If you’re reading this, the miraculous mundane is a lifeboat.
2 years ago I lost my dear friend Aaron. His struggle with depression was private and shocking (as people always say it is shocking when this happens) to anyone not close to him. Our friendship was an intimate one, and the hardest thing after his suicide was having 8 years of warm memories to recall. I struggled deeply knowing that we had been young, cellphone-less, and untroubled once. We lived in the same neighborhood, so I still pass his house when I visit, still see us climbing onto roofs we shouldn’t be on and wandering aimlessly on back roads in our annoying mid-summer boredom.
In the months following Aaron’s death, I found myself staring blankly at a lot of walls, sobbing in public bathrooms, and feeling a massive impulse to retreat from anything that required energy. But. I let myself cry, loudly and without restraint. I skipped class without remorse to make space for myself. I asked for help from my beloveds when I felt alone and needed to be next to someone. I did my best to still read, write, go outside, and make art. I felt fully supported by my friends and family. But. You can do all the “right” things, have all the lucky foundations, and still suffer. (This is not to discredit the power of healthy coping mechanisms, this is to credit how badly something can suck.)
With a bit of distance now, life sometimes continues with suspicious smoothness—I wake up early, I eat well and plenty, I am calm. Other times, without warning, I look at a cloud and everything about everything feels empty for a moment. It is fair to feel emotion in unpredictable waves and you have no obligation to declare yourself “moved on” from what has hurt you. Grief feels impossible because it derails you from what you know and are comfortable with, but you find ways to go on despite it, and it is not a passive decision to let yourself find ease in whatever tiny ways you can. It is a reclamation.
I don’t mean: you will get through this! Hang in there! Time heals all wounds!
I mean: things are complicated. We will each hurt tremendously and life requires constant reconciliation. Time does cushion the sharp edges, but we still have the unfair job of living it.
There have been days where if I had not accepted the yellow brush of trees at sunset or the ladybug landing on my hand as a beautiful thing, I would have disappeared into air from heartache. When I couldn’t bring myself to consider the magnitude of what I felt, I made a ritual of clinging to small goodnesses. This is not a cure for all heaviness, of course, but it is a well-deserved consolation. I am comforted to feel the world moving quietly around me and it reminds me, at least, that I am also shifting and cannot say where I may find myself.
I know now that confronting loss is an intensely personal labor, but we are less alone than we think we are, and the world does offer hints of sweetness if only we give ourselves permission not to ignore our grief, but to rest from it.
Alejandra V., University of Virginia ‘19