lessons from complex grief

Grief is a complex thing. The research states it has many stages, can be complicated based on the relationship you had with the person you lost, or can be related to losing a state of being or situation i.e. a job. It can take days, weeks, months or years to overcome. Some people never recover but learn to cope with its perpetual presence.

The steps to overcoming grief seem easy when written down;

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Seems easy right? Tick the box of where you are and move onto the next!

I lost an old friend a few days ago. For 7 years of my adult life, he was my best friend. We spoke for hours each day. He was my 3AM friend. He knew every part of me, all my thoughts, feelings, heartbreaks, joys. We shared so much of our lives and ourselves with one another, and in a way, he was closer than a brother. As with all relationships, disagreements, fights and conflict occurs. We had gone through several in the past but one big one finally set us apart. He had messed up, I was angry and cut him out of my life. We didn’t speak for 2 years until he reached out to me. He wanted to talk, to resolve things, to get back to the place we were before. Whether it was my pride or my refusal to embrace anything in my past again, I told him I had let it go and I wanted to move on with my life. He would always hold a huge part of my heart but I made it clear we could never be friends like before. Then a few days ago, he died. Unexpectedly after a week-long illness, he was gone. At first when his brother told me I thought it was a joke…but reality soon sunk in…and so did the guilt.

Was it okay to grieve for a friend I had not spoken to in a long while? Was my grief valid? I felt pain like I have never felt before. I felt regret. Guilt. I was the only one to blame for not resolving things with him before his passing. It’s very difficult for me to not hate myself for how I treated someone I once called a brother. Someone I still cared for very deeply. I thought there was still time. I took it for granted that whenever my ego decided to settle down and my pride could be put aside, I would pick up the phone and he would be there again. Now that option is gone. How do I grieve now? Is there a prescribed list of stages that will help me understand and move through this?

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Mourning Differently

One thing I am realizing is that my heartbreak is genuine, valid and requires my acceptance. Everyone mourns differently. I can’t fight what I am feeling. My heart is heavy and I am struggling to fight off depression settling in. That’s okay, this is where I am but this is not where I will stay forever.

Avoidance is Bitter-Sweet

It would be easy to avoid the pain, force my mind to think “oh well, we were no longer close so why mourn”. Hardening my heart and denying the truth of the situation. While this may work in the short-term, one day all those repressed emotions will come to surface. Whatever I am feeling, I have to face it and allow my emotions to ebb and flow naturally.

Reach Out

Right now the only thing keeping me holding on is my support system. My friends and my sister. They have called, listened, given me hugs and allowed me to cry without shame. Their acceptance of my pain, helps me accept it too.

Cherish the Good Times

Looking over the times I spent with him, I feel so grateful to have known such a kind, loving and forgiving soul. His death has taught me the biggest lesson of all. Bitterness doesn’t pay, anger and cutting people off isn’t worth it in the long run, especially if you love and care for that person. Forgiveness should float above whatever hurt or pain caused. We had so much fun together, so many laughs. A lot of pure joy that makes me so thankful to have known him.

“Even if we never meet again, I feel a connection to you similar to that between twins or spouses. It’s deeper than I could ever explain, it’s me reacting how you would react and taking the action you would take, because your logic makes my logic better. In a world filled with the terrible cocktail of evil and ignorance, you are the drug that changes my perspective as not to concern my self with molecules. You show me the world, and dynamic views, that render everything I’ve ever heard obsolete! You brought the walls of my mind down to earth such that when we part ways, you leave me a different human being. Leaving gifts given to you directly from God in my safe keeping.”

-Laghenji Miti

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