This past year, a close friend from college passed away. We were boyfriend and girlfriend throughout most of my time at our small college campus. His fraternity and my sorority did events together. We spent all our waking moments together while we were dating – everything from lunch between classes to 3am trips to WinCo for sour candy. After college ended, we grew apart and went our separate ways, though we stayed friends. That’s just the kind of person he was. Our relationship was one of the best parts of college and really never had any animosity or anger. Or if it did, neither of us put much stock in it. We were growing up and figuring life out.
He passed away very suddenly, due to an extreme allergic reaction. His best friend called me to let me know. It felt very unreal.
My biggest uncertainty was how I should feel. We had been very close for a period of time, but we hadn’t kept in close touch for the past couple of years. What was the appropriate way to grieve? I felt selfish for worrying about myself and how I should grieve. His passing wasn’t about me.
The day after I found out he passed, I went for a run and discovered I had a stress fracture. This took away a coping mechanism in running that I generally lean on. Again, I felt selfish for feeling sad about my foot and wrong for feeling so sad about his passing. But I also couldn’t deny those feelings.
I cried, but worried I didn’t have the right to feel sadness given we were no longer close. I didn’t want to take away from his current close relationships by feeling my own sadness. But I couldn’t remove myself from the situation. Wouldn’t. Our time together was still valid. Still special.
I am so lucky that he was the kind of person who brought his friends together. They encouraged me to come to the memorial. That afternoon, we all shared, cried and grieved together. Though I felt self conscious feeling my feelings, these wonderful people let me. They made me feel it was ok to have any emotion that came to the surface. We cried, laughed and cried more.
By the end of the weekend, I learned that grieving in any way is the the right way. You do need to grieve, but the method is your own. It’s not right or wrong. Just because you don’t post a long memorial on Facebook doesn’t mean someone doesn’t care, or isn’t deeply hurting. And posting something like that isn’t wrong. It’s also ok to feel uncertain about how to process something right away. You don’t have to have the answers. Just don’t stop taking care of yourself and talking to your loved ones.
I am so lucky in my life to not have had much to grieve on. I recognize that.
What I did learn, is that if you can give yourself grace (in MANY areas of your life), you might find peace a whole lot sooner.