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Finding Inspiration: Navigating Grief

“I’m leaving for Europe tomorrow. My dad is on life support,” my best friend texted me a few days ago. The next morning, he passed away. I cried all day. I’m crying now, writing this.

Lots of people are going through all types of grief right now. Some of those experiences have to do with family, friends, loved ones, and others, maybe not so much. The world is experiencing a type of grief in regard to the pandemic. Students are living grief right now as their experiences have been flipped upside down.

Even so, we’re all here, doing it. We’re making the best of what we’ve got so that we can make it through all of this together and we’ll come out the other side stronger having done so. So, let me tell you about my best friend. A person who has undoubtedly made me stronger.

We’ve been best friends for, well she really would be the one to tell you because I’m terrible with years and she remembers when we met, even down to the day, but I think it’s been about eight or nine years at this point.

I remember when I first met her dad, and the rest of her family. They always treated me like I was one of them from day one. Her mom gave me a kiss on the cheek and a hug and her dad offered me some food. He was making something that smelled mouth wateringly delicious, but I couldn’t eat it because I don’t eat meat.

From then on, he always teased me about it. He would tell me, “You need to eat some meat or you’re going to die!” He was always joking of course. I think I remember my friend telling me how he grew up in Croatia, it was pretty traditional to eat some sort of meat for every meal. So, he liked to make fun of me whenever he saw me because he always knew I’d say no.

He was a very funny man. He always put a smile on my face, every single time I saw him.

A few years ago, her younger brother passed away as well. I’ve never seen a family and community come together the way hers did after it happened. They welcomed me into their home with open arms and a mass of loved ones hurried into their house around me. They left food, pictures, and gifts for them and people stayed to do the cleaning and other chores around the house. They made sure the family would never be alone or have to do anything during such a period of grief.

We stayed in her room for a little while, away from the bustle of it all, and told stories about her brother. We laughed and cried, and then she was called back into the living room to talk with everyone. I remember feeling completely in awe by seeing so much love in a single room.

My family is very different. Not in a bad way, just different. We’re kind of solitary people. So, when my grandpa passed away a few years ago, we all gathered to remember him at the service, people called the house afterward to talk to my grandma, some people stopped by with food or offered to help her with whatever small tasks still needed to be done—but when everything calmed down, it was just me and my grandma.

I stayed with her for a few days to make sure she was okay. I made food or dished up what others had brought, cleaned a bit around the house, but mostly we talked. We talked about grandpa, how they met, and about what a sense of humor he had. We talked for hours, just the two of us.

My husband’s favorite memory, in the couple of short years he had with my grandpa, was a time he came out from his usual recliner chair spot, chatted with my family for a few minutes, put on a big smile and said, “Well, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my boudoir!” and walked away. We laugh about that from time to time.

So, now, here I sit grieving a traditional sort of grief alongside my best friend as she is thousands of miles away. I’m sending my whole heart to her across the ocean. But at the same time, I’m also trying to figure out how to navigate my new world during coronavirus. And what have I learned?

I’ve learned that people care. Everyone around you wants to help you get through this. However, and this is a huge one for me, people can’t offer you help if you don’t reach out and tell them that you need it. If I’ve learned anything from my friend’s family, it’s that there is strength in numbers and there is no shame in showing vulnerability. Others around you are maybe grieving too and can benefit from knowing that there are people around who want to help.

Sometimes that simply means knowing that you’re not alone in feeling this way. So, talk to someone. Everyone has personal experiences with grief and can offer a unique perspective and resources (whether those are emotional or literal).

All grief hurts and this one certainly hurts just the same, but I’ve seen and felt the formidable effects of their kinship and I know that my friend’s family will make it through this together—because they have each other.

They taught me that no one has to grieve alone. They taught me about a totally different kind of family and love and I’ve been forever changed because of it.


-Trisha Kangas

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