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.

#viitorul

viitorul are gust de zahăr candel
infuzat cu cireșele coapte ale speranțelor
care aproape că s-au uscat. altar
clădit în grabă pe grămada
viselor abandonate în pustie. abandon sferic.

înăuntru. afară.
iar înăuntru. iar afară.
două sfere ciocnindu-se.
înăuntrul meu se ciocnește
de exteriorul altora, și râd.
azi știu
că exteriorul meu e antecamera, holul
unui interior amplu, dar de a cărui
hartă n-am nevoie. oricum
e desenată pe podul palmei stângi,
pictată
ca o galaxie de alunițe pe tot corpul.
o vezi, dar o poți citi?

viitorul se întâmplă în fiecare zi,
la ore fixe. banalitate
cum numai a răului mai e.
și totuși…

viitorul e ca o pisică adormită.
nu-i un măgar în ceață,
ci o felină cu origini incerte,
gata să toarcă sau să își ascută ghearele
pe pielea ta. și o va face
în aceeași zi.
așa e el, imprevizibil cu acuratețe.

viitorul e o culoare nedescoperită încă,
o rază de soare pe obrajii plânși,
prima înghețată de mentă din an
și prima gură de cafea din zi.
e prozaic ca un funcționar în prag de pensie,
iar efuziunile-i de savoare sunt
artificii pe cerul banalității lui esențiale.
demonstrație de forță și ardoare.
de asta vreau să-mi vând viitorul
pe o îmbrățișare. o caldă, strânsă și sinceră îmbrățișare.

The world as we knew it

I am now, more than I used to, looking around me, and I have this feeling that the world, as we used to know it, is coming to an end. A rough, yet unexpected ending. This pandemic context made me aware of one thing in particular, and this is our tendency to taking everything we’ve had until now for granted.  It is not the end in a biblical way, but rather the ending of a way of living, understanding what happens around us, and reevaluating the ways we cope with everything what happens around us daily. In times like this, the real challenge is to remain calm and sane when everything is shaking.

I see a lot of things happening around, people trying their best to manage this situation they have never experienced before. Some try to follow their old routine as much as they can Some are drowning in anxiety and confusion, being unable to adapt to the new way of doing things. If I can say something about this, it would be that this global issue has put every one of us in front of our friends from the closet. Because we’re only human, after all, and every crisis has the potential to bring up to the table the unsolved issues we’ve been successfully avoiding for so long.

It happened to me as well. I’ve been pushed to revisit and reconsider the way I’ve been placing myself on certain topics. One of them was my homeland. Coming from a small village surrounded by hills, I’ve always wanted to get out of here and never come back. Somehow, this whole thing caught me here, due to some things out of my control, and it took me a few days to understand that this was not a bad thing at all.

Even so, adjusting was hard, as I’ve seen, once again, that all my plans were blown away. This forced me to sit and ask myself Who were you before wanting to have it all at once? and everything became slightly more clear. I’ve seen that there are still things I can do, such as reading outside, in the sunlight. That there are still little joys left.  That slowing down for more than I’ve initially hoped I will have to will, eventually, help me know myself more.

I’ve understood that this is not some form of punishment, but a road meant to reconnect me with the pieces of the puzzle that I’ve lost in my rush. That I can have a taste of the things that used to make my childhood here, in the countryside, pretty. But it also made me aware of the fact that our ultimate survival tool remains gratitude.  It made me understand that I should be grateful for having enough space, living in the countryside, to move freely. That I still have my mother and cats around me. That there are still things to be done here, as the nature doesn’t really care about our whining.

I’ve begun to discover the old ways of doing the things, and that every ending has a little door left open. I understand that there are still little things that can be done, and that no bad shall last forever. Also, I’ve got to understand how important is the way we look at the things we live. Our perspective is a big part of what we’re actually living and what we understand from it.

Only by being grateful and trying to see more in-depth this brutal shift of our daily lives, we can get out of it sane. Because this is the perfect moment to look behind us. To see all the Mondays we didn’t do anything but ask Is it Friday already? and all the times we procrastinated just for the sake of it. Change is hard, is painful, is bringing up to surface all our well-hidden anxieties, but it is, at the same time, so necessary.

We need to get through all this process to finally understand how privileged we have been, and for how long. We have to change the way we live, work and dream so that we will be able to appreciate what used to be our taken for granted normality. We have to dream new dreams and discover new ways of making things work and, above all, we have to understand that slowing down is not a crime.

Because we’ve rushed for too long. We’ve been greedy and ungrateful for too long. And now we’re being forced to unlearn as much as we can these things. We are put in front of a whole new context, and this brings up to me an old phrase from a psychology handbook, saying that Intelligence is the individual’s capacity of adapting to new situations. This means, above anything else, to be able to let go. To reinvent our routines in ways that make life bearable. To keep from our old ways of doing things only the bits that were genuinely bringing us joy as they were also functional. And, last but not least, to relearn how to use technology to connect with the ones we care about, and not only for showing off our personas.

This, too, shall pass, but it doesn’t mean that the world will remain how we used to know it because it won’t. But it means that we have to learn how to be selective in a constructive way. It is the moment when we have to admit, to ourselves in the first place, that individualism won’t bring us any good in the nearby future. To rebuild our communities, to share more openly what brings us joy and what we feel that could be done better.

To spend more time doing things we love, even if it’s reading, listening to music, or calling our loved ones to chit-chat. Now is the later where we’ve stored all our projects, plans and dreams. We can either get intoxicated with fear and uncertainty or try to rip out pieces of what we’ve been postponing for so long and take everything step by step.

Yes, this is a hard time for all of us, and harder times are expected to come. But this is no excuse to let ourselves down once again or to allow ourselves to drown into anxiety and fear. We can do that, but we can, as well, start and accomplish everything we’ve been postponing for some undefined later. Not if we want to get out of this sane and mentally prepared for the good that is to come. Because, yes, things are bad, but this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing good to be expected.

So go and put some water to boil, have some tea, listen to some music. Maybe you will watch a movie, or read a book. You can call your best friend, or your mom, or that person you’re always saying that you’re going to catch up with, but you never do. Or maybe don’t do any of these, and just go to sleep. It doesn’t matter that much. What matters, instead, is how good you’re managing to hold up and stay collected, because now, more than ever, we can see how contagious our emotions are. So let’s just try and be our most responsible, patient, caring and rational selves, at least for a while. This might be the only way out from what tends to feel like a trap for most of us even if it is, ironically, only putting a mirror in front of who we are.