January 14, 2014

Befriending Grief. ~ Kenya Brading

I first experienced grief when I was 20 years old, after the death of one of my dearest friends.

Before this life defining moment grief was a distant concept to me, and when it came I was entirely unprepared.

Grief comes in waves and the first wave of many resembled a feeling of paralysis.

My whole being experienced a shut down. Simple every day tasks were suddenly painful—mentally, physically and emotionally. I was numb to my existence, numb to everything except the raw, overwhelming feeling of loss.

As I slowly came out of this phase I was faced with an even harder challenge. I suddenly could see past my grief and was shocked to find myself so inexplicably changed. I wondered how I could ever be the same again.

I never would be the same again. I longed for the innocence I once knew, a time before grief. Grief was a stranger to me that I tried desperately to push away, run away from, or ignore. And as time went on I remember thinking to myself, “I should be over this!” chastising the vulnerability and weakness I felt in myself.

After a lot of avoidance, I slowly began to explore what exactly I had lost the day my friend died. Yes, I had lost a dear friend, but it was something more.

My therapist encouraged me to “get curious” about my grief, treating each wave as a chance to better know myself. I found myself digging deeper and deeper into my fears and insecurities, until one day I began to believe that I would in fact recover.

Relationships are not tangible things. Relationships form when someone evokes something inside us that fills a need or desire. Sometimes relationships fill a void where something is lacking. For me, my dear friend filled a very special void. He believed in me; truly believed in all that I was, all my potential, all that I had to offer the world. It was a kind of belief that I had never had for myself.

I realized that I would need to start believing in myself if I were to ever fill this void. And in the same way I began a relationship with grief, I began a relationship with faith. It’s a relationship I work hard at every day, one that rewards me with a deep love and respect for myself.

While for a long time grief was my bitter enemy, it became my friend, leading not only to recovery but also a more positive relationship with myself that may have otherwise never existed.


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Assistant Editor: Paige Vignola

Image: courtesy of the author

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Kenya Brading