We all grieve differently.
For me, grief has always had an empty, sterile feeling to it. As a person who feel a lot very often, it’s probably the scariest feeling for me. All other emotions, especially ones we deem negative, tend to be dense and overwhelming. But grief is different. Grief seems to swallow up all other emotions until there is nothing but itself taking space. It’s draining.
Heck, even writing about it is making me feel a little drained.
It’s taken me a long time to notice that there are a lot of different kinds of grief. Grief is born of endings and forged in processing them.
Unsurprisingly, there are many kinds of endings. There’s the obvious, of course: the passing of a loved one, the death of a relationship, the inevitable passage of time. But then there’s the less obvious: the end of a good story, the ashes of a childhood friendship, the termination of a career path.
Truth be told, I’ve never been good at endings. I even used to hate them. There’s a particular memory of my four-year-old self crying at the end of a long but fantastic day spent at the park. I remember almost viscerally that I did not want the day and the happiness that it brought to be over.
I know we hear from many different sources (at least I do) that life is in this constant cycle, that everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But while I can conceive of that concept, how do I actually deal with that on a daily basis?
The present is where we exist, and it is a comfortable place to be. It is what we know. But the present is also where we actively make decisions and execute on planned ideas. There is much power in the present and it is a fiery, swift, and immediate thing. To me, the present is synonymous with action.
The future contains all our dreams. It represents what we hope and strive for. It is easy to get lost in the blank canvas of the future, where truly anything is possible. This possibility makes the future both thrilling and intimidating.
But what to do with the past? It has already happened and its evidence is sometimes damning. Regret and shame originate in the past and bleed into grief. Even memories that are pleasant are met with nostalgia. The past is an undeniable truth — a story that has happened and one that cannot be changed.
Or can’t it?
My craft in writing teaches me something new daily. This should not be surprising since novel-writing is all about taking a set of characters’ lives and dividing them into digestible morsels of the past, the present, and the future. All three aspects are related to the overarching narrative.
It made me realize one thing: Everything we do has a narrative. Maybe that narrative is not a universal experience, but story exists in our actions, our decisions, and especially, our past.
Narrative, my craft has taught me, is pivotal to personal development and growth. It has taught me that my grief has always been about not endings themselves but the inability to process them, to learn from them, and to move on. The past is not just a series of events that happened to us but our history. It is our origin and only through digesting the good, the bad, and the ugly of it are we able to move forward and make better decisions.
I’m still learning how to digest my own history — everything from childhood, to immigration, to rediscovering myself, to being a member of the society at large. But what has helped the process is the narrative I’ve told myself, not what others perceive. This is an important distinction since that the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences tend to solidify our view of the world.
Grief is still hard. It still feels like a gaping hole. But I’m learning to embrace it and love it as any of my other feelings, and most importantly, I’m learning how to tell its story.
I’m curious to learn, what are your core values? Leave a comment or tweet @yasaminnb on the Twitterosphere. Special thanks to Grace @gwasserst for reviewing and editing my posts.