How to grieve when the world is going to shit: a letter to myself and others
Grief is a thing that robs you of what you know, what you think you know or ever knew and on top of that, everything becomes a horrible, monotonous daze. Grief means dry mouth and never feeling quenched, no matter how much water you drink. It turns the world as you see it as blank and colourless.
There is an overwhelming emptiness that comes with grief. Not only is the loss of the person beyond monumental, but the impact it has on your outlook towards life becomes totally askew.
I am writing this from the perspective of a 21-year-old student who has no real set idea of what they really want to do with their life. Does anyone at 21? This uncertain rhetoric has been made more apparent when some distant and not so distant relatives ask you what you plan on doing once you leave university, which at this moment in time is only a year away. You do not answer, for you do not know. “I’m not sure, I’ll figure it out,” has to suffice.
Beyond that, there is the backdrop of the rampant political unrest in the rest of the world and being a human person with a conscience, steady values and a semi-active social media account — it feels selfish not to make comment or outwardly condemn things that are happening. But when your own personal world is in chaos, it is hard to decipher what exactly feels appropriate. Nothing does, because nothing comes. The weight of the grief is so crushing and paralysing at times that nothing, even as horrific as they might get, seems to horrify you half as much as the all encompassing sickness and heartache that wavers in and out. Each new day is overwhelming, sometimes it feels like a miracle that you even get by at all.
To live normally feels exhausting, even though this is not normality. To try and stop and ponder larger issues outside your world, you’re certain, would finish you off, too.
But then comes the guilt. The guilty feeling that you’re not doing things right, that you’re being ignorant, if you say nothing; you’re only enabling the oppressor. But I think with delicate and personal situations, like grief, the individual needs to ensure that they are strong enough to contribute. If they are weak (emotionally, physically) then it stands to reason that they might not necessarily be a great asset to any movement that seeks to stand up for what is right and just.
In removing yourself, to take time to reflect and heal, then there comes the isolation. How can any one person carry the weight of missing someone and feel as directionless than this? Even if the loss came like a tidal wave, and as a result hit other members of a family or circle of friends of the person that died — no one person will feel the same way. There is no way to get inside someone else’s head to see how they are feeling. You’re probably feeling just as bad as they are, sure, but the motions and rate of which you are experiencing it could be immensely different.
I am actively avoiding the news reel and feeling my stomach churn whenever I glance at my Twitter newsfeed, not because I stand on the side of the oppressor, and not because I, in my silence, want it to seem like I condone all of the terrible things that are happening in the world. Thanks to the great Certain Uncertainty that is Death - it feels far too much to even try and get your head around much else.
Grief takes months, maybe years to phase out. I don’t think the hurt even goes away, it just becomes more dull and not as prominent in your periphery. As a good friend once told me, “I don’t think you ever get over it, you just get used to it.”
It’s easy to feel helpless at a time like this, and I think that’s at the top of the list of my current emotions.
As bullshit as it might sound— you need to be as compassionate with yourself as you can be. It’s not always easy, I know, but you have to. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re allowed to feel overwhelmed. It’s a natural response to an excess feeling of stress.
Take a deep breath, and know that it might feel like you’re in this alone right now, but there will always be time to care about things and continue fighting the good fight when you’re ready. It is okay to not be ready. It is okay to not be strong, both for others, and for yourself. Things will exhaust you but there is still fire and enough give in you, but at the minute, it is shrouded with doubt and anxiety. This does not make you weak. It makes you human.
Life is not devoid of meaning or beauty or direction because it feels like the world is burning down around you. The feeling and the colour in the world, will come back. Maybe not today, but some day, it will.