My Thank You

I was fortunate enough to be featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed site for a blog entry I wrote a few days ago called Thinking About Grief.  The response I’ve received from that has been overwhelming.  So many people have commented on that entry, reaching out with their own stories and thoughts about grief.  It has been a very moving experience to read through people’s stories, well-wishes, and personal thoughts and experiences with loss and grieving.

To say that I have been and am moved would be an understatement.

I want to say thank you to all the people who viewed the entry, to all the people that referred it to others who might be experiencing something similar, and to all the people who commented with their thoughts and personal stories.  There was a lot of bravery there in that comments section, and a lot of people taking a moment to wish the grievers well, and to give them hope.

My grief counselor told me that writing a journal or a blog could be a very therapudic and healing exercise.  It took me two years to be brave enough to follow that advice.  She was more right than I could have ever guessed.

People are amazing, more than willing to reach out from across the world in order to share a little of the human experience with each other.  To show kindness across thousands of miles, through many timezones and beyond many political borders.  I have more than seen evidence of that these past few days, and it has brought me a lot of comfort and joy.

So from me, a very heartfelt thank you.

I’ll sign off here with the words of comedian Patton Oswalt after the Boston Marathon bombings, because he says it far better than I could:

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Opa!

On Sunday my boyfriend and I went to the San Diego Greek Festival in Hillcrest.  For a small venue, it was absolutely packed.  And it was a fun, lighthearted glimpse at another culture.  We got to take a look at the beautiful St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.  Upbeat Greek music filled the air alongside the delicious smells of souvlaki and gyros.  Little kids had tied on belly dancer skirts over their jeans and danced alongside the adults while we watched, eating a delicious plate of lamb, bread and feta cheese.

church Getting to do stuff like this is one of my favorite parts about living in San Diego.  It might not measure up to the Greek Festival in New York or other major cities, but it was so cool to get out and do something just a little different.  The sun was shining and everyone was in a good mood.  I got to see an active Greek Orthodox culture right in the center of my community, something I’d never seen before.  What was really special was that Mike, my boyfriend, was just as interested in doing something new as I was.

With all the things happening at home right now, it was a really great getaway.  And it was cheap — only $3 each, plus whatever food we bought while we were there.  Another really fun thing about the festival was seeing all of the children participating.  They dressed up in traditional costumes, joined in the dances, and seemed to enjoy the festival just as much as the adults.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s a great thing to get out there and experience something new.  Mike and I went to the Greek festival because we love Greek food, but we stayed because it was so neat to learn about Greek culture and the Greek Orthodox church.  Getting to do something that is perhaps slightly outside your normal comfort zone is invigorating.  The times I have been able to do so are some of my clearest and dearest memories.

I’ll be looking for opportunities similar to this one in the future.  And as for the festival itself?  It’s definitely something I’d recommend to anyone hoping to do something new and cheap.  Hopefully you have as much fun as we did!

Thinking About Grief

I am, and let’s just start by saying this because it should be said from the beginning, absolutely terrible at keeping blogs.  Absolutely terrible.  There, forewarned is forearmed.

My brother died almost two and a half years ago.  The event has completely reshaped my life.  Luke is on my mind now all the time; he is the first thought when I wake up, the last thought before I sleep.  I feel constantly compelled to tell people around me that I haven’t forgotten him.  It’s like I’m afraid of their judgement: if I don’t remind them that Luke’s loss is still prevalent, they will think I’m selfish and wrapped completely in the progression of my own life.  But I can’t talk about him too much, because the flip side of that coin is that people might then think I’m not dealing with my grief, that my mental health might not be what it should.

The truth is that these are silly things to think, to be afraid of.  The only person that’s worried about it is me, and I suspect that it’s yet another facet of the grieving process.  I’m doing as well as I can with it.  They tell you that every person grieves differently, but you’ll never know how true that is until you yourself are grieving.  It is, unfortunately, the worst time to find out, and the only time you can.

I still cry a lot.  So do my parents.  My father will talk to me about it for hours in the middle of the night, but hardly talks to my mum about it at all.  I don’t say much when he opens up.  Dad just needs to say it out loud.  On the other hand, my mother and I have very powerful but very brief conversations about Luke, both of us taking turns listening.  The problem is that it is still shockingly, achingly painful.  When I talk to my mum or listen to my dad, it is like an ice-cold fist closing around my heart.  It is just as painful as those first few days.  My chest doesn’t work right, and my heart aches.  They don’t tell you that after two years, it will still feel this way.

But then again, after a year has passed, a lot of people don’t talk about grief.  It’s awkward — the friends who are not grieving do not want to inadvertantly cause pain or bring up solemn memories.  And the grievers, the people like me, don’t know if they want to tell all the stories they can remember or just muscle on silently, hording their memories.  Or at least, that’s how I feel.  I’m not sure how much, how often, or if I should share Luke with anyone.

The years don’t make telling people who don’t know any easier, either.  In fact, in my case, getting the words out is almost harder.  And how do you say it?  Quickly, a burst of the truth, not to be dwelt upon?  Solemnly?  With the immediate assurance that you are glad you had the time that you did?  I always immediately want to tell people it’s okay when they apologize for not knowing.  But the thing is, it’s not okay.  It will never be okay again.  He was 22 years old.  There is nothing okay about death.  It might be natural, and of course none of us will get out alive, but it’s not okay.

I have, and am eternally grateful for, found a man that understands what I’m going through.  My boyfriend Mike lost his mother as a boy, and knows that sometimes if I get quiet, or if I silently insist on a hug, that I am missing my baby brother.  How could I not miss him?  Luke loved life and people like no one else I ever met, and his loss is still a giant hole in my chest.

Mike knows.  He doesn’t try to talk about how Luke is still with us, somehow, or that he’s watching over me.  Instead, Mike carefully pulls me to his chest, and tells me it’s okay to still be grieving.

And if someone is reading this and is also grieving, I don’t care how long it’s been: a day, a month, or fifteen years.  It’s okay to still be grieving.  It’s something I’m still trying to learn myself, but it needs to be said and said again.