Dear 2021, you taught me a lot about grief
By Loren Negron
You taught me a lot about grief and the value of seeing the beauty, the light and the good amid the pain. You showed me the different faces of grief, how it can sometimes meet us as a stranger and at other times as a friend.
I had always thought grief was about mourning the death of a loved one. I think back to 2017 when I lost my step-grandfather. He had the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen in my life. He was one of the people who had the most impact on me.
After he died, I could not listen to Eric Clapton for about a year because listening to Clapton reminded me of the night my grandpa lent me one of his Clapton albums. That night, I fell in love with “Tears in Heaven,” and every time I hear that song, I think of my grandpa.
I struggled to pick up my drumsticks and play the drums months after my grandpa’s death because playing music was different without him listening and watching me. I remember all the moments he would visit to watch me play the drums at his best friend’s basement (who is also a drummer). I remember all the moments he would watch my concerts and gigs.
And when he died, I fell apart. I didn’t know how to grieve then, so for a year I felt numb. I felt disconnected from everything around me. I didn’t feel like me. I felt like a part of my heart got ripped apart.
Sometimes when I play the drums, I instinctively look around looking for his face. I hope he has been enjoying my drum performances while he sips his cup of coffee in heaven.
Acknowledging my grief, sitting with it, accepting it and moving on from it took a long time. The pain and sadness emerge whenever his death anniversary (July 18) and birthday (Dec. 14) pass.
I thought I knew everything I needed to know about grief after losing my grandpa. But clearly I was wrong.
2021, you showed me that grief is more than just losing someone who died. It’s also about losing people who are still alive.
Grief is sometimes mourning people who walked away from my life. Sometimes I grieve the people I walked away from to protect myself, to preserve my sanity and my mental health, to guard my heart.
Grief is missing their presence. It’s missing the food they cook. It’s missing seeing them in person and having conversations with them. They’re still alive, but I still feel the loss of their presence in my life deeply.
2021, you taught me that grief is sometimes about losing a part of my identity and then having to reconstruct myself amid a period of confusion and chaos. Sometimes grief is about losing a support system during a divorce and having to navigate through a new family dynamic.
With this type of grief, my brain experiences dissonance that creates so much noise in my head. So I embrace myself and cry. I learn to accept that my parents are going through a divorce, that my family is breaking apart. I am also learning to understand that my family is restructuring itself and is blossoming into something safer and calmer.
2021, you taught me that grief is sometimes saying farewell to toxic behaviors, and at the same time embracing healthier environments and relationships with the help of therapy. I am drawn to “the familiar,” but sadly the familiar for me is an abusive, chaotic and violent environment that I grew up with. Embracing healthy relationships means sacrificing the comfort I found in the familiar — and that in itself can lead to grief.
2021, you taught me that grief is sometimes about missing the pain, the trauma, the depression, the sadness and the loneliness. For a long time, all I felt was pain. But now I’m healing and learning to live in a healthier environment with a healthier mind — and that’s scary because it’s so unfamiliar to me. So I grieve my past, work with my therapist and lean onto the people around me for support.
2021, you taught me that grief is sometimes love with no place to go. It’s love with no avenue for escape. It’s love caged in a vessel with no hope for touch from the person the love is meant for. Grief is all the unsaid “I love you’s.” It’s all the hugs and kisses we cannot give.
2021, you taught me that grief can also be beautiful. It can make one sink, but sometimes it has the power to make me rise and propel me to live. Grief is a weight I do not wish to carry, but its touch is a reminder of a love that once lived, beautiful memories that can never be replaced.
2021, you made me see that grief teaches us that life is full of seasons: there is a time for loss and a time to embrace new people, a new routine, a new way of thinking, a new way of living and loving.
2021, you made me see that grief is part of the human experience and that I should not fear it. Grief shows us where we came from and where we are now. Feeling grief reminds us that we’re humans and that we’re learning to navigate this life.
2021, you reminded me that God moves even in the midst of grief. He embraces me with love and gives me grace to sustain me. I am never alone in my grief.
Grief is all this and more. The more I sit in with my grief and take the time to process it and learn about it, the more I feel grounded and connected with the people around me, the more I feel loved.
To my grandpa, I love you and I miss you every single day. To the people I walked away from this year, I’m sorry. To the inner child in me that learned to live in a violent and abusive environment, stay strong — lets heal together and I’ll walk us into a safer, calmer and healthier path.
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