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We never know how we’ll react to grief until one day, out of the blue, we’re living in a nightmare.
I’ve always found a deep sense of comfort from reading the stories of other people who have also gone through loss. I think it’s that feeling of having someone else express my painful emotions so articulately that helps me feel calm, knowing that I’m not alone—I can do this.
The book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, gave me so much hope and connection in the loneliest and most painful period of my life.
In the months after my sister Elizabeth died, I would get these unbelievably painful waves of grief that seemed to come out of nowhere.
I remember one day, I was biking home from work and the realisation of her permanent loss came over me like a cloud of darkness. I tried to stay focused so I could get home as fast as I could and cry in my room alone. But the tears filled my eyes to the point where I couldn’t see anymore. I pulled over on the sidewalk, sat down, held my head, and cried and cried. Luckily, I lived in Beijing where not a single person cared enough to stop, so I didn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of some kind-hearted person leaning down and asking, “hey, are you okay?”
I remember during those moments I would wish for a way to crawl outside of my head and be literally anywhere else, but where I was. It felt as if I’d been locked inside a prison and was trying to bash down the door. Just let me out, please!
I wondered if the grief I felt was anything like the depression Elizabeth endured throughout most of her life.
When someone questions why a person would end their own life with words like, “they had so much going for them,” or if they think that the person is weak or selfish—it’s a clear sign they don’t understand that level of psychological pain.
Perhaps because, for a healthy-minded individual, the thought of ending their existence is inconceivable. Sure, life is hard, but never hard enough to stop living it.
But what you don’t understand is that not everyone is like you. Not everyone experiences pain in the same way you do.
Some people may have been fighting to survive for years. They may have been living in a psychological hell day-after-day, minute-after-minute, until one day they decide it’s just not worth it anymore.
The point is, we just never know how things really are for another person.
Whether it’s a stranger on the street or even a close friend of ours, we all wear masks to a certain degree. Ultimately, we just never know what another person is dealing with.
I hope the following quotes bring you comfort during the toughest time of your life, may they be of benefit:
“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” ~ John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
“This is why I write about grief: to inject a bit of madness in a world that so desperately wants me to move on. To create space for those of us who fear we will go mad with loss. To tell them that it’s okay, and to tell them it’s not.” ~ Elena Zhang, Why I Write About Grief
“Memories do not always soften with time; some grow edges like knives.” ~ Barbara Kingslover, The Lacuna
“Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving her because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.” ~ Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere
“Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
“I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. The only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It’s like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it’s there and keep falling in. After a while, it’s still there, but you learn to walk round it.” ~ Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
“Memories of you fill my mind, like thousands of bright stars in the sky.” ~ Unknown
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” ~ Vicki Harrison
“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We know that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.” ~ Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller
“Grief is about a broken heart, not a broken brain. All efforts to heal the heart with the head fail because the head is the wrong tool for the job.” ~ John W. James, The Grief Recovery Handbook
“When it comes to grieving, many times people cut their grieving time short because they believe that it is time to ‘move on.’ The truth is, however, that there is no set time for grieving, and you should allow yourself all the time you need to grieve your loss.” ~ Bernice Gibson, Parents with Alzheimer’s
“Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I’ll miss you,
until we meet again.” ~ Unknown
“Grieving is a process that does not completely end; it evolves and becomes integrated into your life. Grieving is a normal part of life, and the more we express our grief and not try to hide from it, the easier it becomes to manage.” ~ Stephanie Jose, Progressing Through Grief
“Grief is not a condition to be cured but a natural part of life. Spirit does not know loss; it knows that every story begins and every story ends, yet love is eternal.” ~ Louise L. Hay & David Kessler, You Can Heal Your Heart
“It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ~ Jamie Anderson
For what it’s worth, you are never, ever alone in your suffering.
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