"But I'll tell you something else, too. Something I've learned, the hard way. I guess"—Gram laughed a little—"I'm the kind of person who has to learn things the hard way. You've got to hold on. Hold on to people. They can get away from you. It's not always going to be fun, but if you don't—hold on—then you lose them."
Gram speaks these words to Dicey in Chapter 4, while the pair eats lunch at a restaurant in the mall in Salisbury. By explaining that she herself has learned the importance of holding on the hard way, Gram acknowledges that she herself failed to hold on, and makes oblique reference to the way in which she allowed her children to be driven away from her by her husband's bitterness. Gram's admission comes in the middle of a lunch during which the two are discussing the problems each of the siblings is facing, trying to explain to Dicey that being involved in a person's problems and working to help them is one way of holding on to them. Dicey has been drifting away from her siblings, feeling that her responsibility for them, now that they are physically safe, has ended. Here Gram argues to Dicey that she must also take responsibility for her siblings' emotional well-being.