Hey guys, it’s been awhile since I posted on here. A really long time. I guess I got busy with working over the summer and then school has started again and I have a job on campus this year that’s caused me to practically become nocturnal. Seriously, my sleep schedule is non-existent; which is why this post is coming to you at 4:30 in the morning, as I work through a 1-7 am shift with nothing better to do but scroll through my phone.
And as I was doing this, a notification popped up on my phone.
A notification from Facebook memories, from two years ago.
It was a prayer request for someone I called a friend. And he was a friend. But he was always more to me, and I wished I had told him that. I wished I had told him that I loved him, but maybe I didn’t want to admit it to myself.
Today, I wished I had told him that, before he passed away from cancer on October 29th, 2016.
There’s a lot more I wished I had told him.
I wished I’d told him that when he shared his notebook of stories with me, wanting me to read them and give my feedback, nothing meant more to me, and I will always remember that.
I wished I’d told him that being able to talk to him about God and having faith in hardships, and seeing him being positive regardless of what he was going through, gave me the courage to find my faith again.
There’s always more that we wish we could tell the people who have passed on, and it’s easy for us to think of things to say to them when they aren’t there; but what do we say to the living? What do we tell those who have to live without a son, a best friend, a brother, a boyfriend or a crush? Often, we can only come up with the same cookie cutter responses: “I’m so sorry for your loss,” “I’m praying for you and your family” “Let me know what I can do!” and we send meals, and phone calls, and hugs, but we don’t know what to say, really. We get uncomfortable talking to those who are still living with the death.
In the two years since the death of one of my favorite people, I’ve learned a lot about grief. A lot about what the people around me didn’t know how to articulate, and things I wish people knew how to talk to us about.
- Time doesn’t make it better
- It’s the common phrase that you hear: time will heal all wounds. I hoped with each day this was true. In two years, I’ve found it to not be. Time doesn’t make it better, and it doesn’t make it easier. It only makes it easier to see ghosts in the faces of strangers, and it leaves too much time for your brain to come up with ways to twist the images your mind is seeing. Last year, I started at OSU. I was in my research methods class, and ended up sitting in the back because all of the other chairs were taken and logistically it would be easier for me to exit the classroom at the end of the lecture and not get trampled. They say that where you decide to sit on the first day of class defines your whole year, but I never thought it would be in the way that I experienced it. I was minding my own business, when a boy came and sat next to me, and looking over, I thought I was looking into the face of a ghost. Maybe this kid didn’t look like my deceased best friend, but the mind is made to be creative, and to fill in missing information it cannot process. My mind could not process this kid; it didn’t know his name, where he was from or where it had last seen him, but the kid looked close enough to previous faces my mind had seen, so before the kid had uttered his first words to me, my mind filled in the gaps that it was seeing the face of my best friend. It decided this, and so when the kid opened his mouth, and didn’t introduce himself as the same person it thought he was, dissonance occurred (my psychology degree may come in handy after all). And so, my brain tried to make up for this feeling, that what it had determined was expected was not actually happening, by shutting out this kid. I decided that I couldn’t talk to this kid. He was perfectly nice to me, made good conversation, but simply looking at his face was too triggering for me. I became cold with a kid who didn’t understand why I was being this way, and never deserved to be treated that way. Everyday, going to that class was like being in a dream that I’d wished was a reality. That I could talk to him one more time. I’d found a ghost in the face of a stranger, and time was only making this easier for me to do. I could no longer watch Grey’s Anatomy after an episode where a woman fell in love with a man with cancer who later dies in her arms. I remember watching this episode, and curling up in a blanket covering my face and literally screaming with sobs in my dorm room, over and over, saying “I can’t do this. It’s not fair!” and so I stopped watching Grey’s. I was seeing ghosts at a point in my “grief timeline” where I should have accepted it by now. But there is no “should have”. There is no formula for mental health, no matter what the posters with the neat little pyramids say. There’s no point in the grief pyramid where, much like shoots and ladders, you land on a spot that sends you back to the top of a ladder you’d just worked your way down. That one day you’ll be fine, and the next you’ll be at a twenty one pilots concert sobbing your eyes out because they played “Cancer” and the boy told you that one day you’d get to go to one of their concerts just like he had.
- But that’s another thing I didn’t understand about grief until I had to go through it: not everyone follows the “grief timeline”.
- I guess someone out there had to have fit this pattern at some point, otherwise, why come up with the “7 stages of grief”? and why would we still use it today and plaster it on posters and pamphlets? But I will never understand it. Yes, I have gone through them all, but its more like going through them, and then I’m on the 7th rung at the bottom of the ladder and I’m just hanging onto that rung because while I’ve accepted it to some extent that I do understand he is dead, at any split second, I could climb back up to the 2nd rung, “denial” or the 4th rung, “anger”. I go up and down this ladder every other day it feels like. I remember a day, not even a year ago where I was bored, and I had just written something, or I was looking for advice on something I was writing, and I literally thought to myself, “Oh! I’ll just message my friend and ask his advice,” I got so far as to open my Facebook messaging app, when the last message I had sent to him, glared up at me from the screen, unread, and untouched. I’d told him to get well soon, and come home. I’d sent him a letter that was never responded to. Somewhere, I knew I’d done all this a year ago, but for a split second, I’d hopped up to the 2nd rung, and tried to grip on there for dear life, while my heart raced and my palms sweat, until I lost my grip and crashed back down to the 5th rung “depression”. I spend a lot of time on that rung. I spend a lot of time on the 4th rung, “anger” as well. I’ve learned to finally not be angry at God. God is taking care of him, and for that I am thankful. I believe God is helping my friend to hear me, even as I write this now, so I try to not be angry with Him. I know my friend wouldn’t have wanted me to be. But I do get irrationally mad at my friend at the time who had told me when he died, and who probably will read this at some point. I remember distinctly she texted me the day he passed, “Hey, did you hear about him?” (I’m explicitly not adding his name for respect of his family and their Facebook). And when she told me he had passed, at first I wasn’t mad. I just remember repeating the word “no,” No, this wasn’t true. This wasn’t happening. He was going to get better, I was sure of it, I had told him he’d be fine, it was the last thing I’d told him. But as time went on, I did become mad at her. I never told her, but maybe now she knows. I was mad she’d told me because we didn’t talk all too often that year, so why would she reach out just to tell me?! She didn’t know him, so why would she tell me?! And why did she know before me?! None of this makes sense for me to be mad about, but since I’d promised I couldn’t be mad at God, I had to be mad at someone, and it was going to be her. I know she wanted me to know so I didn’t have to see it accidentally on social media, or hear about it days later, but at the time, I couldn’t process anything but anger. And every year around this time, I get mad again. I get mad remembering the day she told me, and wishing she hadn’t. I get mad at the way I treated my true best friend at the time, Chloe, when she asked me the next day at school if I was okay, and all I could say was “no,”, and how I wouldn’t talk to her, when all she wanted to do was help. I get mad at myself that two years out, I still can’t function around this time of year, and that I still find ways to torture myself, and to remind myself that he is dead, and that I’m living life without him.
- It makes you feel guilty for your successes
- I’ve always been someone to cling too much onto people who give me two seconds of their time, (it’s one of my least favorite qualities about myself), but I’d like to believe that what I had with this young man was something special, even if it was a bigger deal only on my end. Maybe he never loved me like I loved him, but we still shared a bond. A bond of knowing what hospitals were like, and having to miss large chunks of school. And he was the only guy I’d ever known who would sit down with me and talk about God and why he believed in Him. But our first bond, and a first love in both of our lives, was writing. This young man was a talented author, and he wrote stories from his heart, and created artwork like I’d never seen before. He told me he wanted to go to college for creative writing, which at this point in my high school career was exactly the major I wanted to pursue as well. And he deserved to have his writing heard, and I know I am extremely blessed to have ever heard any of it. I believed he would go to college. I believed he would be a writer one day, and I believed the same for myself. So, when he passed, I wanted to continue on this love we had shared for the art of writing. But first, I had to go to college, and that alone was a terribly strenuous step for me. I know how lucky I am to be going to OSU, for more reasons than just because college is a priceless experience, but it’s hard to not walk this campus, and to see the sunrise on The Oval over Thompson, and know that he will never see that. He will never experience the glorified grossness of living in a dorm, an experience every 18 year old craves, no matter how worn out your building is. He’ll never taste overpriced campus food, or experience late nights studying for finals, and I know he would’ve done so much better at it than me. He would have appreciated it more, and it’s hard to not feel like he deserves it more than I do. I try my hardest to take in the scenes around me while walking to campus, and to be out and about with other people, but it’s hard to do all this when in the back of your mind, you feel guilt for having something someone else can’t have. Guilt makes success hard. That’s what no one told me. It makes being on campus hard, and when I realized that OSU didn’t have a creative writing major, and I instead went with psychology, it made me feel like I was allowing the last piece of the boy who’d bonded with me over writing and who I had promised I would write and share my stories with him one day, wither away. I felt like I was abandoning and betraying him. Sometimes, I tell myself that if he was still alive today, he would be disappointed to see me studying psychology, but I know he wouldn’t. I know he’d love to read this blog, and I know that he’d want me to be happy. That’s all he ever wanted, and all he ever spent his time doing, was making other people happy. I can make people happy by studying psychology and securing a future as a psychologist. And I can still write, and I still love to do it. Sometimes, it is hard. It is hard to not feel guilty that I can write and he can’t, but he wrote up until the end, and this I am sure of because he shared pictures of his writing with me. I’d like to think he was happy until the end, and that even now he is still happy, but sometimes it’s hard for me to be happy without him. I didn’t know that whenever a boy would flirt with me after he died, I would feel guilty for feeling any affection for someone else. And sometimes I feel stupid for this, because we never dated, and I never confessed my feelings, so maybe I was making a big deal about nothing, but sometimes I just think that if I can hold out and not date this boy or not accept this date invitation, maybe he’ll come back and he’ll know how I felt for him and we can start over. I have to tell myself that we can’t start over, and that I can move forward because he is in Heaven and he has eternity now to live. No cancer, no pain, no sickness. If what I’m looking for is to be happy only when he is happy, then I’ve been granted that from God because the young man I loved is happy. I have to believe this, I do believe this, because he believed it.
Everyday is a struggle, and for anyone who has ever experienced loss, or is going through loss right now, I hope this post can give you encouragement. I know it wasn’t the most positive, and half the time it was a bit rambly, but it’s now 6 am and I’ve been mulling over this post for weeks, afraid that if I didn’t get it out, I never would. I don’t know if I can be of much help, but if anyone wants to reach out if they are going through loss of a loved one, I can be emailed at email@example.com . For more serious and immediate concerns to your safety or the safety of a loved one stemming from dealing with loss, please contact: Grief Recovery Hotline 1-800-445-4808 . Your grief won’t be like mine, and no ones grief is as simple as they try to make it seem. I know it is one of the hardest things to get through, and no matter how close you were or weren’t to the person you are mourning, it’s important to remember that your feelings are valid, and that no person would wish extreme sadness on another person. The best thing to do is to honor the passed person by living your best life, and remembering that it’s what you deserve, and that if you continue on, there are ways the passed person can live on through you.
All the best to those recovering.
In Memory of My Best Friend. I Love You.
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