This is my response to an article by Samantha Major, titled, “6 Things To Remember About Those Who Are Grieving” (For Harriet):
Usually I would have ideas on what to write about. I would outline my ideas and leave them in a Drafts folder for a while. I would let the ideas simmer in my mind, so that I will come up with better ways to articulate what I want to say and add on to the outline later. And when I am very sure that I have enough material to work on, I write. I can never force myself to do the work; knowing myself, I have to allow the feeling of writing to come, which is where I am at my best.
But it has been difficult to write about anything, or even feel like writing. Of course, writing is a difficult yet fulfilling pursuit. There are days when your mind is void of ideas, so you keep yourself preoccupied with other things. And then there are days when there is a sudden influx of ideas that absolutely need to be written down and written out before you lose them carelessly. That is usually how the creative process works. But in my situation, there are only days when I cannot bring myself to write about anything, including what I have done for the day. It feels as if I do not want to remember the passing days because–what is the point?
It is not enough to describe it as “indifference” or “apathy” because those two things are experienced by choice. But this feeling slipped in while I was unaware of its presence, and it has changed the way I interact with the world. I no longer feel interested in seeing friends (except one or two) because it takes a lot of emotional and mental effort to seem jovial and engaging. I lack the desire to go shopping for nice things, which are merely items that will accumulate into junk overtime. Food blurs into one type: nourishment; it is no longer categorized by flavor, scent, origin, ingredient, or appropriate meal time. The things that I used to enjoy are just mechanical rituals that I must perform in order to appear “okay”.
It took me a long time to realize this sudden change. How did my mind, body, and soul shift in different directions, when I thought I had them all in sync with each other? None of this was by choice. I did not willingly give up on enjoying life. I did not choose to be anti-social or distant or unresponsive. The thing that slipped in was grief, in its many cloaks. It will sometimes lead me to assume that I am having a good day, when I laugh while watching a comedy special or smile at a toddler waving at me. It will sometimes remind me of past events that left unresolved feelings, making me feel the residual anger and frustration for those involved. Sometimes, it will whisper to me, telling me that I am inevitably alone and have no one to turn to because they are moving on with their lives–Why should I bother to talk to anyone? I will only feel like a burden to them…
Every day is a struggle to get out of bed or to go to sleep. We usually hear about these things from other people who have experienced some form of trauma, but we barely think much about it until it happens to us. Before all this, I did not want to get out of bed because of all the overwhelming tasks and responsibilities I had that needed to be done. But now, I do not want to get out of bed because I have no motivation to go about the day. As for going to sleep, it used to be a reward, after a long exhausting day of activities. But sleep has now become an untouchable thing–either I lay awake thinking about too much or I dream about terrifying things that force me to wake up panicking. Nonetheless, I feel as if I am in a void that even “sleeping it off” is not an option anymore.
This is what grief is like. You are no longer sure about who you are, what you enjoy, how you feel, and where you should go. There are no questions marks or exclamation points, only blank spaces. What are you supposed to fill in those blanks? It is especially difficult when you are in your 20s, that time in your life when you’re “supposed to enjoy being young” or “supposed to think about what are your next steps”. As of now, it feels like I am stuck because of these circumstances I am in, and those of my age are moving on to working in their respective fields or advancing in their studies or formulating new relationships. I am caught in between wanting to move on and remaining where I am because it is all “too much, too soon”.
As much as I can try to explain the grief of losing a loved one (especially a sibling), no one can truly understand unless they experience it themselves. It is an unfortunate truth and reality, but that is how we come to understand this side of life. In a world that emphasizes Joy, we never really learn how to confront Sorrow until it actually strikes us. There are not enough sympathy cards or spoken condolences that can mend the pain felt in grieving over a loved one. The only way–and this is what I have come to learn–that one can begin to heal is to have someone who has also experienced the same situation and talk about it. A parent talking to another parent who also lost a child, and how their journey has been. A person who lost a brother talking to another person who lost a sibling, and what they have done to honor their memory. As much as we want to show sympathy for someone who has lost a loved one, it is only through empathy (that comes from a long, harrowing journey with a brighter path up ahead) that the healing can begin.
And so I try. I remind myself how to feel–if my stomach feels empty, that is feeling hungry; if my back aches from poor posture, that is feeling the need to stretch; if my eyelids feel heavy, that is feeling sleepy; and so on. Eventually I remember how to taste food, how to move my body for better blood circulation and energy, how to fall asleep and wake up refreshed. Little by little, even if it is the most ordinary and simple things, I learn how to live life again. But most importantly, I learn not to treat grief as a burden, but as a weight that becomes bearable overtime. I can never know how to lift myself up unless I know what it is like to struggle coming from the ground.