The Art of Grief

In under a year, I’ve lost two people in my life: my childhood friend and my childhood abuser. Both of them took their own lives.

If you think that things are so bad right now that there’s simply no coming back from them, I’ll let you in on a little secret; there’s always one moment where you can turn it all around.

One thing I wish someone told me about grief is that it doesn’t always come in five stages. It can exist all at once. You can be happy and sad, feel enraged and tranquil. Yes, it’s confusing, but it’s the role of a griever.

My brain has been moving so fast lately, that I haven’t been able to formulate complete thoughts (or process everything).

Grief goes beyond just mourning the loss of a loved one. For example, my grief comes in two parts: a gift and a curse.

The curse: My grief comes from the fact that I lost a friend and I feel guilty; guilty for living when she stopped living, guilty because I couldn’t save her. I feel like I lost a part of myself. The pain I feel will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’ll miss her and I won’t ever stop missing her, or wishing she were with me. She died being angry at me. I can never fix things with her. Realizing that is a real bitch.

The blessing: I learned that in order to survive my grief, I need to become more than what I was. I need to live for the both of us. Her death made me realize the importance of being open and cherishing every moment of life we’re lucky enough to live, with the people we’re lucky enough to know.

Truth be told, grief has been one of the best teachers of my life.

I spent many days of my grief in denial, lifting crazy heavy weights, running too fast on the treadmill, crying, listening to loud music, getting angry at those who were supportive of me, etc.

You see, from my own experience and in what I read from others, grievers often search for ways to move on and “get past it.” Many times, in the form of avoidance.

Grief taught me that it is more than just about what we lose. It’s also about what we gain.

You don’t need to “move past” grief or fix yourself. You’re okay the way you are. It’s far simpler than it sounds. By allowing our feelings in, we let our pain out. Only then can we truly move forward and create new adventures and new experiences that will outweigh the bad. No, we’re not talking about replacing memories, but adding them to our collection. As Dr. Who says, “the good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

I’m not a big fan of “positive thinking”, just as I’m not a fan of grief counselling. Yes, it’s important that we love ourselves and process our pain, but only if we do it willingly and only if we know what we’re fighting for. What we want as a result of the actions we’re taking.

What’s more important is that we’re realistic about what is what and that we cannot always change the situation.

During the first week of my grief, I’d held back from telling my therapist the truth. It was because I saw acceptance as weakness. Looking back, I realize that strength doesn’t come from how you ignore it, but in the manner you accept it. My therapist and I being a “team” that supports my growth, that’s my strength.

It’s really important to understand and accept that there’s nothing you can do about getting hurt. Life is pain. By that I mean, you can’t skip ahead to only experience the good in life. You must fight through the night if you wish to see the sun rise.

I come from pain. Suffering. I was a really sick kid, medically speaking. I was also emotionally, sexually and physically abused. But in the end, I think that all of that has shown me what it means to be a human being. You can’t avoid life. The only thing you can do is change the lens you use to look at life.

What you fear, you attract. What you imagine, you can create a reality from. You get it, right? It’s simple.

That’s because life is simple, yet we as humans make it out to be complicated. The pain is in the choices you make. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. It’s because suffering is what you choose to carry around with you. Pain, on the other hand, is what happened to you.

Ask yourself what you need to survive and be happy.

One of the things I know I need is writing. It helps me understand myself with more clarity. It helps me connect to others and possibly even help them. It allows me to conjure up something more powerful than myself; someone smarter, stronger, more open, etc. Simply put, it’s because I don’t like myself. Like I said before. What you can imagine, you can create. Right? So the more time I focus on bringing out the version of myself I want to be, the more time I can focus on making that a reality.

Therapy is another thing that I need. Looking back at the child version of myself, what he needs is to be heard by a therapist. To learn that he is lovable, that he is safe and that he’s not a monster. That he is not all of the things that his abuser shoved into his head. Most of all, though, therapy is about giving him back his voice. Verbally, anyway, when for so much of his childhood, he had been shushed into silence by a monster.

Ultimately, it’s all about what we feed that precious brain of ours. Remember though, if you can create an ideal life for yourself from a dream, you can create your perfect nightmare. Be careful with what you tell yourself, with how you view yourself, and the world. Remember that the world itself isn’t black or white. It is all about the lens we use, as photographers of our world. The ideal version of yourself is the person you already are. Always tell yourself that.

That voice that once said: “Oh, just move on with it already, you basic bitch! Get out of bed, life doesn’t stop moving for you.” Becomes “Of course it hurts. You just lost someone. Let it in. Let it out. Nothing else exists right now. Just get well and go back to doing what makes you happy. It’ll be there when you’re ready. For now, just do what you need to do. No rush.” If that hasn’t happened yet, I encourage you to seek that voice. It’s what I’m doing and so far, on my better days, I’ve heard glimpses of that voice.

A year from now, or two years from now, you’ll look back at these dark times and see how far you’ve come. Running past grief is like leaving a kettle on the stove. The noise will only get louder, the longer it remains stagnant. Turn the flames off, uncover the kettle and let what comes out, come out. Do the same for your mental health.

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