Likely due to its ability to take over whole parts of your body at a time, loss has become something of a familiar feeling to me in present day.
Having only lost three people dear to me in my life up until 2018, I’d have never expected it to affect me in the many ways that it did. With a drastic change in my behaviour, my mental wellbeing and overall sense of self taking a hit, it never really occurred to me what not having those people, those voices and that feeling around me, would do to me.
When I lost my grandmother, I’d just returned home from a birthday trip in Paris. Beaming with excitement and eager to tell my parents all about just how well the trip had gone, losing her felt like punishment for not worrying albeit for a brief moment. The excitement in me was quickly quilled and now, I feel nothing but sadness and dread each year that my birthday comes around. Whereas before I’d only disliked my birthday because of the overall pressure and the attention, it soon became a constant need to escape that sadness. To refocus.
Every year since, though I hate to admit it, my birthday feels like the curse and I never truly feel happy on my day. Loss is a strange one and something I’ve not quite- well, I don’t think I’ll ever fully come to terms with. Having righted my wrongs a little too late, I always feel guilty for the passing moments I could have spent with her. Though my pain isn’t the slightest bit comparable to my mothers, I felt tremendous pain and the waves of sadness that hit me every now and then, still leave me truly breathless. For the most part, because I was learning to appreciate the woman I’d grown up under the watchful eye of, all over again. Prior to her diagnosis, we’d spend every other week updating one another via email, discussing everything from her bad knee to the classes she didn’t know I was skipping at University. We’d mended a relationship that was long in need of repair.
I’m sure most people have trouble, but I in particular do not handle grief well, and these three deaths prove it in its entirety. When the dates loom I lose all sense of communication and become unable to think about anything else. With my body soon a shell of itself, I’m comparable only to a zombie and figure it to be a ‘coping mechanism,’ because I don’t know of any other way to deal with the issues at be. My mother explained it best when she said that no two people will ever experience grief in the same way. While I may completely close myself off from the world and cower from conversations on the topic, others may find comfort in hugs, handholding and or venting it out etc. But I struggle tremendously with the latter.
Earlier this year I started therapy for my gross anxiety, but it never occurred to me that my losses were a part of my anxious tendencies. That losing those people at certain points in my life, and the ways in which they happened, might have been affecting my overall being. Be it the way I nurtured my friendships, my studies, the man I loved and or my relationships with family members. Those bottled emotions were spilling over into other aspects of my life and only causing more problems.
Having lost one of my best friends going into my second year of University, it didn’t really occur to me just how much her death took its toll on me, until my second session in therapy. I told the counsellor of my pangs of sadness when my friends didn’t reciprocate my love languages, and she suggested we get to the root of the problem. I divulged enough for her to understand that losing this particular friend in the way that I did was the reason I worried so much about my current friendships. I remember so vividly everything in the lead up to her passing as it was first and only time I’d ever stood my ground and not apologised, and it has haunted me well into my 20s. Though I’m no expert on grieving, I will say that it’s probably best to say what you’re feeling out loud, if only to hear yourself say the words, “I’m broken because…” I was routinely asked how I felt following her passing, but I couldn’t ever utter any real responses. It felt as though me saying anything out loud meant that this would all be real and that our childhoods would only be a memory. I wasn’t ready.
But what I learned at 25, was that losing her meant that I actively pressurised my other friendships and expected more from everyone else, because I didn’t give in when I likely should have. My lesson of, ‘if you don’t fix it now, they could pass away,’ was plaguing me and I spent every waking moment catering to friendships in the hopes, that god forbid, I lose another friend, at least we’d ended on good terms. I was quickly told of how ridiculous I was being when I admitted it out loud through tear filled eyes. Knowing how I dealt with the aftermath of that loss, it felt like the easy route to apologise when in the right than to bollock someone for being in the wrong. I became needy, weak-willed and a victim of the friendships I was terrified of losing. It was the easy way out. But here again, I was only adding to my anxieties and playing to the idea that if I didn’t do these things to keep my friendships afloat, then I was a terrible person. Not dealing with the problem, and sure I’m still not entirely sure how I *would* deal with that problem, I was only tacking to my long list of reasons to feel consistently on edge.
Which brings us to loss number three and arguably the hardest loss of them all, because of the loneliness felt after the fact. While many would probably assume that I’m just a manic depressive Tumblr kid, with anxious tendencies and someone who just doesn’t know how to keep a lid on her shit, that’s not wholly the case.
You’re taught from a young age to be mindful of the decisions you make because all actions, have reactions right? Given that I’d applied this ruling to losing a best friend and losing a grandmother, it made sense to apply it to this final passing.
Still fresh in my mind, I won’t go into detail on who I lost and when I lost them. But, the funny thing about loss is that although you may not want to, you remember every agonising moment in the lead up to that point. They play like cinematic re-runs and each time you visualise the events, everything still aches in the same way it did when you received the news. Though they may tell you that with time passing things don’t feel as heavy, but as my mother would reiterate, that isn’t so at all. Applying what I know about losing two people before my third, I understand that talking and having people listen eases the pain albeit a little. There are brief moments where it doesn’t feel like the anguish is grinding you into the ground, despite it being difficult to even talk about.
Admitting that loss, the L word has affected you and your wellbeing is the first step I guess. Here’s to finding out what the fuck step number two is….