Grieving is a strange yet beautiful thing. It's difficult to overcome, stays hidden beneath our smile, and appears during moments of silence.
I've experienced loss but nothing like this. My cousin was such an important staple in my life but we never go as far as thinking something like this would ever happen, at least not yet. December 6 marks 40 days since her passing and not a day goes by when I don't think of her. She's still very much present and it almost doesn't feel real. It's almost like I'm just waiting to hear from her or anticipate that we'll see each other at the next family gathering. It's horrid and so complex to the point where I just can't seem to understand why. I realized that it's going to take me some time to grasp the reality of this and I think that's okay. Putting myself together and finding peace and closure will take time but I know now that describes what grieving truly is. It's messy, complicated, and yes, beautiful.
I realized after her passing how important it is to be present, to take those trips you've always wanted to go on, plan dates and go through with them, and to have those hard but relieving conversations with people you've held grudges with. Life is short and taking advantage of the time we have makes the most sense.
There are 4 things that I learned and reflected on over the course of this month that I wanted to share with everyone. I personally think that it will help whoever is going through the loss of someone important and just trying to find guidance in the meaning of life itself. I was lucky enough to have friends that supported me through all of this. Whether that was coming over any day of the week to provide me comfort, hearing me vent, check up on me, or allowing me to cry while we talked about Erin. It was an eye-opener already that I may have neglected to see previously. I'm guilty to have taken my friends for granted early on, but as we continued to grow up with each other, the time and effort we put into each other became extremely valuable to me. It's important to have these staples in your life because they teach you so much more than you think. But enough about my friends... Here are the 4 takeaways I wanted to mention:
Leave your work at work
I may have mentioned this in previous posts because I personally think it's important to truly leave your work AT work. Taking your work home and stressing over it during your time with your partner, family, or friends, cannot be the only thing important to you. Your job isn't your identity, it shouldn't define you, and sure as hell shouldn't be killing you. I realized that I have no reason to stress about my job and that although it's important to get the job done to make ends meet, it's also important that it's not the only thing that signifies who I am. Leaving my work at work and taking that time off when I need it is what I want to live by. I never want to neglect someone from taking personal time off nor do I want it to be the base of my conversations when people ask "How are you?". Yes, it's a big factor in how you end up feeling throughout the day, but it shouldn't define your overall reflection of how you truly are. It's important to separate your life from your job and that we don't live to work all of our life feeling less accomplished when we die. I also realized that if the job feels dreadful, unpleasing, and stressful, then it's time to reflect on that and manifest what you really want out of your life. Once you do that, you'll realize your job will come last.
Be Present and Follow through on planned dates
Hearing from old friends or cousins that you see on occasion wanting to make plans with you, whether that's just to hang out on a Friday night, go out for dinner, or ask whether you'd be interested in taking a trip, signifies that they appreciate you as a person and ultimately values your presents. I know that it's common for many of us to make plans and then cancel last minute. It can be due to social anxiety, stress, and emotional discomfort leading up to actually following through on these plans. Taking that leap of faith that things won't be as bad as we make them out to be is the first step. Following through on these plans and seeing friends or family pushes you out of your comfort zone and daily routine. It's a breath of fresh air the minute you realize how much you needed that time with them. Be around the people that matter to you. Stop making excuses and just go with it. Because I can guarantee that once the night is over, you're happier, your stress is gone, and nothing else matters other than reflecting on the core memories that you made for yourself.
Have those hard conversations and let things go.
Since her passing, I have had more one-on-one conversations than I have ever had in my lifetime. It was always easy to have heart-to-heart conversations with people when you're intoxicated because that's when everything seems to spill out without intention. But never when you're sober, conscious, and grieving. I was personally hurt and felt very lost when I stopped hearing from my cousin, Carla. Especially when I felt that I needed her the most during such a difficult period in our lives. Having lost Erin and knowing that she was so important to both of us in different ways was extremely difficult to overcome alone. I understand now that although she was miles and miles away, she was also grieving her loss alone. When she finally messaged me and said she was coming home for her funeral I won't lie - I cried. We had this tight-tied connection with each other that over time we let unfold. Drama, presumptions, and a lot of loose ends. Erin seemed to be our core and it was almost like when we talked about her or she was the center of our attention, all of the built-up resentment or anger would just go away. One day of the funeral, Carla had come by early to have breakfast and although I didn't think much of it other than that, we ended up unfolding a lot of emotions and wreckage we had made throughout our years. Had we known that all we needed to do was talk in person, we would have done it a long time ago. And yet again, we came together because of Erin.
I've had my fair share of grudges with people and have lost friendships and connections due to that. Whether it was me or them that were in the wrong, it has taken a toll on my mental health and overall well-being. I realized how much I had to let go in order for me to feel complete again. Re-connecting with friends that I always wanted to reach out to all along was my biggest accomplishment yet this year. Realizing that all this time, all the energy spent resenting each other could have flipped the script had we just talked one-on-one. I want to acknowledge that people leave for a reason and that's okay. But when it hurts your heart to the point of feeling almost nauseating, it's important to reflect and see whether that relationship is worth fighting for. How will it affect me, my future, and everyone else. We tend to live life like we have all of this time to make up, but we don't. And I think it's important to be the bigger person, to let the bitterness go, and to have those difficult conversations. You never want to realize it when it's too late.
Be grateful, Cry, and Grieve. Find happiness within all of the darkness.
The last thing I want to share is to always be grateful. We tend to sit and gloat longer than doing something about it. We always want more and stress when we don't have it. Having a roof over my head, being surrounded by supportive family and friends, having a job that is flexible, and being relatively healthy is all reasons to be grateful. We don't see it in that light until we experience loss and notice how much more they had to live. Life can be cut short and you're never promised tomorrow. I also wanted to acknowledge that it's okay to cry. Take the time that you need to grieve. Allow their memories to live on in your mind and in your dreams. No one is expecting you to be strong throughout all of this and it's a process that everyone has to take one day at a time. When I say that grieving is beautiful, it's because you reflect and acknowledge how precious life is. You have that faith that they visit you in your dreams, you smile when you find an old video or photo of them, and you find light in the darkness seeing that all they want is for you to continue going, getting yourself up in the morning, and making the most of the days we have.
As I mentioned early on in this post, I have yet to process the loss of Erin. I find doubt even though we laid her to rest and I refuse to believe she's truly gone. Although I've learned so much within this time frame, I am still trying to manage my time, take it day by day, and allow myself to be vulnerable when it's all too much. I am more open to talking about her and crying when I miss her. I recently was gifted a book called: Tuesdays with Morrie. One of my best friends, Charlie, had given it to me and said that he hopes that it will help with my grieving process. Charlie has been my rock throughout all of this. He knew Erin as if she was also one of his family members and has been grieving with all of us as well. He's been extremely comforting, always available to talk when I need him, and for those that know him, he's just an amazing human being overall. I wanted to share something that truly resonated with me in this book which I'll leave you to end this post:
"Because," Morrie continues, "most of us all walk around as if we're sleepwalking. We really don't experience the world fully, because we're half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do."
And facing death changes all that?
"Oh, yes. You strip away all that stuff and you focus on the essentials. When you realize you are going to die, you see everything much differently.
He sighed. "Learn how to die, and you learn how to live."
Until next time.