Webster’s Dictionary defines grief as, “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement,” which is technically correct and denotative if you’re into all that. Personally, I prefer Urban Dictionary’s definition of grief, which is “the worst ever.” Feel like that sums it up a little more accurately.
Grief is often associated with death. Which is fair. But based on the research* I did about the etymology of the word, it didn’t start off as a word associated with death. It was more affiliated with words like “injustice” or “heavy,” which, much like the Urban Dictionary definition, I prefer. Mostly because I don’t think something or someone has to die for you to grieve it or them. You can grieve a relationship or a time period or a bowl of soup, but none of those things have to die for you to grieve it. Even so, no matter how you slice it, whenever you’re grieving something (regardless of whether or not it’s dead) grief always feels heavy. It feels like an injustice. It feels unfair.
Grief feels a lot like love. It is something so universal and yet something that nearly everyone experiences differently. It is a deeply personal and individual experience yet it can be uniquely communal. It is all-encompassing, all-consuming, inexplicable, and inescapable. And even though grief does not always involve death, it almost always involves some form of loss. Quite often, it involves the loss of many things at once.
On July 6th, we grieved the loss of far too much to ever be able to put into words. A friend, a brother, a son, an incomparable talent, a hero, a role model, an utterly blinding light. I struggle to express the ways in which this loss has affected me, so I won’t bother to try.
I’ve grieved a lot this summer. I’ve grieved a lot in the past year, actually. I just recently turned twenty-two and rang in the new year of my life with a good old fashioned Emotional Breakdown. This occurred as a result of me taking stock of where I was at in life and in general the year before (on my twenty-first birthday, for those of you doing the math), which was, objectively, a wildly different place from where I am at now. A lot of it was due to exhaustion and anxiety and my propensity for the dramatic and irrational. But a lot of it had to do with grief.
This year, I grieved the loss of multiple relationships.**
I grieved the loss of my safe spaces (people, places, etc.)
I grieved my senior year of college. (A real thing! I loved college and had way too many emotions about it ending! Trust!)
I grieved the previously blissful ignorance I’d foolishly planted myself in when life was a little easier and people you love didn’t get sick and you didn’t have to think about what you would do if you lost them.
I grieved the version of myself that I used to be, that I thought I was, and that it turned out I wasn’t.
I grieved a time in my life when I wasn’t assaulted by the question ‘who are you, really?’ and the subsequent desperate scrambling for an answer because, after twenty-two years, there must be one, right? Right?
I grieved for the way my life could have turned out if I had or hadn’t made that decision, or said that thing, or done this instead of that.
I grieved the unexpected loss of a friend.
While I am no stranger to grief, I still have a lot of trouble processing it and I still fall prey to a lot of the heart traps that accompany grief. And maybe some of the things above legitimize my grief to you. And maybe some of them seem pretty inconsequential and a little ridiculous to grieve over. But something astonishing that I have learned about grief is that there are no rules or checklists or guidelines that one must follow to definitively be identified as grieving. Grief is unprecedented. It is rarely something you choose. Rather, it is something that ambushes you and overtakes you and, sometimes, feels as if it suffocates you.
Something else I’ve learned is that you can never judge someone else’s grief. Sure, you can’t stop anybody from judging anyone else, but if you are judging the way someone else is grieving or, as my dude Webster puts it, the way someone else is “deeply and poignantly distressed” then, hate to break it to you, but you’re just a dick. Though this is not to say that I don’t understand or that I haven’t been there.
I used to think it was unfair for people to grieve the same things as me. Like, how dare you infiltrate this private moment of deep and poignant distress that I am experiencing that is specific to me and only me because I am existing independent of everyone else on earth. Yeah, I was a dick. But I was also feeling something that I’ve found is a pretty common thing to feel while grieving. In the midst of grief, you feel as if it is impossible for anyone else to understand you. And that might be true in the obvious way that no two people can ever feel things the same way, but it could be less true than it seems.
In the same way that we feel like no one can understand our own grief, we cannot be so prideful and arrogant as to assume that we can understand anyone else’s experience of grief. I think it is possible that everyone is always grieving something. It could be something minuscule or something astronomical, but I think grief might just be an inevitable part of the human experience and a direct result of our innate Brokenness. It is something we are either all feeling or are all bound to feel and no matter when or why that might be, it really f*cking sucks. So let yourself grieve and let others grieve and do your best to carry that grief with you in a way that helps you grow and learn and ready yourself to grieve again because grief is part of life and it will hurt you, but you do not let it have to break you.
For those of you that are grieving, for whatever reason, I’m sorry. What you are feeling is valid. And I won’t say that it will get better, but at the very least it will get easier. I promise.
* Webster’s Dictionary defines “research” as “careful or diligent search.” In this particular case, I define “research” as “half-heartedly scrolling down to the ‘history and etymology’ section on the word ‘grief’ and reading what it said after deciding it wasn’t too long to read.”
** It’s not what you think, but I don’t really care what you think*** so think what you want.
*** To be completely honest, I have a crippling fear of being disliked so I actually do very much care what you think, but I am a private person and feel I don’t owe an explanation on this particular topic so, in this specific instance, I don’t care what you think (still luv u tho)
hot tip: when grieving, try and find a pretty place to do it