grief, a year later
November 28, 2012 by
Categories: Coping

Over a year ago, I experienced the greatest loss of my life when my cousin and dear friend suddenly passed away. Since then, I have had a new opinion and perspective on grief. I distinctly recall sitting in psychology class years ago in college and being taught that one of the most important ways to support someone grieving is to allow them to share their story over and over, as much as they need to. I also learned there’s no timeline on grief and that every story looks different. As of late, I’ve been experiencing several bouts of re-experiencing the raw moments, unexpected sorrow, and the strong realization that the process will never have a true “end.”  Therefore, I decided to share some writing of mine that helped me through her “one-year” a few months ago for two reasons- to once again, share my story. And so that those who can relate can connect, and those that can’t relate, can try to understand.

One year later. 

One year ago I learned that your life can come to a screeching halt. You could be laying on your friend’s couch, basking in the sunlight streaming from the window and onto your arms. You could be ignoring phone calls, because it never occurred to you that it could be something that you could just deal with later.Once, twice, the phone rings, but you’re too lazy to reach over and grab the phone. A few seconds later, your best friend’s phone rings, and it’s your sister calling. You sit up, answer the phone, and that perfect moment vanishes. Sobs break out through the phone and you realize it’s not just you crying. You shout, “no, no!” You stand up,  shaking, keep moving, and are lucky enough to have a friend drive you to the hospital.

You fall into your sister’s arm, your cousin’s arms, your cousin’s mom, her had. You hold them, and they hold you. You wait, and you wait, and you wait. You stare at the walls in disbelief, that the person in the car accident was someone you hold dear. You stare at the ground in shock, that this is a waiting room, in a hospital, and it is because you do not know if your friend will wake up from her coma.

You remember the last time few times you saw her, how lucky it was that you saw her three times this past week. You visualize her face and how you randomly hugged her in the kitchen and told her you loved her, and how she gave you that special back rub she always gives. You think about her walking to her car the night before and looking over her shoulder to say goodbye, casually, because of course, we would see each other again. You go home, you sleep, and you wake up thinking that everything will be the same.

Her parents walk in.

She’s gone.

You call your mom, your brother, her friends and have to tell them the news. Each phone call is a fresh stabbing pain and you don’t know how you will continue. Strangers hold you. You sit on the hallway floor, silently crying.

From that day, you never count on making it to the next day. From that day, you don’t know if you will ever want to get out of your bed in that morning. From that day, you alternate between feeling numb and having literal heartache. The darkness that visits is one that is unparalleled to any darkness you have had before. Every instance is a moment of grief. Everything is a reminder that it’s all different now, because she’s gone. You are a new person, one that your friends may no longer recognize. The brightness in your face is dim, and laughing feels strange, because you thought you were not supposed to laugh. Talking to people takes too much energy, and it feels like so few people understand. Nothing feels real. Nothing makes sense. You go through the motions. And even though you think this feeling will never go away, somehow you get through each day.

One year later, tears stream down my face as I write this. I have thought about my cousin every single day. I have wanted to call her, text her, and facebook her forgetting that she’s not just in another city, but gone. Because sometimes the only way of coping was tricking myself into thinking it was not real. You know death is real, and that it could happen to you or anyone else at any time. But to know and to experience it are two different things.

Since that day, I have cried and I have laughed. I have traveled and I have changed. I have had days where I was alive, but not lived. And other days where the loss inexplicably charged me with a greater love of life, because I would do it for her. I would smile in her memory, and imagine telling her about my adventures. At times, it felt unbearable that she was not physically present. Randomly triggered by being on the road, a song, or a thought, it felt like I could easily fall to pieces and go back to the beginning. Gasping for breath, I remember the fragility of life and wish I didn’t have to learn it the hard way. I wished the sun wasn’t more beautiful because it didn’t remind me of her. I wished that I didn’t analyze every goodbye in worry that it would be my last time with someone.

But I can’t change it.  I can only keep going, because the hard truth is that life does not stop, even if you want to. And as guilty as it’s made me feel sometimes, I’ve had good days. Slowly, but surely, I woke up. I learned small ways to heal. Albeit with growing pains, I stretched. Old fragments of myself returned, awkward and shy at first. They learned to get along with new pieces of self. My friends welcomed me back with open arms, patient and forgiving. And I found within myself a new home, where my cousin will always live.  

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