It’s been almost six months since I lost one of my childhood friends, and I’m still figuring out the “right way” to grieve. I put it in quotations, because I’ve come to find that there are many ways to grieve, and everyone has an opinion on which way is the right one. I grew up in a war torn religious family who never really grieved. The ideals of the 40’s during the World War II era, reached all the way through my childhood and so none of us ever really talked about our feelings, and when you pair in religion, it was selfish to feel a longing or sadness for someone who had passed. This may work for my parents and my grandparents, or at least they put up a good facade. I, however am not that great at it.
I was home from college, having Christmas breakfast with my grandmother when I received the news and broke into hysterical crying in the middle of our local IHOP. My grandmother escorted me out as quick as possible, drove us home, and I sat in the car for at least two hours sobbing. She said nothing but, “You need to get yourself together, because we’re going to your father’s house soon, it is Christmas after all”. The rest of the day was a blur, and before I knew it, I was in school again starting a new quarter. My first weekend back, all of my friends were discussing what they were going to do with their long weekend, while I was hopping on a plane to attend the funeral of an 18 year old boy.
Grief is a strange thing, it comes and goes when you least expect it, and it is impossible to avoid. My first encounter was visiting the church we had both gone to all of our lives. It was just another Sunday, I came in with my family, got our programs and started saving seats, making sure there was at least one extra for him. Service started, and I began feeling anxious as I glanced at the back doors, waiting, while the music played in the background, until suddenly it hit me. What was I waiting for? For someone who wasn’t going to walk through those doors anymore. In that moment, I had forgotten because it was such a routine thing, something I always did. The reaction from my parents was one of almost disgust, “That’s not how he would want you to act right now”.
I haven’t been to the cemetery once since the funeral, I don’t talk about him, I can’t even look at pictures of him, I’m told I’m grieving the wrong way. But what is the right way? It’s the end of the year now, and graduation looms over my shoulders, and I can’t help but wish I was watching him walk across a stage. I have a letter prepared for him, that exists unbeknownst to my parents, to send off next week. But it seems like it’s not enough, and I think that’s the thing about grief. It never seems enough, because there is no limit, no expiration date, no confines to live in. It’s always with you, just not always acknowledged or even sometimes, recognizable. It’s different in every person, the way in manifests, and the response it will illicit.
It’s a unique experience, one that will present obstacles, hard self-realizations, and emotions. It’s painful, it’s hard, and it’s beautiful. Everywhere you look you find them, and sometimes it’s difficult, while other times, you can’t help but smile. For once in my life, I wasn’t able to put up a wall, and had to face myself, and I’ve never been more grateful.