On Grief and Acknowledging It

I started this blog to record- for myself, for my family, and for anyone else interested- what post-graduate life is like- all aspects of it. This entry will not be a happy one, but in the interests of full disclosure, I am going to write it. I’ll never know if you skip it.

I consider myself a happy person. I love life. I love the people in my life. But sometimes, I’m sad. I never used to acknowledge any sadness I felt. I don’t really know why. I think part of it was that it was obviously an undesirable emotion and so I didn’t want to recognize that I was feeling it. I still have the same attitude toward anger.

This past December, I was in an amazing play. It was such a life-changing, fantastic event for me that I still talk about it pretty much all the time. However, it handled the difficult subject matter of teen suicide, something that I lost a friend to in ninth grade. It took me until four days before we opened the show to tell my director why the play was so important to me, and upon hearing what I had to say, he told me that I might do well to go see a counselor.

I hesitated for a long time. I was very reluctant to go see someone about a problem that I didn’t even see as a problem; it was just something that happened in my life, and to ask for acknowledgement of my possible victimization and definite sadness seemed to me to be a desperate and pathetic call for attention, attention that I didn’t even want. For an actor, I am strangely averse to people paying attention to me.

Eventually, at further urging from my director, I went. Long story short, I think it helped me, even though I often didn’t want to go because I didn’t feel like spilling my guts on that particular day. But sometimes, I wonder if it did help me, or if being given the proverbial key to my emotions did more damage than good.

Since leaving therapy, I’ve noticed that my fictional writing has grown a lot darker. This is less a complaint than a “huh” observation. While it’s different than what I’ve turned out thus far, it’s a level of my writing that I’ve wanted to access, wished I could access, for a long time. In fact, one of the reasons I loved the aforementioned play so much is that it said all the things I wished I had the bravery to write. My “new” material, as happy as I am to have accessed it, is such a contrast to my past work that I hesitate to show it to anyone, since it’s not a side of me they’re used to seeing. This is a whole other issue that I’m sure I’ll discuss later.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that I feel negative emotions much more deeply. I don’t mean this to be an alarming statement, and you shouldn’t take it as such. What I mean by this, I think, is that when I feel sad, instead of pushing it away, I’m willing, or at least able, to stop and acknowledge it. Put that way, it sounds like a good thing and, mental health-wise, I guess it is. But it’s also shocking to me, because it means that some things, like the grief that I’ve suppressed for years over my friend’s suicide, bubbles up when I least expect it, and I feel it fully each time.

That’s what’s been on my mind this morning of June 12th at nearly 3 a.m. I hope I’m brave enough to post this. I spent the last few hours crying over her death in a way that I haven’t even done at every anniversary. I don’t know what’s brought this on. Maybe it’s the almost laughable idea that I heard a song that I liked the sound of today, on one of the rare occasions that I listened to the radio. I just liked the melody of the song, but after I downloaded it and really listened to the lyrics, I kind of wished I could press the rewind button on my actions.

Or maybe it’s because one of my closest friends, who has already lost someone to suicide, just found out that a friend of hers took his own life last week. I can’t stop thinking about her and how she must be feeling, and I can’t even comfort her in person because she’s half a world away, where she’s chosen to live her grown-up life.

Or maybe it’s the main reason I’m even bothering to post about this here: that surpassing the milestone of graduating from college has made me think about all the things my friend never got to do, and will never get to do. I don’t remember reacting this way when I graduated from high school, but perhaps I did. I always get upset on the anniversary of her death, but this year has been the worst probably since the year it happened. I graduated five days after the seven-year anniversary of her death and though it’s fruitless and torturous to speculate about what she would have become and who she would be seven years later, I’ve done that a lot this year. I don’t know if I’ll have this reaction every year from now on, or only when I hit another milestone, and I don’t know if I want to feel this way every year. It’s a lot to feel, and I think that’s why I’ve suppressed it for so long.  It might have been different if I had started therapy earlier in the year, or earlier in my life, but as it was, my counselor worked me toward acknowledging the full scale of my grief and almost as soon as I got there- WHAM- the anniversary was upon me and I was assaulted by everything I hadn’t allowed myself to feel.

So maybe what I was going through tonight was just residual. I don’t know what to think about that. I don’t want to forget my friend, and in order to never experience this grief again, I’d have to do that. But the idea that I might feel this way so frequently is an overwhelming one. I am tempted to say that I’m unsure if I have the capacity for that kind of emotion, but there’s really no alternative that I can see but to try to find that capacity.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this entry. I’m not really trying to say anything, I suppose, because this isn’t a public service announcement on how to handle your grief; I wouldn’t dare to instruct anyone in that. This is my experience as young woman, newly out into the world and newly released into her own emotions. A world of which I previously had only a partial view is now completely open to me, and I don’t think I have any choice but to step into it.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Stuart
    Jun 13, 2012 @ 00:58:36

    From David David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole:

    Nat: At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and – there it is. Oh right, that. Which could be aweful – not all the time.[…] Which is…
    Becca: Which is what?
    Nat: Fine, actually.

    Reply

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