This article was written by a young person who accesses Spectrum’s services.
At the end of October, I lost a friend who was very near and dear to my heart, to almost 10 years of battling cancer. The loss is still very new, and very raw, and likely will be for many weeks if not months to come; however, it has allowed me to write this with a new perspective and determination to write from the very bottom of my heart.
As I’ve been working through my own grief process, this writing has also undergone significant changes. Through the many edits, complete re-writes and even different viewpoints being expressed, I have kept certain parts, discarded (many) others, and completely started over on more than one occasion. Although you can’t really discard or completely start over with life after loss, you can keep parts of that individual and your perspective of the world will change. As I reflected on my life and current thought process I discovered several parallels between writing and grieving.
The five stages of grief look different for everyone, as does the writing process. Some people plan out what they’re going to write and others just do it. I’m more of the wait-until-the-last-minute writer. Similarly, grief looks different on everyone.
As I said, I’m more of a just-do-it type of writer, which means I definitely wait until the last minute. It’s not that I don’t want to be writing and advocating for my peers, it’s just constantly feeling like I have more important things to do in life. Grieving isn’t much different.
I know my feelings will always be there, and this particular line of thinking leads me down two distinct paths: (1) my feelings will always be here so I should really just deal with them now and get them out of the way; or (2) my feelings will always be here so I should focus on the more impermanent things (such as school) and deal with the feelings later.
I look at these two perspectives as denial and bargaining rolled into one and they don’t get you anywhere. It really doesn’t matter how you think or what you think because the feelings are still felt. Similarly, the writing still has to get written, the only difference is how you write and what you write about.
Acceptance came when I decided I wasn’t going to write about what was easy, I was going to write about what I know.
Depression is the beginning of acceptance. In the writing process, that may look like walking away from the piece entirely. In life, it can look like isolation or engaging in risky and harmful behaviors. Many of the individuals at Spectrum, myself included, have used or currently use these coping mechanisms to try and understand why life works the way it does.
They make us feel something other than the true pain of what’s beneath the behaviors; just as watching Netflix can help you ignore the panic of writing about something no body really enjoys hearing, which is a point I’ll elaborate on a bit later; there is nothing you can do.
The final stage of just about anything you will ever do in life is acceptance. In this particular writing, acceptance came when I decided I wasn’t going to write about what was easy, I was going to write about what I know. What I know is that grief sucks, and it’s hard. I know that “I’m sorry” and “I’m here for you” doesn’t help a whole lot. I know that words aren’t helpful as the loss is still lost and the feelings are still felt.
I know that it’s okay to feel. In fact, it’s a good thing, because feelings are meant to come and go. They’re what make us, as humans, different from one another. Intense emotions and being messy are not signs of weakness and do not make you any less of an individual.
This has been a hard piece to write as it’s typically not what people like to hear in terms of supporting those close to them through a tough time, but I’ve taken that to mean this is a subject matter of great importance. I know I am just one person, and one perspective, but I hope I have shed some light on the experience and process of losing a loved one.