Grief in 2020

What is grief? If we were to boil it down to one word, I think collectively we could agree that grief is loss.

2020 has made its mark on all of us, causing immense grief – with COVID, we lost our sense of normalcy, some lost their jobs, relationships were torn apart, while mental health problems (and alcohol sales) went up.

With the Black Lives Matter movement, many of us lost our ignorance as we were forced to see the reality of our violent, racist world; there’s something poignant about watching a man lose his life, calling out for his mom, while whimpering that he can’t breathe, that inevitably sparks REAL change.

And then, there was the loss of a dear friend – a friend that everyone was blessed to know. Actually, saying people were blessed to know him doesn’t do him justice, though; it seems like a platitude that’s easily bypassed. He was the friend that followed through with the well meaninged, “let’s keep in touch” sentiment; the type of person that made a stranger feel special, that your mom wanted you to date, and that your dad wanted to drink and go hunting with.

What about the loss of someone that’s still with you, though? How do you deal with a reality where someone you love loses themselves entirely?

Unfortunately, as far as I’m aware, there’s not an all-knowing handbook you can reference that will get you through grief with ease – every person handles it differently, whether by attempting to shut out the world, by trying to drown out thoughts with drugs and alcohol, or by distracting ourselves with work… obviously the list goes on.

Inevitably, though, at least from what I’ve experienced, there comes a time when you start pedaling down the hill of grief into something lighter… something beautiful, even.

Upon the video release of George Floyd’s murder, we became angry and we joined together to demand justice, and we’re still working, as a collective, towards a better world that will be on the right side of history. We’re unlearning what we’ve subconsciously hard-wired into our brains during adolescence in order to truly be WOKE.

In the era of the Me Too movement, women (and men) joined forces to hold the men in Hollywood accountable for their heinous acts of sexual assault and rape, which gave so many others the courage to speak out. Even over the last week, we’ve read the allegations against Chris D’Elia, Ansel Elgort, and Justin Bieber. The support pouring in for these girls is a necessary byproduct of sharing their truth with the world, as we need to empower people of all races, genders, and sexual orientation, to speak out against injustices.

The loss of our friend, Dustin, also yielded a massive communal reconnection that allowed us to lean on each other, and even laugh by recounting stories of the man, the myth, the legend. I’ve been able to re-form friendships that had been surface level since graduating, and I have a new, profound sense of love for my home town and the people I grew up with.

I suppose the point here is that no matter how long we sit in our grief, there is love on the other side… as with anything, right? Life really would be pretty boring if everything was “good” all the time… then there would really be nothing to measure emotions by because we would all be in a perpetual state of ‘same.’ I’m sure if you think back on some of your greatest victories, you can think to an earlier time where the road to said victory was tumultuous.

I can look back on a new chapter in life that resulted from an abusive situation, new opportunities that came about after long hours and strenuous sacrifices, and stronger bonds with family after colossally drilling my life into the ground.

This isn’t to say we should all yearn for negative experiences, not that I thought any of you were planning on it. Could you imagine?

“Hey, babe. You busy? I’m feeling a little restless and in need of change… can you run over my foot with your car?”

While I could take us all on a philosophical roller coaster, I think we save that ride for another time… maybe once Disney opens back up.

I will close with something Taylor Caldwell has reiterated to me over the last few weeks, as we’ve talked about grief, which is to give yourself grace, while still holding yourself accountable to be the person you intend to be.

Devon Herrera

Committed To Curiosity

IG: @Coffee_With_A_Question

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