what they don’t tell you about grief

A piece by Bella Roth

photograph by Sofia Sears

You never know when you are going to lose someone. You never really know when it’s going to be the last time you ever talk to a person before they’re just gone. There’s a void in your body that you never knew was once filled. And the worst part is, is that you’re never taught about grief until after the fact. I, obviously thought down the road I would be affected by death, just not now. It just wasn’t a possibility to me. And boy, do I continue to learn about it every second of every day. Grief is something that never leaves you  You don’t stop hurting. You just become numb at some point down the road.

My father died September 19th but no one found him until the 20th, that’s when I found out. It was just another normal night, I mean, not that normal: My dad, a drug addict, created this divide in my family. You know, brother moved out, Mom crying uncontrollably, and me, internalizing everything and not knowing how to take seeing my Dad, this person, I valued and loved, high. Seeing him destroying not only his life but mine as well. Seeing him at his lowest point in his life and not being able to do anything about it but yell at him and tell him that he’s wrecking everything that he once loved. My mom, brother, grandma and I were having dinner, watching the Emmy’s. Just a typical night at Grandma’s until my mom’s phone rings. She answers and it is my nanny who is putting my other brother to bed ( He’s seventeen but has really severe special needs so there is always help needed around the house). My nanny is saying that she can’t find my father. My mom does not make a big deal out of it, just instructs her to go check in his office. My mom’s phone rings again. My nanny finds my dad face down on the cold floor. My mom still doesn’t find this suspicious, says he’s “probably sleeping or something”. Tells her to wake him up. Nothing. At this point, my nanny is sobbing on the phone, and says “he’s cold”. My mom and brother drove over to see what was really happening. And it happened. Just like that. Dead, lifeless, deceased, checked out, cut off, extinct, not existing, done for, but whatever you want to call it, it happened. My grandmother’s phone rang, she looked at me and I just knew. A wave of tears, like a tsunami and I couldn’t hold it back. I ran to the bathroom. Why was I crying? And why was it over a man that had attempted to ruin my life? I didn’t know what was happening, so I texted my friend and slept over at his house for the next few days to just get away from it all. And the thing is, I went to school the next day just like nothing even happened. I walked into my school, my face so pale it looked like I’d just seen a ghost, utterly drained. I just didn’t want to be at home and deal with all that. Very few people knew what had happened. Imagine me, a girl so done with having to repeatedly answer the endless stream of “What’s the matter?” or “You okay?”. I was in so much pain, physical pain, and no one knew. Even the people that knew about my Dad’s death, weren’t aware of just how much it hurt. I can’t blame them, I just never told them.

Four months later and it’s not any better. Worst probably. There was a period of time when I would come home from school and cry. That’s all I would do. I would lock my door, turn on some Adele (because Adele just starts the waterworks) and just sit on my bed and sob hysterically. I would see something or hear something and just couldn’t hold it back. And fuck, was it confusing. I hated him. He was the root of my hatred towards the world and I was crying every single day for a guy that had ruined my life. A person that made me live my life in a shell for the past two or so years. But that’s grief. It is so awfully confusing and no one but yourself can really understand what you’re feeling. Yes, friends, therapists, and mothers, can relate and try to comfort you by saying they “understand” but they don’t. Hearing that word, just ten letters, but every time someone tries to say that they “understand” and know what I’m feeling, it’s like a million knives to my heart.

The point is, grief is gross. It’s ugly and tiring and makes you feel so depressed at times that you can’t physically get up in the mornings. And if you’re thinking, “Yeah but that won’t happen to me…” it undoubtedly can. And it will, without precedence or forewarning. I thought that it could never happen to me, but one day I woke up and couldn’t move. I couldn’t get myself to get out of bed and do life because sometimes laying in bed and hiding under the sheets is just where you’re at. There’s no guidebook giving you a step-by-step process of how grief works. One day you might be the happiest person ever and the next you might want fall into a hole and die. You do not ever know what to expect.

And when it hurts, it hurts so much. You know the saying, “when it rains, it pours,”. Even worse is keeping your feelings silenced from the cloud of taboo that covers the category of grief. I am at a point where I am ready to talk. I am stable at this point (for the most part) and won’t break down everytime I hear the word death. I want to talk about it, how I’m feeling, what I miss and so on, but no one else does. If you ever want to instantly make an entire room uncomfortable, bring up death. Rarely do my friends ask me how I’m really doing, which makes me sad. I know they care about me, but why is no one interested in their friends’ mental health? Just because I am breathing, walking, talking , essentially living, does not mean that I’m okay.  Short story, I was inviting someone to my Dad’s funeral, I know, what a rocking invitation, am I right? Anyways, her answer was a smile, a laugh and a “no”. My other friend looked at me with confused eyes. I mean, I know we were in a casual setting but whoa, is my Dad’s death that casual to you? And that’s the feeling that I experienced when I went to school the day after I found out. The feeling of “why is everyone acting normal and not falling apart like I am?”

What they don’t teach you about grief is that it fucking sucks and changes your life completely. Things you used to do normally suddenly will be the hardest challenge now and a house that you used to call home feels empty. But you become stronger and wiser and more in touch with yourself.  You learn to heal yourself because you realize you’re the only person who ever will.  

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