I have lost so many people I cared about in the last few years. Too many. Close relatives, distant relatives, friends made in Miami, Trinidad, and Chicago. People who knew me as a little girl, people I worked with in later years, people who made a difference to my life. People I loved. People I thought I would work with, drink with, hug tightly again. People I had plans with. People who should still be here. Just gone.
Grief is real. And so many of us are going through it. Too many. We’ve been through unprecedented times, the kind of thing that history books are written about, yet this world seems to spin on like nothing’s changed. But so much has. I know I’m not alone here. We are experiencing a collective season of global loss and palpable grief. It isn’t normal. It makes an impact on our hearts, our souls, our brains, our bodies. There’s a heavy weight in the air, and as we say in the Caribbean, who feels it, knows it.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experiences.
You have to wade through your emotions. Push it down and away as hard as you can and still, grief will make itself known.
Grief often manifests or morphs into other feelings. Grief can spill over into anger. Grief easily leads to depression.
Grief can affect your sleep.
Grief can shut you down.
Grief can make you feel like you’re going through the motions of a life that isn’t the right fit anymore.
Grief can steal your voice and silence you.
Grief can make you wonder if the things you do even matter.
Grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever not be sad again.
Grief can make you look at old photos of yourself and miss the person you see in them. Like, who was that?
Grief may not just be about death, by the way.
You might grieve for a loved one, a friend, a coworker or beloved pet who passed away, but you can also feel grief for a relationship. Or an opportunity you’ve lost. You might grieve over a medical situation – your own, or that of someone you care about. Sometimes one thing you’re grieving over spills into another. That’s what I am trying to process.
My grief began with experiencing family sickness and witnessing death. In 2019, I felt broken in half by what I’d been through. But then there was more — family issues, simultaneous medical trauma connected to my own health, a whole pandemic that changed everything imaginable. Sometimes you get a grip on one thing and then it all clatters to the ground at once.
Experience taught me that grief can feel endless. Hopeless. Heavy. Ridiculous. But…
Grief can bring you to new realizations.
Grief can sharpen your sense of purpose. It can make you aware of life’s seasons like nothing else. That awareness can illuminate a new path you may not have previously considered.
Grief can allow you to see things in new ways, through an educated lens of pain, truth, and empathy.
Grief can reorder your steps. It can make you reassess…well everything, really.
I’m still dealing with elements of grief, and as my dad likes to say, “each day is a different day.” Some days, if you spoke to me in person you might think I’m completely fine and have been for a while. But bad days can just crop up out of nowhere. For example — just recently a poem I was reading brought me to tears while I was on public transportation. Quietly reading on my phone and just like that, silent tears start rolling down my face. And that was just this month.
So what helps me face my feelings? What helps to bring me back to my center? What helped me to find my voice again?
Finding new hobbies helped me for a time. During the pandemic especially I got into baking, deeper into home cooking, and that was a necessary distraction at the right time.
For a while I listened to the same music over and over again – Tierra Whack’s Whack World and Brandi Carlisle’s The Joke were on repeat for me all summer of 2019. So random. I don’t know why; but those artists spoke to my spirit at that time and those creative outputs truly helped to get me through somehow. So thank you Tierra Whack, and thank you Brandi Carlisle.
During a really difficult time pre-pandemic, a friend gifted me a spa visit. It helped when I needed it and I appreciate the intention of that gift to this day. It led to my first reiki experience, which was illuminating in a way I never expected. I reviewed my experience here, if you want to learn more. I’ve returned since then, and probably will again. I wasn’t a reiki believer before. But that was something else.
Talk therapy has helped me when I was at my lowest, and I’m overdue to find someone new to talk to now.
A few friends really demonstrated friendship as a verb. And even if I got distant or quiet, they continued to check on me, showed up with no expectations and just listened when I needed them to. I will never forget those who sat with me in silence, let me cry and be my most broken. You know who you are, and I will love you forever. My advice based on lived experience – cherish those who can sit with your sadness because everyone isn’t able. Grief can be a sieve in your life that separates the wheat from the chaff. So cherish those who care about how you’re doing instead of what you’re doing.
Above all else, know that there are resources out there if you’re willing to give them a try. There are Facebook groups and meetings in your community and online telehealth therapists if you look for them. There are journals with prompts to help you express what you’re feeling, and journals meant to be burned after you get those feelings out.
There is no shortage of grief out there, so it makes sense that there would be a wide variety of material to read, watch, and listen to about the topic. For me, I really have found solace in the written word and there are a few social media resources that have been helpful.
It’s helped me to read about grief, talk about it, write it out, let it out in all the ways I needed to. Allow me to share what has helped me, and please share what has helped you in the comments. I’d appreciate it and I bet others will too.
Some of The Best Books and Online Resources About Grief that I’ve Found (so far):
https://www.thisgrievinglife.com/ by Nelba Márquez-Greene.
Alex Hardy curated a list of grief resources on Twitter that’s really good, and also created Get Some Joy, an incredible multidimensional resource for anyone grieving or going through tough times. There are journal prompts, writing workshops, playlists, and podcasts, resources for individuals and communities in need, all designed to help you get out of the depths and find happiness again.
Anderson Cooper had a podcast about grief titled All There Is, there are ten episodes of conversations with famous folks who have been through it and found their way to the other side. Some of these are really powerful and were helpful to me.
For some, these resources might be helpful. For others, maybe your path to healing is elsewhere.
Maybe it’s outside in the grass, in gardening, in taking long walks, in forest bathing or immersing yourself in nature.
Maybe it’s by the water. I have friends who found refuge in swimming; floating in pools or float tanks can help to clear your mind when your spirit is heavy. Maybe silence and space can help to get you back to your center.
Maybe it’s on an uphill hike on a clear day where you can see forever and feel your place in the universe for a moment.
Let me know where you’ve found it, even for a moment. Let me know what’s helping. Please share with me any resources you have found in your own journey, in the comments. Who knows – you could really be helping someone else.