Dealing with the aching pain and guilt that accompanies grief and loss.
A couple of weeks ago someone in my circle sadly passed away. The situation was extremely sad not only because this person was young but also because we shared close mutual friends. After the unfortunate incident, I saw my friends struggle badly. First, they struggled with guilt. Guilt that they never got to say enough, they never got to tell this person how much they really loved and cared for him. Then, there was also the guilt of unfulfilled promises. When situations come to an end so sadly and more importantly, so abruptly, a lot of discussions and promises are left hanging in the air. The wild imaginations, big dreams, proposed future plans, unachieved milestones. I saw my friends live and struggle with this guilt.
After battling immense guilt, I watched them grapple with a range of other emotions. And what was more heartbreaking was how they struggled to express and live with these emotions in a bid to find some semblance of peace and closure in the aftermath of our friend’s passing. What becomes of us when everyone else moves on from a sad incident but we are still deep in our sullen trenches, unmoved. Personally, I’ve felt somewhat bullied by others to pull myself out of depressive episodes, mostly the ones that threaten to last for weeks.
During these sad or depressive episodes, we sometimes start to feel a pang of guilt. Guilt about not paying attention to my studies or work. Guilt about neglecting our families and friends. While it is comforting for our brains and body to be in a non-functioning state, in a sense, preferably shutting ourselves off from the world while we feel unwell, there are responsibilities calling. There are issues that require us to be present.
Regardless of the distress and guilt, both my friends found different ways to cope. One took some time off social media and also found solace writing, most especially about their lost loved one. The other was more present, sharing her struggles and eventually going into therapy. I was also wise enough to check in then from time to time and also give them much-needed space.
In these moments of solemnity, people are just allowed to be. Grief makes one cling to aloneness, it makes one feel like they are on an island and every other person or place is too far for them to reach. While severe isolation might point to worsening days, at least in my own case, brief moments of well-timed and meaningful interaction remind all of us that there is a life to look forward to and that we are not alone.
After a great loss, it is possible to literally sit in therapy and still feel alone if your mind is not settled. By settled, I mean making a conscious effort to come to terms with the present. Align yourself with what is happening right now, not the past. There is always a tendency to constantly ruminate over mistakes in that relationship, things you could have done better or moving through the obsolete future without your loved one. However, the only way to emerge from such a depressive and difficult state is to take one day at a time. Attempting to decipher reality at a go will only send you right back to the abyss and that unending cycle begins again.
On good days, I like to remind myself and the general population; especially women, that we are not bad people because our stomachs turn at the thought of exiting our bedrooms. That we have sleepless nights and feel like death while also trying to keep a happy demeanour at work. When it is difficult to keep on a smile for our loved ones, it means that we care about their feelings enough to fake it. Try not to interrogate every single action you take to cope, in doing so we show kindness to ourselves and the people who love or wish the best for us.