Mathew’s essay on Grief
Honors English 2
How to Grieve
Grieving is difficult. Grieving is different for everyone. Grieving should not be rushed. After the deaths of my two younger sisters, I have heard these words from every counselor I have met. For the past three years I have tried to understand how to grieve. I have wrestled with the idea of hope. I have wrestled with the idea of suffering. No one, though, has really taught me how to grieve. I have tried embracing my grief and ignoring my grief, both with no success in improving my state of mind. Recently, though, I have come realize how I might find my own happiness amidst my grief.
Laine, my youngest sister, died at six years of age on February 24, 2014. My parents and I were in shock. The thought of losing one family member is tragic. The thought of losing two is almost unbearable. My younger sister Mia had died a long time ago, and though I miss her, I was too young to truly understand death and grief. Sitting in the recovery room by Laine’s dead body, however, I never thought that I could feel so miserable. Though crying on the outside, my thoughts were frozen with fear on the inside. I thought of the years down the road without Laine around. What will life be like with a hole forever in my heart? Will I forget her when I am an adult and with kids? The thought was terrifying. For the next three months, I would stumble into school with my head lowered in the mornings, raise my head for a moment to glance at my surroundings, and then lower my head with no care for my day ahead. All day I would just wander from class to class, absorbed in my own thoughts. I spoke to no one, smiled at no one, and never bothered to find happiness. A couple months after Laine’s death, I decided that I would no longer let my grief control me. I saw in front of me two possible options for overcoming my grief. I could force myself to think about my sisters’ deaths as much as possible until there was no grief left. Alternatively, I could refuse to think about my sisters at all and put on a happy face no matter what.
Initially, I took the former option. One way I expressed my grief was by writing about it. Over the course of two years, I wrote two essays: one on hope, and the other on suffering. Channeling my grief into writing took a great emotional toll on me. While writing those essays, I would just sit in front of my computer screen, blank faced, frozen with grief. After finishing every paragraph, my face would collapse on my keyboard as I waited for my sadness to pass. Another way I grieved was to visit Laine’s website. My father had created a website containing all our memories of her right after she died: all the pictures, videos, stories, artwork, and everything else that did not die with her. He created it as a sort of therapy for himself. The first couple years after Laine’s death, I would occasionally visit the website and refresh my memories of her. Of course I would often break down into tears, but I was okay with that. I was only thinking about facing my grief and managing it. For two years after Laine’s death, I grieved as much as possible. I essentially forced myself to be sad, never giving myself a break from grieving. I was doing my best to respect their memory by reminiscing and never forgetting. It was hard to do and emotionally draining.
Recently, I decided to try the other strategy to cope: total rejection of grief. The beginning of sophomore year, I stopped checking the website. I decided that I would value my own happiness over my grief. Visiting it would only fill me with sadness, and so I hated that website. For the next several months, I bottled up my grief and put on a happy face. Sometimes my friends and I would get into a conversation, and they would bring up how annoying their siblings were. I would scrunch up my face, wince, as if an arrow had pierced my side, and walk away, trying hard to think about what was for lunch rather than my sisters. I acted as if nothing was bothering me for the rest of the day. Coming home after school, I would see pictures of Laine posted everywhere in the house, shudder, and walk away. I stopped going to church recently as well. My church had buried Laine’s ashes in their garden and planted a tree with a picture of Laine in front of it, all of which I tried to avoid. I figured God would not help me find happiness, but instead would remind me of the atrocity he committed: taking my sisters. Every night, though, I would lie in my head, staring into space, and I felt the memory of Laine and Mia slowly slipping away. I was scared that I was forgetting my sisters’ memory. The thought haunts me to this day. I cannot bear to have that happen. Only recently did I learn though, that there may be a third was to approach my grief.
It has been a long road since Mia and Laine died, and I may have finally figured out how to cope. I have a grief therapist who has also given me many life tips. One in particular really sticks with me. He told me that there is always a middle path, equally distant from any two extremes I find in life. Find that path, he said, and I will be happy. I have tried both extremes in coping with grief. I have tried crying every day. I have tried total rejection of my grief. Then he told me what my middle path could be. I do not have to beat myself up because I don’t think about Laine or visit her website. When thoughts of Laine and Mia come up, I should not suppress them, but let them flow. I do not have to force myself to think about them, nor always keep them in the back of my mind. I do not have to pretend to be sad, nor pretend to be happy. And when I do think of them, I should remember happy times and not just sad times. Over the past several months, I have decided that I am allowed to be happy, even with Laine and Mia in the back of my mind. I know that performing makes me happy, so for the past couple years, I have done more performing than ever before. I remembered how much I enjoyed being the lead in my 8th grade musical. So recently, I decided to audition for Harker’s 2017 Students Directed Showcase. I was thrilled when I got the lead in one of the plays. My role was comedic, so I could bring laughter and joy to my classmates and myself. Additionally, the play was thought-provoking. The character I played had to go through an arc of shame, rejection, and self discovery. I could step into the shoes of a character, and experience the emotions of another. When I finish a performance, I can stop acting and clear the emotions of my character from my mind. I can reflect on what I am truly feeling as a result, and walk away from a performance emotionally refreshed. It was a wonderful experience to perform for so many people and to induce so much laughter. I have had this attitude towards my grief and my happiness for the past couple months now, and my state of mind has significantly improved. I have not fallen into periods of depression, nor have I suppressed thoughts of my sisters. I have found the middle path.
Finding happiness is difficult. Finding happiness is different for everyone. Finding happiness cannot be rushed. My goal in life is to be happy, but finding happiness requires balance, just like grief. I do not have to reject all sadness just to be happy, neither do I have to feel sad to honor Laine and Mia’s memory. I can enjoy the happy moments of life without feeling guilty. I am still young, and so I have a lot of challenges ahead of me. I have a lot more to learn before I am an adult, but I have learned that finding the middle path is one of the keys to happiness, and coping with grief requires taking a middle path. For now, though, I can be happy that I found happiness amidst my grief.