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Sooner or later we will all lose someone that we care about. There is no way of dealing with it that won’t hurt. In my own life I have lost a number of people, but none affected me so much than losing a friend last year.
On reflection I know that how I dealt with the lose wasn’t exactly the best way to cope.
It made me wonder, why are the tools we use to help with grief taught to use with other life skills?
Some people find comfort in an afterlife and the teachings that are liked to such a thing. Personally, I find that very unhealthy. I am not a religious person and even if I were, the details of my friends passing would not lead the conversation to a positive end.
I can’t tell you want will work for you and I certainly don’t have magical words that will make the pain go away. However, I will share the breakthroughs that I had that seem to have helped me the most.
First and foremost, I closed myself off. When I heard the news my first reaction was to move away from people and get out on my own. At the time, I lived with a girlfriend and a friend in a house share. While they had the best of intentions, I wanted to be alone and they were not letting that happen. The result was that I was sat in the garden out side. While they were speaking about something, I was quiet and in my own little world.
That was the shock.
That night I went to work. I was able to go to work purely because I worked in a care home at night. My jobs and responsibilities were minimum and I would only have human interaction for about 20 minutes in a whole 10-hour shift. That was certainly more preferable than staying at home.
But when the shock wore off, that’s when I wanted to talk. That’s when I wanted to open up and tell the stories and memories of the great man that had meant so much to me.
I am not exactly great at opening up to people, and for over a year, I had suffered as I simply didn’t know how to cope with it.
A distraction helped, but then it depends what exactly that distraction was. Focusing on work is all well and good, but it’s not like I could focus for very long before the little things became overwhelming.
Short and quick goals seemed to be the best for me. Clean out the cupboard and the food back after. Organize my wardrobe—now this is something of a double-edged sword, as there were many clothes in there that reminded me of my friend.
Understanding and owning the anger.
It’s something of a spiral and it should really be made clear. It’s not something I understood for a long time after. We had a mutual friend, and she being a mother of two, also had to deal with a lot of emotion. Not just for her, but for the two girls who saw this man as family.
During a conversation she had said something that I had felt, but had been too ashamed to admit.
She told me she hated him.
Of course she hated him for the simple reason that he was no longer there. This is something I think we all feel with lose, regardless of who they are or how we lose them. We hate that they are not here and we are so angry because of it.
Most people, I think (much like me), are ashamed to admit such a thing. It’s almost paradoxical: We love them and hate them at the same time just because they are not here.
I (like her) felt betrayed. Betrayed because he couldn’t keep fighting. Betrayed because he gave in and took himself away from us.
It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to hate the person we love for not being there. I ignored this in the beginning and made comments like, "It’s amazing he lasted so long with all the health issues and so on."
What I wanted to do, however, was scream. Scream and shout, "How could you leave me?"
I had a dream about him within the first few days.
In that dream I saw him coming from a building. I went to him and threw my arms around him. He had explained to me that he had to fake his own death and went off on a conspiracy rant (something that I'd always loved hearing him do).
When I woke I was shake, but I smiled. I reached over to my phone and had every intention of calling the man to tell him of the dream. I was going to tell him of a horrible dream I had where he had fooled us all and faked his death. Only to remember after his number loaded that he really had gone.
I was grateful that I was alone in the house at that time because I did scream.
Embrace the emotions you are feeling. We are not robots and we need to feel.
So this was the single biggest hurdle for me, and the one that made the most difference. As I said, I am not best at opening up to people and that’s why this one took so long for me to overcome.
After well over a year, I had made the decision to make a video. I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish the video or delete it straight after recording. I had told myself that if I had been brave enough to tell the story and what I had and was experiencing it might help someone.
With an added bonus for me of talking to a camera—after all, cameras don’t talk back and there is always a delete button.
So I did.
And I went right back to the start. The very first day that I met that man and the build up leading to it. Who I was before him and the confidence boost he had given me.
I had talked for over an hour just explaining the first day we had met.
After three hours I had stopped talking. My voice was going and it was past 3 AM. I still had so much to say, but I felt so much better than I had before.
I had told the funny stories and some adventures. I had told some of the arguments and laughter and the fact that he was possibly one of the worst people to watch a film with—as he would usually pause the film and explain the scene we were about to watch, and then play it. Something that annoyed me so much before, but now always makes me smile.
I had said that he taught me how to cook and that the only reason I eat Indian food now is because of him.
I never did finish making that video.
Being able to talk about him in such an open and honest way has been the single greatest thing that has helped me with grief. I still have dreams and I am still sad that he is not here. The small traditions we had and built over the years can make things harder. This time of the year where we spend time and remind people how much we love them is never going to be easy without them.
We should remember them, we should talk and laugh and love, and when needed, we should be angry and miss them and scream.
We are human. We miss, we grieve, and we get nostalgic.
Speaking from my own experience, bottling things up was the biggest mistake I made through the whole time.
Above all else, remember: No matter what your situation is, no matter where you are, you are not alone.