May 31, 2011

Maybe It's Me: When Personal Tragedy Strikes, or, Finding My Words Again

There is no way of telling how you will react when a personal tragedy strikes. Through each phase of our life, as we move through the motions of living, we learn how to equip ourselves for dealing with moderate amounts of sadness, hardships, suffering, or loss. But when a similar event unexpectedly attacks you in catastrophic and incomprehensibly epic proportions, everything we may have used previously to prepare and guard ourselves may come quickly unraveling leaving us in our rawest states of confusion, disbelief, anger, and grief.

Despite the fact that it’s a tragedy for all of us inevitability, no one can prepare you for the death of a loved one. How you’ll feel, how you’ll react, how you may interpret or personalize it, how it will forever alter the person you are is all a part of the grieving process which is different from person to person based on our personalities, our faith, our experiences, and the nature of the loss.

For some they turn to self-preservation, busying themselves more than ever as to avoid confronting their feelings or thoughts one-on-one in a quiet moment alone. Others retreat inward internalizing everything, shutting off from the world around them as they try to cope.

However we have each learned how to deal with tragedies, we need to remember to be patient, non-judgmental, and loving with ourselves through these sometimes frightening and overwhelming times, letting the nature of our grief happen as organically as possible.

Even if that means that your words are robbed of you.

For most of my life, I’ve been able to work through my own personal tragedies by writing. Maybe it’s me, but manipulating words has always helped me explore my emotions, define my feelings, and express myself in an appropriate way throughout the years. Whenever anything too traumatic or too big for me to understand in a moment has happened, I’ve always turned to the written word to aid in my confusion, denial, anger, or depression.

I’ve lost loved ones to disease and old age, friends to geography, family to arrogance, and good jobs to the economy; each time, being able to sit down and freely allow myself to speak inhibited from the heart has helped me to eventually come to a place of understanding, acceptance, peace, and hope.

Regardless, death is always a difficult thing to initially interpret, even when you see it coming. But when someone young dies unexpectedly, it is especially difficult to comprehend.

And when that person is your latest ex-boyfriend, it makes it nearly impossible to do so.

For months now, I have been struggling with processing the death of my ex. There’s been a sense of disorientation; of unreality I’ve been unable to wrap my brain around. It was a completely random and accidental thing, but I have no idea how to make sense of it. The days immediately following my knowledge of his passing were dark and oppressive for me. Our relationship was intense and short, ending abruptly and without reason. While we hadn’t spoken in nearly two years, we had just been in touch less than a month before his death. After several exchanges I hadn’t heard back from him and I wasn’t quite sure why because everything had been very amicable. Of course, that was explained when a mutual friend reached out to me to regarding his death.

My heart strangely aches for this boy I once loved. I imagine it will for some time, and I have no intention of suppressing these strange feelings, because I know as much as it may hurt or seem awkward, sharing will help other people understand what I’m going through and over-time aid me in working through this strange bereavement process I was unprepared for. And, I couldn’t control myself anyway; it’s as if a floodgate of memories and emotions of my ex has been let go in my heart and mind, and for the first time since our relationship I have been openly sharing about him, us, and what he did for my personal growth.

As wonderful as everyone has been to me while I’ve been coping with this, part of me remains silently frustrated with my loved ones. They’ve continued their lives like nothing has happened; a human life ceased existing, one that had a profound effect on my persons and was pretty influential in the way of my heart, and it’s like nothing happened. Meanwhile, there’s a gaping hole in my heart and a sense of confusion lingering in my brain. This is not something I’ll be able to just move on from: it is in the forefront of my thoughts daily. And while maybe those close to me didn’t know him personally, you would think they would be affected by it, since it directly affected me. As a result, I can only wonder - and hope - if they ever stop once in a while to lovingly think about me thinking about my ex. And for a moment try to empathize with the unexplainable despondency and bewilderment I feel about this.

I don’t expect, and never have, other people to make me feel better – whatever “feeling better” means to each of us as individuals. Happiness comes from within. But, in losing him, I seemed to temporarily have lost my sense of words – the one thing that has unfailingly always made me feel better, made me happy. No matter which way I formed them, they just seemed trite and inadequate in explaining how I was feeling. And without my medium to express myself, I continued to not feel better, not feel happy, and not have a sense of closure as this creative and emotional process seemed to be, for a lack of better words, frozen. Was this event really too traumatic and too big for me to process?

Until recently, it seemed so.

All I could do – all I can continue to do - was wait patiently and believe that what I needed to feel about his death, how I needed to react, how I needed to interpret or personalize it, what I needed to say would, in time, eventually come out.

But, this – writing it out, writing through it, just writing - is the first step for me towards understanding, accepting, finding peace and hope from this seemingly senseless act. I just need to remember to be patient, non-judgmental, and loving with myself through this catastrophic and incomprehensibly epic personal tragedy, letting the nature of my grief happen as organically as possible.

And write.