IF there is an afterlife, I imagine my gran sitting on a sunlounger in a bikini and her yellow vest top, toes painted a bright pink, with a beer and cigarette in hand, laughing at something with her deep, infectious laugh. For that is how I remember her at this time of year (she always loved the sun).

Her name was Karola. Google tells me it means "free woman", or “the brave”, or “the helpful.” While she always hated her name, I cannot think of anything more fitting.

She was opinionated – sometimes stubbornly so – and not afraid to speak up. She was outgoing; always happy to stop and chat to friends and strangers alike. She was also caring and kind, and I think that radiated from her. People always drew towards her. Apparently, Elvis Presley asked her out (she said no) when he was stationed in the town beside the one I grew up in. I can’t say if this is true – it was well before my time – but I like to think it was. I’d certainly understand why.

I like to think that she was not like other grans; that she was special. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t – but what she had certainly was. When I think about it, she was more like a second mother than a grandparent. That is maybe why the absence of her hit me so hard.

We always lived together in the same house and she watched me as my parents worked. I shared almost every aspect of my little world with her until the day I didn’t. She taught me how to walk in heels (don’t bend your knees, Daniella), the two key basics of skin care (moisturise and tone twice a day every day – I still do), that it’s okay to have pancakes for lunch sometimes if life just calls for it, and so much more.

I remember her singing, not very well, to the radio. Us top and tailing on the two-seater couch, both reading a book.

The above are the moments I remember the most. Not the two years after her leukaemia diagnosis, during which I saw her slowly change. Not her death, which, coming up this month, will be 12 years ago.

Through my memories, she doesn’t always feel dead. Immanuel Kant, allegedly, said “the one who lives in the memories of his loved ones can't be dead; dead is only who's forgotten” – and I believe that to be very true.

Visiting Germany recently, I found myself within the walls I grew up in. They have changed a lot; they are re-decorated and house a new generation in the form of my stepbrother, stepmother and my dad.

When I recently talked about ‘home’ I said home is not just bricks and mortar. However, that there are ghosts of memories passed trapped within these physical structures that house us is undeniable.

There my gran was when I was eating breakfast the other week; one of the few surviving bowls from her wedding gift set holding my fruit and yoghurt (I smashed almost every other one on our stone floor over the years – so much so that she refused to let me eat out of them while she was alive).

I didn’t pick the bowl with all that in mind – I don’t really know why I did – but at that moment she was there. It felt like she was sitting with me. Listening in closely, I felt I could hear her laugh.

But of course grief isn’t inherently rosy either. The loss of someone and what comes after is bittersweet – and it hurts.

I sometimes catch myself having a bad day. Sometimes it is certain triggers; I can’t listen to Jimmy Eat World’s Hear You Me, the song I had on loop when she passed, without bursting into tears (once the crying is over, I sometimes joke about the somewhat cruel variation to Pavlov’s dog experiment I seem to have performed on myself).

Sometimes it is just out of the blue. When all of a sudden I feel an ache that the person I am thinking about is not there for me to hug or physically be close to.

What strikes me in these moments is how little, despite 12 years having passed, I have words to describe the way I am feeling. This column is probably the most detailed account I have ever given.

What strikes me too, is the sense of unease I have in just laying it all bare to others in its raw format, without providing space for escapism from the bleakness of it. When I told people I was writing this piece, I felt the instant need to follow up with – “something very cheery to write about for such a sunny Saturday haha.”

The thing is I am not alone when it comes to bereavement or grief. Unfortunately, the experience is universal. So, why is it so hard to describe or talk about?

I have noticed it myself when it comes to talking to others about their loss. When one of my best friends lost her little brother to cancer when we were teenagers, I could hardly bear to say his name to her. Speaking out loud about him made me feel as if I were to break something fragile with every syllable.

It is a universal experience: grief. It can affect everyone no matter big or small; young or old. Often it is associated with death, but, of course, can just as much be linked to absence of other kinds. Yet, despite its non-exclusive nature, it can feel very individualistic when it comes to dealing with the array of emotions that come with it.

We avoid talking about bereavement – particularly death – and, in ways, that is understandable. Talking about it ourselves can bring with it hurt. Talking to others about their experience may feel like opening wounds, rather than helping to heal them. Whether such avoidance is truly healthy though, is questionable.

Of course grief isn’t depressing and bleak all the time. Remembering those that have passed can be positive, too. However, sometimes it can be sad. For those times speaking about it could be so helpful; it certainly seems the better option to repressing it all.

But for that, we need a change in our culture that treats grief as a taboo subject and actually start talking about it in all its forms more. Many people have started calling for better bereavement support across the board. Some places have even gone and already implemented changes in their organisations and workplaces.

However, to truly break a taboo needs even more – and maybe we can all play a part in that change; one word at a time.