During the last few days, as I’ve been trying to understand and name what I am feeling, a word was spinning across my mind over and over again- grief. Defined by the American Psychological Association as the anguish experienced after significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person, but it is so much more. The notion of grief can be extended to any major loss encountered by an individual: the loss of a lifestyle, a job, a dear person, a pet or whatever was bringing meaning into the person’s life. We’re constantly grieving a lot of things, as it is a huge part of managing our losses.
This happens because what we’ve lost had a big meaning for us, maybe it was also a big investment- we often grieve relationships and things we’ve put our soul, time, energy and effort into, but grief is way more complex than just that. According to the same association, grief often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future. This is a clear image of how rich are the shades of such a feeling and, by extent, how important it is to be seen and managed accordingly.
As I’m writing this piece, I look outside my window, seeing the snow falling on the forest that comes to life slowly, and I recall everything I’m grieving. All the little things, the chances I didn’t take when I was put in front of them, all the people I’ve never got to say hi to because I was shy…
The context we’re currently living in made me aware of a lot of things. Small things, small gestures now I regret that I’ve never made. All the compliments I didn’t get to make and every truth that I’ve avoided to say, in order to protect my peace and fragile-anyhow balance.
And, because nothing’s ever black and white, I have, as I write this article, a revelation: nostalgia is only grief in disguise.
That explains a lot. The memories I tend on recalling often, the hope that it will, soon, be everything “normal” again…a lot. It even explains why I miss worrying about what am I going to wear tomorrow, or the sprint after the bus. Because being trapped in a present continuous is just exhausting. It makes you fall into a loop of grief, in shapes that you’re not aware of being ways of manifesting grief.
You feel nostalgic, regretting things and periods of your life, often remorseful on how could you’ve done things better. These are, all, ways of grieving.
I can’t say that I will make things better after all this is going to end. But I will certainly tell those people what bothers me about them. I will go out with the dear ones that I keep postponing over and over. I will go into that coffee shop and tell that barista what an awesome guy he is, and how I’d wish to have discovered the place earlier. Basically, all the tiny things that my timidity stopped me from doing. It will not be huge, it will not change the world, but it will change me, for better or worse.
Because, and that’s another bitter discovery I’ve made, the opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude, but grief, as it is making us hold on to some old ties, most of them cutting new scars into our souls.