Hello, blog-iverse! Remember me? Yeah, it’s been a while. The second the first semester of my sophomore year in college began, my free time was shot to pieces. I wish I could have kept up with blogging because I really do enjoy it, and I hope that maybe next semester won’t be so rough.
When I first started this blog, I expressed my reasoning for the endeavor: for one thing, I wanted to get more comfortable with putting my writing voice into the universe. More importantly, though, I also wanted to share what I was learning as I tried to figure out life as an eighteen (now nineteen)-year-old person. And I still want to do that. Which is why I’m going to talk a little bit about grieving.
To be honest, this semester has been some of the hardest and most draining months of my life. It didn’t exactly start off on the right foot; my great aunt, who I considered a grandmother, died the day before move-in. I didn’t really have time to process such a great and untimely loss. (Her sister, my other great aunt, had passed away less than a year before.) I was carelessly thrown into the semester like a wet T-shirt into the dryer, and I entered a whirling mess that I can only hope will help me come out cleaner in the end.
When I returned to school after the funeral, I did what I always did when a loved one passed away: I tried to forget about it and immerse myself again into my daily life. That didn’t go so well.
Somehow, it seemed that everything began to go wrong. I felt exceedingly anxious about my schoolwork and complications with my suite mates. I finally felt at peace over fall break, but once I returned to school, I started to feel worse, unhappy, tired, and lost. I found some solace in talking to someone at the on-campus counseling about my struggles. She noted that my feelings of anxiety might be linked to my lack of a grieving process for my great aunt.
But just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, another of my great aunts died, the third to pass away within 13 months. What once was my family structure—my mom’s aunts and uncles—was rapidly reduced to just one aunt and one uncle. Just two remaining from a family of seven. My heart was heavy.
The same day as the funeral, I went to my old high school’s fall musical, and my heart ached all the more for another time. I began to feel an overwhelming sense that everyone leaves one way or another, that all things are temporary, that nothing would ever work out the way I wanted it to. (**I do not endorse this way of thinking. It kinda sucks. A lot.**) Somehow, I made it through the rest of the semester. I lost the positivity I once had, the confidence that things would always be just fine. I felt pretty darn hopeless.
And now, I’m here, at home. Preparing for a holiday that will be all the more difficult with my family’s numbers diminished. And I am realizing that I am grieving over more than just a couple of souls.
Grief is often described as sadness caused by someone’s death. But I see it as sadness caused by loss—any kind of loss. One definition I found is, “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret” (Dictionary.com). That’s what I’m feeling. I am grieving the loss of my aunts, especially the one who I considered a grandmother. She has been very present to me in recent weeks; I’ve inherited some objects from her and claimed some of her jewelry, which I wear to recognize her with me. I light candles and think of her. I’m trying to experience the grief instead of shoving it aside.
But I’m also grieving for the past. I might be into my second year of college, but I wish all the time to be back in high school. I miss the family-like atmosphere of high school theater, the comfortable bonding, the experiences I had in those places at that time. I want what I had then. And, unfortunately, I can never get it back. That is what loss is.
So, this is what I’m learning. Grief doesn’t begin at a death and end at a funeral. Loss isn’t exclusive to life and death. Grief is a state of being that occurs when something is gone or someone has left, and you aren’t capable of changing anything. It’s a sense of powerlessness that comes with an unpleasant or drastic change. You could grieve over a job that you quit a year ago. You could grieve over a person you never got to know. You could grieve over an heirloom or an old toy, lost at some time over the years. Anything that you lose or that ends can cause grief. And that grief is not a pill to be swallowed. It is a process, one with unexpected highs and lows, filled with feelings of both sentiment and distress. It is healthy, it is normal, it is inevitable. What’s hard about grieving is not only acknowledging it, but being open to learning from it.
So, here is my acknowledgement: Hi, I’m grieving.
And so, now, it is mid-December, and the end of the year curiously coincides with me starting again from square one. I am trying now to feel joy in doing the things I love: playing music, reading, and writing. I am going to spend more time with the people who I care about. I am going to try to be gentle with myself in this process and not look on myself with disdain because I don’t know what to do. I am grieving, and I am learning all the while.