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An Open Letter to Grief

This is a letter to the most uninvited guest of my life. A guest I would give anything to have never met-- this letter is for Grief. Grief took me to the darkest place I have ever been and gnawed at my heart until it, too, became a giant, empty, black hole. During this time, there were many moments I thought Grief was nothing but a ball and chain I would have to live with for the rest of my life.

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To Grief,

We’ve grown close over the last couple of years. I wouldn’t consider you a friend. But, instead, an acquaintance I’ve gotten used to being around. Perhaps, even a teacher– the kind of teacher that’s hard to deal with but earns respect. 

We met on a beautiful fall day– a day I would give anything just to be a typical day again and not a new, significant date on my calendar. 

At first, you felt bottomless– a dark, cold pit that no ladder was long enough for, no light was bright enough for. 

To be honest, I’m not sure I would have even wanted a ladder or a light. Leaving that dark, lonely place meant I had to face a world that my loved one was no longer a part of. I’d have to meet people who never even knew them. And people who don’t understand you, Grief. 

Life suddenly felt too long. There were too many days to “get through.” Too many days, I’d have to experience the gut-wrenching, breath-taking pain of you, Grief.

I remember forcing myself to go to sleep at all hours of the day/night in hopes that I would wake up and everything would be a dream. Before I laid down, I would beg whoever I deemed was a higher power to bring my loved one back. 

I would do anything, I thought, if that “higher power” could just grant me this one wish. But I soon learned that you, Grief, are just as unconditional as the love I had for the person I lost.

As the days went on, it felt like I was in a parallel universe. How could everyone be going on with their lives– listening to music, binge-watching their favorite TV shows, eating delicious food? I could no longer find any joy in the simple things because I spent all but minutes with you, Grief.

Overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and dread, I was no longer excited for the future and couldn’t find the slightest joy in the present. I looked to the past because that’s where my loved one lingered– if I could just lie in my bed in my room and not move, maybe I wouldn’t have to continue in a world without my best friend. 

I was afraid to do anything that could bring up memories of my loss. I turned off the radio in fear of a song coming on that I once listened to with the person I lost. I stopped seeing people in anticipation of having to talk about my loved one. I felt anger when I watched movies that had a happy ending because they reminded me of how unfair my loved one’s ending was.

I was jealous of all the people who didn’t know what it felt like to know you, Grief. 

You affected every nerve and bone in my body. You made me physically sick– headaches, zero appetite, no energy, hair loss, and a dense, mental fog were just some of your side effects. 

But worst of all, you consumed my mind. Memories of my loved one never left my head, and, at the time, those memories were painful. They reminded me of what I no longer had and made me feel hopeless about my life. 

You made beautiful days less beautiful, laughing feel like a betrayal, and smiling feel unnatural. 

But, as bottomless as you felt, I’ve started to build my ladder and create my light. 

I started to build my ladder because you left me no other option. You weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I had to make a choice– I could let your darkness swallow me whole, or I could choose to adapt and grow. 

So, I made a choice. To take control of my bereaved mind, I convinced myself to take steps towards healing. 

I am a strategic person who prefers to think logically and concretely, so that was how I eased into my journey through grief. I knew I found solace in the world of ideas and knowledge, so I began journaling by writing down my favorite memories of my loved one. 

Using an intellectual journey to control my emotional one, I began to understand how I was feeling. Drawing from those feelings, I wrote what I was learning through the process– forgiveness, the fragility of life, and the importance of intentional living. From there, I was able to find books, poems, and podcasts that were relatable and made me feel less alone. At the very least, these concrete steps, although small and simple, made me feel like I was back in control of you, Grief.

Of course, my relationship with you hasn’t been a linear one. It hasn’t been as simple as a few therapeutic journal sessions. Each day, I have to actively choose to be mentally stronger than you. 

There have been ups and downs, and sometimes you hit me at the most inconspicuous times– a smell of my loved one’s perfume, the change of seasons, my happiest moments. 

But, as time passes, I’m starting to see the lighter side of you, Grief– the things you are teaching me about myself. Burned down and reborn, I’m noticing differences. I’m beginning to see things through a new lens.

Before you, I was very reliant on following an expected path. I had my life planned out down to what time I drank tea each evening. I had more than a five-year plan. I felt invincible. Life was taken for granted. 

After you, I was forced to reconsider everything. The person I imagined my life with was gone. I had no choice but to embrace change, step out of my comfort zone, and do things that would scare me. I have become an expert at making the best out of not-so-good situations. 

Before you, I would get upset over simple things, like doing poorly in a sporting event or being rejected for a job. 

After you, I am more aware of the kind of things that deserve mental distress. I no longer “sweat the small stuff.” After all, I have experience with emotional and intellectual resilience because of you, Grief. 

While I will never agree with the statement, “Everything happens for a reason,” because nothing could ever feel justified in loss, you have helped me look for the light in the dark. 

I was forced into grief, survived through coping mechanisms, and experienced the most unwelcome Post Traumatic Growth. 

From you, Grief, I have gained tremendous mental resilience and have begun to embrace and learn from change. I am becoming more self-aware. I have a newfound comfort in knowing that I can go through challenging situations, frame them in the best possible light, and come out even stronger. 

Grief, you destroyed me but also helped to clarify who I am.

Sincerely,

Someone, anyone, who has met Grief

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