It was the loss I refused to believe I would ever actually have to lose. It was the loss I knew would destroy me when the time did come. A little over a year ago, my denial transformed into inevitability, then reality.
My grandfather passed away. It was the first loss I had ever experienced and the absolute worst. He was my best friend, my other half, my confidante, and my leader. I learned more about life, love, and myself as a person during that grieving period than I had at any other time in my life.
Losing someone who has impacted your life in more ways than your mind can even begin to summarize is traumatizing, no doubt, but there is a certain beauty in it if you choose to let yourself see it; if you choose to let yourself feel it.
So here’s the thing about loss; it never gets easier… you just learn to live your days differently.
Everything in your world changes when they go, but you adapt. You adapt in ways that will hurt you, that will test you, ways that will ultimately change you.
Metaphorically, grief is a process in which you pick your poison. I’ve learned that with your first loss, your coping methods are unpredictable.
My particular poison of choice was sex and the distraction of toxic relationships. Instead of giving my attention to the ones who loved me and wanted to help me through my grief, I invested myself in people who were mentally (and sometimes physically) abusive. I found that the distraction of the drama (the fights, the screaming matches, the aftermath of being repeatedly mentally shattered) was easier to deal with than facing the grief of losing my favorite person.
Every time I caught myself acknowledging how permanent death really is, I drowned myself in the toxicity of those people even more. Death is scary because it is permanent. Once someone is gone, they never come back.
Knowing this is the most painful and detrimental part of grief. Grief is scary because you know death is permanent.
Just like a break up you think that throwing yourself into something else (and giving that your full attention) will help you move on and distract you from the loss. It doesn’t though, it distracts you, sure, but ultimately, it bottles up the emotions you need to deal with and then violently throws them in every other possible direction.
I remember a moment in which I had actually physically thrown things around my room during a meltdown to which my best friend said to me that I had changed and that I was “never coming back.” That conversation still haunts me. It haunts me because in that moment, I knew she was right; I had changed, and not for the better.
I was different. I was angry, I was volatile, and I was becoming just as toxic to the people that loved me as the people who didn’t love me were to me.
The friendship ended that night, and in the months to come I decided that maybe in that moment she was right about my toxic change in behavior, but I also decided that she was going to be wrong about my comeback. She didn’t think I’d have one, but I would.
I began to process my grief by looking at the destruction around me.
Before then, I had this voice in my head picking away at me saying, “What’s your reason to live if your grandpa is gone? He’s not here to correct you when you’re wrong, protect you when you don’t know any better, or love you when you can’t even love yourself, let alone find anyone else to do the job.”
But then I realized…how could I waste all the lessons he taught me? If I don’t live in a way that would honor him, if I don’t pause in situations and think about what he would say to me, what he would tell me to do, then the legacy he left dies.
My grandpa had a special gift in which he was able to change and bless the lives of those who encountered him left and right. If I didn’t carry his wisdom in my heart and in my mind, no more lives would be changed or blessed—it all stops.
The lessons he taught stop being received, the wisdom he bestowed disappears, and the authenticity of his character would stop with him. I was responsible for carrying on the legacy through the generations to come. Even more, I WANTED to be like him, I just felt as if I couldn’t be because he was no longer on earth to show me how.
That’s the dark side of grief.
The bright side, however, where the beauty lies, is knowing that just because they are no longer physically here, you have the power to keep their spirit alive within you. The scenery is just different, but you adapt.
Instead of hearing their voice in the room, you hear it in your head. You keep the lessons they taught you fresh in your mind so you don’t stumble without the person there to physically pick you up. You remember the most prevalent and dominating pieces of their character in order to continually grow and become a better person. You remind yourself that their loss does not have to destroy you in the long run.
Give yourself time to cry, mope around, distract yourself with a vice of your choosing, get angry, let it destroy you temporarily, GRIEVE, but don’t set up camp and live there. Losing someone you love is terrible and it may be the hardest thing you ever have to go through.
It is an inevitable and permanent part of life, but who you become once you have braved the storm is up to you. It will change you and it may even destroy you, but here’s the thing about destruction: construction can come next. And you have to decide to rebuild.
Loss can strengthen your character and allow you to more thoroughly apply the lessons your loved ones taught you, in order to pass on their legacy. Once the safety net of having them here on earth is gone, choose to rebuild yourself once you have take time to grieve.
Rebuild yourself using them as your guidance, your inspiration, and your motivation. The pain of loss never does get easier, but the way you acquire that pain and structure yourself as an individual is everything, and it will determine the way how you come out on the other side of grief.
Your days are different without them here, but take the sweet memories and hold onto them, apply them, and remember them so that the beauty of their character will continue to live in you and through you for others to see.