There Are The Most Important Lessons I Learned From Grief

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Forrest Gump was not lying. 

The last few years have been rough. I’ve gone through some major life changes that have catapulted me to live with a sense of discomfort in life. A life crisis, if you will. I’m not worried about normal things like the pressure of becoming successful, getting married, or popping out babies. 

For me, it’s more like, What the fuck happens now?

This year, four months into 2021, the year we were all probably hopeful about, my brother died from an accident. The death of my brother was a life-altering event that has left me feeling raw and reeling from life. 

I remember having a great day that day, so much so that I remember accidentally stepping on dog shit barefoot and that did not even faze me (don’t ask me how or why). 

Since that day, I have felt stripped completely off of what comfort and security feels like. I no longer trust life or happiness because I saw how fast that can be taken away from you. 

I stopped feeling at home, even within myself. 

I used to love life, but now, living feels more of a hassle. It feels overwhelming to deal with trauma while trying to make it in life, surviving the pandemic, inflation, and worrying about losing family members unexpectedly, again. 

Life just feels too damn unfair. Why did this happen to us? How do we move on after something so tragic happened to us? My heart ached. But more so, my heart ached for my mother and my brother’s three sons. My mind, all year this year, has been nothing but a swirl of questions. 

I used to think that everything happened for a reason, but now I am not so sure. I have been trying to make sense of it all. With that in mind, I know that my brother would not have wanted us not to go on with life because he is gone. He loved life and always saw the bright side of things.

So, with my heart’s attempt to moving forward with its new norm, I made a list of things I learned in a time of grief:  

First, this has colored my human experience. I never want to take anybody for granted again. A phone call with family or a friend is no longer just a phone call. I make sure I am there at that moment. And in that moment, they are all that matter.

Second, I have become completely unhinged – I no longer put so much weight on what people think. What matters to me is that I come out of this with my sanity intact. I do whatever it takes to give me small doses of happiness, and that includes no longer seeking the approval of people. Instead, I made a mental list of people who really matter to me as a point of reference. I don’t give a shit about whatever is outside of said list. There is something really liberating about that. 

Third, I’ve decided to look out and take better care of my mother for the remainder of her years. My brother really looked after my mom. He always checked on her. Whenever she would go on long drives by herself, my brother would track her location to make sure she was safe. As my way of honoring him, I try to do things for her that I know he would have done if he was around. 

Finally, I used to think that I deserved everything good in this life, but I quickly learned the world does not owe us anything. I also learned that life is unfair and sometimes we just have to let go. I first heard the concept of letting go through Taoism from a high school textbook. I thought it made sense at the time, but I never really looked into what it meant to just let go and go with the flow. But now that I am at a point in my life where I have also experienced being on the other side of the coin with going through loss, I learned that we cannot control anything and the harrowing fact that we are all going to lose someone we love at some point is inevitable, but something we must accept. 

So, I have learned to let go. Instead, I go by this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” 

We as human beings, were meant to experience life, both good and bad. And that is just what I am going to do — like my tattoo that symbolizes my love for the ocean dictates, ride the wave of life — so I can keep moving.