Observations from the Nerd Left

On Life, Sadness, and Loss

I was later than I wanted to be this week due to some obligations: grades are due and life gets in the way of the more fun things.

The other major life issue that reared its head once more is this: this past Monday was the two year anniversary of my father-in-law killing himself.

There are many, many feelings that bubble when this hits me every year.

I see the pain my wife suffers, on a regular basis, but more acutely on the anniversary. She is stronger than she believes herself to be, but this always pulls her back to that sadness. We often, when grieving, get angry at ourselves for not moving on. For not getting past it. This is normal. When you have dealt with depression, as both my wife and I have, the spiral of sadness and grief feels impossible to get out of.

It reminds me of the loss of my mother. When she died fourteen years ago, I fell into a funk. I wasn’t productive at work. I didn’t care about much. I moved out of my house, for a change of scenery. Then I didn’t care about housework or anything. Slowly, with the help of my wife and friends and therapists, I was able to bring myself out of that spiral. It wasn’t without dips back in. It wasn’t without regression. It wasn’t without the darkest of thoughts about myself.

I talk about this because in the world we are in today with social media and the internet and busy lives: We shield ourselves from the world because we are afraid of the harm it may do to us. We also shield ourselves from the world because of the harm we may do to it.

The message I have to keep reminding myself of is this: those shields are not impossible to overcome. It takes a combination of love and patience and understanding. We contradictingly want to be left alone and want to be embraced by loved ones. We want to be able to handle it solo but deep down know that we all need support.

Ironically, one of the things that people complain about as separating us and breaking apart relationships has been a source of strength and support: social media. That “like” you clicked at random may mean little to you, but it means something to me. That comment or discussion you have with a friend you haven’t seen in 20 years may be frivolous to you; but, to me, it means a lot. You see, we may scoff at the idea of social media. They aren’t real relationships. They are simple ways for us to act like we care.

The thing is…I do.

I do care. I click “like” when I genuinely like something. I discuss or comment on something when I have actual feelings about it. I treat it as if it was what I would say to the person if they were standing in front of me. You know…like if it was social and stuff.

So rather than focusing on my sadness and on death today, let me give you my guide for living:

  • Be honest. With yourself. With the people around you. With what you do.
  • Love what you love. Don’t be ashamed of it.
  • While you are at it, don’t yuck another man’s yum.
  • Be aware that while you may be ready to change or “better” yourself, others may not be.
  • Be ready to help them; and that includes just listening sometimes.
  • Develop your empathy. It never is enough.
  • Nothing helps your mental health more than the unconditional love of an animal.
  • Know that you don’t know. And try to know.
  • We are all part of something greater than ourselves.
  • Life ain’t a comic book: We are less villains & heroes and more choices & consequences.
  • Build up so that you don’t break down.
  • Laugh with and not at.
  • Those things you have are just things. The people in your life mean more.
  • Absorb information, don’t push it away.

And lastly: Be kind to each other.


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