What’s missing from the picture

As some of you might already know, this period is rather tough for me, as I’ve recently lost a loved person. But this has also given me the context and space to better understand myself and my emotional dynamic, as I’m passing through the whole grieving process.

Grief is, to put it in a poetic way, the daughter of love. Is what’s left when a dear person leaves us. It doesn’t matter if we talk about someone’s death or about being left by those we were holding dear. It is loss, and loss is painful. That easy.

But this whole pain is never just about the present moment. More often it is about the future moments that person will be missing from our lives. Maybe our first job, our graduation, our wedding. Milestones where we’d love that person’s presence around us.

Currently, my main struggle is to accept that there is no such thing as a right way of living the grief. That the fact that I’m active on Social Media, paint my nails and I’m not wearing only dark clothes is not the expression of me being over it. It’s hard because of the social conditioning that surrounds this kind of moment. The social imperatives of what should and should not be done in such contexts.

Here, though, the grief is about something else. About the small gestures that no one else will be doing for us again. About the way that person smiled or comforted us. About the moments that person will be missing.

Grief is a void. An empty space, a trace left by someone we’ve deeply cared about. And managing it might be hard and uncomfortable at times. It’s personal, intimate, and unique, there is no such thing as two individuals grieving in the same way.

I can only share what I’ve learned so far, hoping it will help more people with their mental struggles.

  • It’s okay to feel good

At first, the moments when I was feeling good, authentically good, were followed by guilt trips. As if I wasn’t doing things right if I could, still, feel good. Until the moment when I realized, sitting in the sun, that she wanted me to feel good. To be happy. And if that person wanted me to feel good with my life while she was part of it, she definitely would have the same attitude now.

  • Stick to a routine

One of the best things you can do during a tough time is sticking to a clear routine. Small habits, daily practice. It helps you adapt to the new reality: a reality where that person is no longer living. But you do still live there, so try to make it easy, not a burden.

  • Do things that make you happy about yourself

It doesn’t have to be a big thing, it has to make you smile. For me, this moment was while cutting the first flowers from my garden and putting them in a vase on my desk. I was happy to see their beauty, feel their fragrance, and I’ve smiled thinking about how much she loved this kind of thing.

  • Revisit your memories with that person

I’m not sure if our loved ones ever leave us, to be fair. There is a part of me that likes to believe that they still hang around somewhere, laughing at our clumsiness and bad decisions. And I might be old-fashioned, but do you remember those photos with you? Go and pass through them. Revisit those moments, the details of the memories you’ve got together. Remember the things you’ve learned from that person. I remember often things she loved, or things she has told me. I also know that, as long as I don’t forget, she’s not dead. Because people die only when those that could tell stories about them will die.

  • Plan your future

Grief tends to make you live in the past. Don’t. Instead, do your best and plan your future. Do it how you feel it. Maybe put together a vision board, or set some goals you want to reach, this is all up to you. Just take the time to reflect on it and establish the small steps you need to take. Your loved ones, even if they’ve passed away, will love to see you succeed.

  • Reach out for support

Say it after me, loud and clear: I’m not weak for needing help. I’m not weak for needing help. Because it’s true, you’re not. Just a human that has to pass an incredibly challenging period of their lives. Talk about it. Be honest about it. Let your dear ones know that you struggle with integrating that loss. It’s okay. It really is. Some of us need more help than others, and it’s perfectly fine. This, as I have said before, is a deeply personal and intimate process. If you feel like the help of a counselor would be beneficial, go ahead and make that appointment. No one has ever been born ready for such life contexts.

This is what I’ve learned so far about dealing with a loved one’s loss. That you need to maintain your composure and take things slowly, one day at a time, without any kind of guilt trips or remorses. You did your best, and definitely has been enough for them, as it should be for you as well. So try to give yourself some credit. It doesn’t seem like it, but you’re doing a great job. And one day, the sun will shine again, as bright and warm as you remember it used to.

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