Coping with Grief and Loss

After going off to university away from home, I had always feared the call or text notifying me that a loved one had passed. I was lucky enough to not have this happen to me for my first three years, however, twice this semester I have lost close friends of mine.

Each one triggered an uncontrollable feeling of grief and questions. From the moment I got the call, it seems as though the world stopped, nothing mattered, and the thoughts of that person lingered for days and weeks.

The cycles of grief happened in different phases. It started with shock, then questions, anger, and finally acceptance. The last step, acceptance, almost seems like an unattainable step for awhile, as it’s difficult to wrap my head around the world without that person.

It also becomes hard to be productive, as life seems to go on hold for awhile. In my own grieving, the most difficult part is not being able to have answers to something where there are no answers. Death, especially when unexpected, elicits our natural human urge to come up with answers, even when we know they will never come. 

From the moment I heard the news, my instinct was to call or message any friends who had already heard or had any more details. In some way, the grieving had not really begun yet because the instinct is to find out what happened.

The idea that the person is out of this world has not properly begun to settle and therefore, the focus is on satisfying the desire to know more. After awhile, the world just seems to stop and a flood of different emotions comes. Sadness, anger, apathy, all seem to come all at once and the ability to do anything becomes impossible.

Each time this happened to me, I felt an urge to go about my normal day but as soon as I did, the world seemed to dissociate and the ability to do anything quickly became impossible. That first day, all that is really possible is to lie down and try to wrap my head what to do next.

The next day, I tried to find ways to cope with the distress. For me, music was always a great relief whenever I had dealt with troubling times. With death, however, it’s difficult to listen to the same playlists as I once did. As all I can do is think of my friend, it feels as though only certain songs could make me feel better. This is in many ways a great relief. Whether it’s to cry or pass the time, music has an innate power of being able to describe the thoughts we have. 

I also seem to have the urge to either do nothing or try to do as much as I can to forget about the grief. I baked for the first time in forever, which did feel like a relief. Yet, I am not sure why I chose to do this. Perhaps it was to pass the time or maybe try to put my dark thoughts into something more positive. Regardless, I think finding something outside of my routine strangely helped in a way. 

The biggest support that immediately comes is from my friends. I am lucky to be surrounded by them whether I’m in Victoria or back home in California. I think they are probably the best therapy I could have asked for. Whether it’s to talk about my lost friend, or find something normal to talk about, having that support and someone who can give advice is a great relief.

Grieving is a cycle, and having someone there during the worst moments has been very helpful. As the process continues, the ability to talk about these moments can help others when they find themselves in the same situation. It is a natural human experience, yet when it happens to us it feels as though we are the only person on Earth who can understand it.

As friends offer support however, there comes a period where I want to isolate myself. Putting words into something where words cannot be found can only go so far, and I often find it necessary to revel in my own thoughts. I find this is probably because others cannot understand the relationship we have to a person who has died.

It may be different for different people so often times, explaining to others my thoughts becomes repetitive and difficult. I find this can be the most challenging because it is when I begin to see the world without my friend in it. Any thought revolves solely around that person, so the time also becomes frustratingly unproductive.

As a student who constantly thinks about the next assignment, being able to just stop what I am doing or think about school seems unnatural. Getting extensions on assignments feels like giving up. While I understand this is a pretty irrational thought, being able to admit that I cannot physically do the work is something I never want to do.

Soon, time goes on and things slowly go back to normal. Yet, I begin to accept that what I perceived to be normal will never be the same again. No one can replace what has been lost and the pain of that realization will likely last forever. Learning to live without that person is a process that is difficult and only time can really tell how it will go.

I am lucky to be surrounded by the support system that I have. The way I cope comes in waves and emotions that I cannot always explain but at least trying to speak to someone who has my back always helps. I am not sure how life is going to go without my two friends but I am glad to have the memories that we had. Knowing the person for who they were is a blessing in itself and I am thankful they were a part of my life. 

Going through this process has taught me a lot and it’s these sorts of experiences that shape who I am. I try my best to relax and continue to grieve in my own way despite how difficult that can be at times. I just know at some point I will be able to get back to normal while still being able to remember the memories we had together. That I think is something to look forward to. 

If you’re grieving and need support, UVic Counselling Services can help. They also have a grief and loss group

Image via Pixabay.

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2 Responses

  1. Cathie says:

    I’m sorry for your losses, and glad you have support. Have you read the “ball in a box” analogy about grief? It really helped me.