Grief Stole Time, What’s Mine And Rewired My Mind To Appreciate Life
Disclaimer: This piece discusses themes of grief, loss, mental health struggles, self-harm, and suicide. Please read with care, and if you're struggling with similar issues, consider seeking professional help.
A poem, in a way.
The impermanence of life, struggles to rise, and grief that overrides everything should seem to be a person’s undoing. However, my own grief journey is that my inner strength came unexpectedly on a rainy day. It showed up like a bitter stranger passed by others without care in the cold and with no way home, so it took each step with defiance against death. The love for those I lost kept me intact, yet I was trapped in grief, and it wouldn’t leave me. So, instead, I saw its beauty. It kept me grounded; it kept me awake. It was my only comfort through trials that would shake up my life. It wasn’t about some great lesson from loss. It wasn’t about death. It was about the life lost that grief makes sure you don’t forget. There is no end to grief because there is no end to feeling. Even numbness is a feeling. Acknowledging your feelings is the most important part of healing.
As grief evolved, I learned to stop idealizing the people I lost. For example, my dad’s girlfriend had a Pan Am smile and was overly pushy in sales. She was my definition of hell. She guilted me for being angry about my parents’ divorce. She tried to use money to lure me to her. She mocked my ignorance and insecurities. She got cancer. While dying, she took the glory; she took the defeat. It gave her relief that others would not leave. Yet I still knew she was starving of real connection and love. At the end of it all she only wanted to be her son’s mom. When she was still coherent and alert in the hospital room, we both looked the other way. Neither of us would break the silence. There were things I wished I had said to this day. I internalized her blaming me for having no communication. But we had some moments and times that we played. She raced with her son and me and our golden retriever outside. She hugged me after I got lost in the woods, and I saw some good. It flickered and was fleeting, but it gave me some feeling. She told me she wanted me to be the one to pat her down with a cool washcloth in the hospital. I did it without stalling. She was the one who wanted to have it all. Now, she just wanted to be held. She looked down in sorrow as I hugged her goodbye. Years later, I realized it was remorse. She also said the worst - she declared she was getting better. I didn’t turn around to tell her no. I didn’t truly break my heart or hers in the goodbye. I didn’t show her my tears. My eyes were dry. But what I did do was let her believe everything was fine.
I was put on an antidepressant and hallucinated that I was haunted. My brain was taunted by grief, trauma, and regret due to this pill. I was hospitalized and weaned off over time, but it was hard to resume a normal life. My brain experienced a silence right after, as though my entire being was in shock. My thoughts stopped, and I had to pick myself up and relearn cognitive skills, finding the will to go on. I pretended it was no big deal because I was afraid of being mocked. I was traumatized with a new brain that would consistently change due to bipolar and undiagnosed autism. Then I remembered one of our last conversations. She said she had been on an antidepressant, too. It was the only thing we had in common. I self-harmed once and reached rock bottom. She wasn’t there to tell me why she had to die. If I could rewind, I’d walk over to her in our last fight, hug her, and say none of it mattered. Now, I had a second chance at life, but I still slept with a nightlight. There have been more troubling times. However, I knew that I was the woman she was meant to be. I was free of the need to please. I held onto her heart that I’d use as a mirror to my own flaws. I knew not to fall apart the way she did. I would value myself. I tried to watch over her kid the best I could, but life had its own plans. I wanted all my loved ones back, such as my grandparents, dad’s girlfriend, and a friend, to suicide.
There’s no solving grief or running to hide. You just feel its impact. Fearing death is futile, so you slurp up the best of life like a wet noodle. You’ll always be hungry for more. Ignore the people who share empty platitudes and poor attitudes and who tell you not to mourn. Not everything happens for a reason. The senseless is senseless. You may look at a darkened sky and feel the raindrops to know you are alive. It’s about its touch on your skin and letting love in. There it remains, seeping through pores into your brain. Grief steals time but rewires your mind so you appreciate life. The rain affects your humanity, heart, and hurt. But then it gives birth to the rose rising from the dirt. It may be plucked, but remember, there are thorns. Sometimes, you will embrace the pain. You cannot pick who you love from a store; you cannot cure them; you cannot keep a score of rights and wrongs. You just learn to love all the more. Hope helps you cope. Resilience doesn’t mind if you let it go, and some days, just rest in bed and cry into your pillow. But don’t forget to smile because you know you have a love that will last. Not everyone gets that.
How has your experience with grief shaped your view of life?
What moments of beauty or strength have you found in your most challenging times?
Remember, it's okay to seek help and talk about your feelings. You're not alone in your journey.
Sarah Jeanne Browne is a wisdom collector who assisted Tiny Buddha with such projects and then formed her own philosophy; writer for Forbes and other popular self-help sites (and now deconstructs self-help as the industry can be misleading); speaker for organizations such as The Peal Center, Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network, The Woodlands Foundation, Reimagine, various podcasts and more; activist for human and animal rights; innovator and problem solver such as creating a way to connect with kids for EndCAN - LOVES: Listen, Open Up, Validate, Explain, and Solve Together; brand and social media consultant; and lived experience speaker and writer with bipolar, dyscalculia, and AuDHD.