supportive of my decision and urged me to live out my dreams, I knew leaving her to live alone would be difficult. I moved in May 2023, and despite my excitement, I felt guilty about leaving her from the second I left.
Her health took a turn six months after I moved
That August, she moved into a care home after her health began to rapidly decline. Though I FaceTimed her nearly every day — she was a very tech-savvy lady — it wasn't the same as being with her in person and having our weekly film-and-wine afternoons, playing Scrabble, and cuddling on the sofa.
Her doctors put her on the end-of-life pathway and told us to prepare ourselves for the worst. In October, I made the trip home, knowing it would be the last time I would ever see her. I dropped $1,500 on a flight, packed a bag, and flew home the next day.
During the week I was back in the UK, I visited her for hours each day. I told her stories of my time in the US so far, moisturized her dry and fragile skin, and told her I loved her as often as I could.
Then, in November, she died at 86 years old.
I didn't go back to the UK again for her funeral, which took place two weeks after she died. I knew when I booked that last-minute ticket in October that I was making a tough choice. I wouldn't be able to afford a plane ticket both to see her one last time and for the funeral, so it made sense to me to go and spend a few days with her while she was still alive.
Grieving while living in a different country has been incredibly difficult
The moment I learned she'd died will stay with me forever. When I got the news, I'd been dealing with a severe cockroach infestation in the apartment I was subletting, and I hadn't built up a support network since moving to New York. It was already a difficult month.
At 8 p.m., I received a FaceTime call from my mom. She didn't have to say a word: I knew why she was calling.
While my grandmother's passing didn't come as a surprise, the time since then has still been the most challenging period of my life. Grief is already a hard process for several reasons, but living 3,000 miles away from your loved ones makes it even harder.
The first few weeks after her passing were extremely difficult. I couldn't get out of bed, struggled to work, and felt more alone than ever. It has also been a learning experience: I realized which relationships are genuine and who I can count on in New York.
I've also felt incredibly guilty since she died. If I'd just carried on working from home in England and taking care of her, would her health have been better? Would she have lived longer? After all, she died just six months after I left for New York.
My guilt may be unwarranted, and it may have just been her time to leave this Earth, but the feelings that I could've done something — could've saved her — won't go away. But I am slowly coming to realize that this is all part of my grieving process and things will get easier over time.
I went back to the UK for the holidays, and it did give me a sense of closure that I desperately needed. I visited my grandmother's home — my former home — and it felt somewhat healing to surround myself with her belongings and see her photographs on the wall.
As I journeyed back to New York, I had a lot to think about. It takes time to heal, and I need to be easier on myself. There may not have been anything I could've done, no matter where I was. But one thing is for certain: the feelings of guilt will fade, and the love I have for my grandmother will remain forever.
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