I’ve never been one to stay sad.
It’s not that I haven’t had the occasional minor emotional breakdown (thanks, first year Chemistry) or fictional-character-related sobbing fit (in fact, I probably have had more than my fair share by now). It’s just that being sad was just so much more exhausting than pulling myself together and sucking it up. The transition never seemed so difficult to me. Failing a test, getting in a fight with a friend, swimming poorly at a meet—I could always come back from that. I could wake up the next day knowing that I could fix it, that I could fix myself.
Loss is different.
I wasn’t sure how to react to my Grammie’s passing. We had known for a while that she wasn’t doing well, but the news was something I never really expected to hear. Up until January, in fact, I had never had someone close to me pass away. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, what to think. A swarm of emotions and contradictory needs encompassed me. I needed to breathe. I needed friends. I needed space. I needed to think. I needed nothing. But most of all, I needed time.
For the next several days, I drifted to class and swim practice, at first not paying any attention at all during either. Swimming was the worst. I had too much time alone with my thoughts and without distractions. Time with friends became a necessary diversion, but even a lively dinner full of people I adored exhausted me—trying (and apparently failing) to appear semi-normal. I did not tell many people about what I was going through for a mix of reasons, but namely, I realize, because I did not want to deter anyone from hanging out with me. I felt pitiful telling anyone about my loss, worried that they would not want to be around someone so consistently upset or feel that I was being needy when I in fact really needed them. I felt selfish for thinking so much of myself when I was sure my parents were hit harder than I was. I felt so confused and exhausted and, at some points, nothing at all. It was as though the little emotions control panel in my headquarters had frozen à la Inside Out. During these times I would force myself to watch Friends or something else (with actual friends around me) so that I could remember that no matter how terrible I felt, or how little I felt at all, I could still laugh.
Going through loss in college is tough. I adore my peers and my best friends are here, but more than anything I just wanted to be with my family. Calls and texts home were more frequent than ever before. My parents sent me pictures of us with Grammie when I was little, and even a letter she wrote in 1996 in which she alluded to my wretched behavior as a troublesome two year old. Dad said she really loved what an independent little girl I was. It was these precious small things that helped me, reminding me that the pain I felt just showed how important she was to me.
Days and weeks passed and I started to feel a little more like myself. I could joke around, sing and dance in the locker room, and draw again.
It’s not that I am no longer sad. But rather through this sadness I remember what an incredible lady she was and how lucky I am to have had her and so many other wonderful people in my life.
At first, I wasn’t entirely sure why I felt impelled to write this post. Perhaps it was cathartic for me, or made it easier for me to sort out my feelings. I realize now more reasons for why I wrote about loss as a college student. I want to reach out to anyone dealing with losing a loved one, and those who know someone dealing with it. For the latter: give them hugs, give them support, ask for a Galavant marathon night, make funny faces and ask if they’d still be your friend if you were so ugly. And for those dealing with loss: it is okay not to be okay. The sadness is a reminder of how wonderful this person was to you. My Grammie was a wonderful, strong, loving woman and I’m happy to share that with the world.
The Favorite Grandchild