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Illustration by Izah Sohail

Navigating the Many Pathways of Grief

Grief is a complex process, always new. No loss hurts the same as others, we start from scratch each time.

Almost a year ago, I lost a friend. The time we spent together seems surreal today, the laughter, the heart-to-heart conversations, talking about our hopes and dreams, the places we visited together, the moments we shared, it all seems like a dream today. I never thought I would attend a friend’s funeral at a young age, yet there I was, seeing the people he loved and who loved him devastated while saying our goodbyes, with the beautiful landscape of the State of Mexico in front of us. We weren’t close, yet I spent so much time in denial.
Grief is a complex process, always new. No loss hurts the same as others, we start from zero each time — at least that’s what I’ve learned. When I first lost someone I loved, I had lost a dear teacher. Back then, it took all my beliefs and knowledge about death to come to terms with the news. I guess it’s part of our survival instinct as human beings to take whatever there is to keep going. I repeated to myself “he’s in a better place now,” “he’s healthy and happy wherever he is now,” “he left a legacy of love,” and “he lives and will live through those who loved him.” I found comfort in those sentences, in those beliefs. Yet I only realized later on that grief was a long process: it took me years to listen to the music I associated with the news of his passing without crying. That first experience with grief taught me that, indeed, people never really leave us. They live in our memories, in our hearts, the way we act because of them, the things they taught us that we now do, the things we enjoy because of them, their words, in every small thing that reminds us of them, as well as the ways we use to honor them.
The second time I experienced grief, however, I felt guilt. I had lost my grandmother this time, but I wasn’t as sad as I was during my first time. It took me longer to feel that second time. The pain of this loss came as we sang our final prayers before leaving my grandmother’s house to take her to the cemetery. I think that was the moment I realized it was a definite goodbye. And once again, I found myself repeating the “she’s in a better place now,” “she no longer suffers.” Yet I found that nothing I used before helped me come to terms with this new goodbye. I was experiencing grief for the first time again. I remember looking at the table during that year’s Christmas, at the empty seat she would’ve occupied, and reflecting on how more seats would become empty with the passing of the years. Reflecting on this, I realized that when it comes to grief, after some time, we go on with our lives and enjoy happy moments despite the moments when we feel losses. All we can do is take a moment to feel, remember, smile, and keep going.
Nevertheless, there are moments when sadness is all we can feel, despite there being things that make us smile, and both are valid, to have small moments of happiness while grieving, and to have moments of sadness even after years of someone’s passing. Although it might feel like it when we just lose a loved one, life doesn’t end. New people, new experiences are part of our lives every day, and just like the way seats become empty at the dining table when we lose a family member, new seats are added for the new people we welcome to our hearts and our homes. The cycle of life goes on.
After losing grandma, I lost yet another friend and experienced grief again. He was young, healthy and had many dreams. Losing him felt more painful compared to all the previous instances because I had nothing left to console me. someone mentioned F1 and mechanics in a recent conversation, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. My friend wanted to be a mechanic for an F1 team. Like Charlie Mackesy said, “Tears fall for a reason, and they’re your strength, not weakness.” Every time a tear appears when I miss a loved one who left this world, I tell myself that I’m refusing to stop loving, that I’m saying no to forgetting that person. And that gives me strength.
Grief helped me to recognize those I love in who I am. I am and will be a bit of my friend every time I make a decision that brings me closer to achieving my dreams because he believed in me. I am and will be a bit of my grandma in being hardworking like she was. I am and will be a bit of my teacher in being a good woman, like the one he saw in me years ago. I am and will be a bit of my grandpa every birthday I eat cake, as he used to say that a birthday without a cake is not a birthday. And through being all these little pieces of others, my loved ones will never leave.
Scarlette Jimenez is a Managing Editor. Email them at
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