For Camilia ❤
I’ve been thinking a lot about collective grief lately. The grief this pandemic has inflicted upon us, how it has exacerbated emotions we would have felt anyway. How a lot of what seems like new emotions to people are the sad routine of the exiled and the diaspora. The heaviness of not being with loved ones as they passed, the ache of missing them without having been able to tell them our truth.
To tell them we loved them.
Somehow, it has always seemed to me like the only thing that mattered anyway. For people you love to know you love them. Unconditionally, outside of the realm of external forms and appearances. Love doesn’t care much about them anyway; it is a free-flowing force that nestles itself into your heart and never really goes away.
Along the years, grief has been my greatest teacher, and mostly, my greatest teacher about love and its strength and depth. It has taught me that just because a loved one isn’t present in the physical world anymore, doesn’t mean they’re not always with you every single moment of your life. I’m not saying this in a necessarily religious way, but rather to trust in the energy created between two people who have loved and held each other through the core of who they were and back.
When my mother passed away, I very determinedly cut all my ties with the invisible. I wanted none of it, no greater power had been able to help her anyway, and I wanted nothing to do with them. I hadn’t realized cutting this link was gnawing away at the unbreakable bond I had with her. Trust this bond always, trust the bonds you create with people, they’re the invisible chains that hold us all together.
Grief taught me the way back to inner feelings and intuition, and to the iron-set belief that love is an energy that exists outside of the physical world. Outside of the markers that we have invented in the pointless attempt at containing it.
Unlike love and joy, grief is an intensely private experience. It can’t be contagious like laughter or courage; it can’t warm up a whole room like love or affection. And yet, despite it being an ultimately very lonely experience, it is strength embodied, it forces us to look at ourselves and at our lives, it triggers everything that can be good in us and explodes the conventional frames and boxes in which we force ourselves. It is a lesson in humility, patience and softness. Only softness to yourself and to others gets you out of grief. A softness that had to go through iron, steel and fire to be flexible and unbreakable.
Grief has taught me to think of lives ending as life completed, not cut short. I struggle with this thought every day. As much as I’d love to be convinced of its truth in my bones, there’s a very primal instinct in me yelling ‘fuck you and your fucking new age philosophy, I wanted my mother for longer and I want her back’. And that’s ok. The two can coexist. You can be a new age sage philosopher and a wounded child at the same time.
Grief also taught me that. That your heart and body are big enough to hold multitudes within you. Multitudes that will not always agree. Be kind to them all.
The ultimate lesson grief has taught me is to tame it by loving more. By seeking comfort and solace in the arms and hearts of people who love you and just want to be there for you. By offering that love back. In every period of my life when I was grieving – a loved one, a relationship, another version of myself I lost and can’t find back – I couldn’t have survived without these people holding sincere and wide space for me. However much I pushed them away because I only wanted to retreat so deep within myself no one, even not I, could find me.
They were there anyway, silent and patient and piecing me back together without me realizing. Let people love you. You’ll give it back one day.
Let grief wash over you. The tide will subside, and you’ll see that underneath of all this intense suffering, the only thing that remains, sparkly and solid and intact, is love. One day at a time, one thing at a time.