My friend Greer Feagin, a classmate at HSPVA, was brutally murdered in her apartment last weekend. Her grandmother found her. My essay has nothing to do with Greer’s death. I do not want, in any way, to say that I am speaking about or to her. These are just my observations on death and grief itself.
Before you start reading this piece, it helps to know that I am an incredibly large Doctor Who fan, and even though I was writing about my own life and experiences, Amelia Pond watched me while she was sitting on her little suitcase in the backyard with her little hat and coat, waiting for her precious doctor’s return.
I’m thinking about the friends with which we lose touch. Maybe they’re dead or maybe they’re alive. Each is an equal set of pain. For the friend of the person who died, there will always be things left unsaid, and that’s a finite state. With a friend who’s still alive, there will always be things left unsaid, but nothing about that situation is finite. Because they’re alive, there’s a possibility of connection, and the implications therein. It doesn’t matter whether they’re positive or negative. Either way, they affect you. And if you were having an affair with your friend’s wife or something, you’d never have to run into them and be caught totally off-guard in debilitating nausea because awkward is tangible. I’m pretty sure it’s onomatopoeia.
And either way, when you lose someone you love, there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to look back, because it’s just too emotionally loaded. Maybe not because of anything they did, but how you felt when you were with them. When people close to you leave, sometimes it feels like losing a part of yourself, because there’s no one else that brings out those characteristics.
I also think that if you have a falling out with someone, it is much harder to grieve them when they’re still alive. It was the number one reason why my breakup with my first girlfriend was so hard on me.
Then those memories creep back up on you, those inside jokes and those serious moments that only you and the person you lost would say to each other and it’s being kissed and stabbed at the same time because no one else understands the joke. It’s the pleasure of having that person around, if only in your mind, and the discomfort of nothing being resolved except the pieces you’re trying to pick up on your own.
And pick them up you do, because that’s what life does. You can move on, or it will steamroll you every time. You don’t have enough processing power to think about the past, the present, and the future all at once. Your mind will attempt it and falter just when you think you’ve got it nailed. Multitasking only works for so long, and then you will grieve again. But it will be a more shallow well of emotional injury. You break down every so often until all you’ve got left are the good memories, the ones that make you smile when you think of them.
You concentrate on those memories, because they, too, will fade and there will not be new ones to replace the old. You have to get out and meet more people, and you find out it’s easy to get phone numbers for hanging out and hard to get the hanging out to materialize.
You grieve the friend you lost because it would be good to see him right now.
And eventually it doesn’t hurt. You just have a guardian angel on your shoulder, someone to think is watching over you even when they’re not there. Another part of the person actually being alive that is inconvenient, because maybe it’s creepy to think about people as angels while they’re still alive, but it doesn’t matter. It’s just a way to soothe yourself while you’re under stress, especially if you are not a God or angel person to begin with.
And that’s generally where the story ends. You can spend your life being angry at someone for leaving, or you can fill yourself with the happy memories you’ve already had. The choice is yours.