We Think We Know Everything. But We Don’t Know How To Grieve

Photography by Gabriel Isak

Photography by Gabriel Isak

I would love to write a book about it, give a step to step manual on how to survive when you lose everything worth living. They don’t teach you that at school. They taught me how to extract a root in mathematics, very useful. I work in communications now, as you might have guessed, calculations are a bare minimum. I work in communications and I cannot express, I don’t even know what to feel, yet alone, what to do with the recent loss of a loved one. All I wanted from this study when I first started, was to understand, what made us, who we are and how we deal with things. All I wanted from life was just that. And I feel like I don’t even know the basics. Death is the only thing certain in life and we weasel our ways around it like we could somehow get away from it that way. I hate to break it to you but you won’t and neither will I.

To be perfectly honest to oneself, one shall admit that death is more important to us than life. We live day by day rarely recognizing it as such. But when death waves its boney hand our way, we freeze, we shrug, we fall. Death has a greater impact on us than life. It probably shouldn’t be that way, to me it makes very little sense, but let’s try to work with that.

Such loss is too much at once for a single person, though death knows no mercy. It is only doing its job. It is long known that heartache is real, and that we suffer physically when our hearts break. Ironically enough, we can die from it. We are confronted with feelings we have never felt before, we are confronted with us, we meet ourselves how we never intended to, and start peeking into a life that’s completely unfamiliar. A life after the incident, the after-life if you want to put it that way. You had no idea how much it can hurt. I remember feeling the different stages of emotions, as if I was going through a break-up, a break-up with life. At times I got so angry, devastated or shit scared. Death marks the end, but yet everything is just beginning.

Death is an imposition. And if I wouldn’t have been able to write, I would have possibly imploded. We complain about our problems all day, about our miserable lives, our shitty jobs and ignorant neighbors. We love talking about it, we love hating life. But when it comes to death, you can hate as much as you want, but you will not talk like you talk about life and you will not be in everyone’s ears about it. You will just slowly suffer your way through it. Death marks a new chapter in your vocabulary. Death will make you understand that not your neighbors, but the loss of a loved one is truly horrid. There is life after death but you will speak in different words.

You get cards and flowers, much like on your birthday, but all you want is to get out of your own skin. To take a break and go on vacation far from all the misery and far from who you are.

Death is a teacher, one of our greatest. He teaches us what things really mean. Like a child hitting puberty you will despise him, you will get angry, frustrated and in the end you will accept. And after you have accepted, he will teach you and you will learn.

Humankind loves displacement. „You are so brave, I don’t think I would know how to handle the situation. Let’s get you out of this house, go to the market, it will get your mind off things“. People want to distant you from death. But you don’t want that, because you don’t want to let go, you don’t want to leave your loved one behind, alone with death. You want to just sit here and weep. Yet, everyone tells you it is better if you go outside. No, you think, I want to be there for myself, because in the end, no one else is. Or is gone recently. How messed up. You can’t get away from this. You can get your friend to do your homework, your mom to do your laundry, or the colleague to hold open the elevator door for you. I guarantee you, you will not find someone to carry the burden of someone close to you passing away. It is your responsibility and yours alone. Everyone says you should let go, because you aren’t living. But if death is part of life, what am I doing wrong? How am I not fulfilling what you are expecting of me. Who is selfish now and for what reason?

Maybe you really need to take the time and listen. Listen to your feelings and see what happens. As in love, maybe you need to trust your gut feeling and just go with it. Maybe this is wrong and you will end up depressed. We welcome new life with open arms and cry tears of joy when a baby is born. When a person dies we don’t want to accept that, we cry again, but this time of sadness.

If you have girlfriends, you will know the codex of breaking up. You know what is expected of you when your friend leaves her significant other or vice versa. You will talk for hours, you will come over to be there for her in the middle of the night and you will hear every story and all that he-said-she-said for the 27th time without questioning her sanity or getting tired of what she has to say. But when someone dies, so does the conversation. And it shouldn’t be that way. Your friends will tell you that they are sorry and then they leave you to die. Because no one knows how to deal with it. They rather stay away than to make a mistake. But you know, how ridiculous is that, you won’t kill a person twice, take a risk.

Death is different. You don’t watch Netflix and eat out of the ice cream family package, then dress up and get out in the world to show you are okay. No, you just sit quiet and hope for it to get over. You don’t know what it is really, death, you don’t know what to tell anyone or what you want to hear. You don’t know if you want a hug, or a card, or just to be alone. Or with everyone. So you just sit and wait, and you wonder and think and time doesn’t seem to pass. Occasionally you will cry. Occasionally you will put on Netflix and occasionally you will eat everything you have in the house at once. Or you just sit there and starve. And cry. And wonder. I did it all. I was so certain that I would be starving, I don’t know why I even thought about it. Maybe it was a calming, selfish thought of mine. That after all, SOMETHING good was going to come out of this. Not really. Grief does not come with a side of beach body.

Why is it that we romanticize what happens to our peers, when all I want is scream at you that she did not fall asleep looking calm, but that she struggled, she fought and she lost. She was not ready to go and death took her. I want to scream that at you, when you find yourself in the shitty situation, that you have to ask what’s up. Death is not beautiful, but it is something. And it does things to us and we do not understand. We grow up in life and we slowly get the hang of it. We learn how to tie shoelaces and how to talk to boys. But we don’t grow up in death, we will never know how to handle it right, or where the journey takes us. Why is it that I even wonder? Maybe we are all doing it wrong, since no one can explain death to me. Why do we die, why do we dream, we are only guessing. What we do is we breed organs in labs, so we can weasel our ways out of it. Dear teacher, one + one is two, but why don’t you explain this to us. Life goes on, that’s not good enough for me. We always look up to strong people, we search for role models, who have accomplished what we live for. But the fact that death and grieving is not a weakness, we might not ever learn.

It would be very ignorant to claim that I was lucky losing the first person close to me at a young age. It does certainly make things easier… Until the next crisis hits. It is like in school where you copy your neighbor’s homework and then they make you take a test and you don’t know how to get out of this one. I remember coming home and my dad sat me down in the living room, trying to keep his shit together. Little did I understand what had happened, all I felt was sadness for him to be so terribly hurt. I had never seen him like that. 15 years later my grandma passes and my world collapses. She fought a long and painful battle with cancer. It got real bad just when I left for another year abroad. I was torn, I was puzzled and I was thousands of kilometers away. Due to time difference I would sleep when everyone at home was awake. Each morning, when I had to get up, I was confronted with chapters of desperation and sadness my family had sent my way in WhatsApp messages. I wanted to hear what was going on at home, and I wanted to be there for them, but this messed with my head for months. If you have never walked this journey with someone, then you won’t understand. In the end you will be too afraid to pick up your phone. And when it ends, you know without even unlocking the screen.

Half a year later I am still alive. When my thoughts wander I still tear up, but I can swallow it down in public situations. Is this how you deal with it? You just continue and each quarter year you feel a little less? Numbed by my 9–5 office job, filling the void with nothing just slightly important. I don’t think this is it, but this is all I can tell you so far. They don’t teach you that at school, and I am certain that they should.

Submitted by Francesca Kröger to our 30 day challenge #BeBravelySincereWithYourself