Grief, my friend
Grief is such a funny, twisted kind of feeling. You’ll never know when it hits you. It has been my constant companion since Papa died of lung cancer in May last year. I’m completely okay one day, the next I’m drowning in tears. Vulnerability at its finest.
It was very difficult to deal with grief during the first days after Papa’s wake and funeral. The hustle and bustle quickly turned into silent melancholy.
I looked at Papa’s rocking chair and saw him read the morning papers to while away the time. I looked at his computer desk and saw him getting frustrated because he was not able to successfully land the plane on his flight simulator game. I saw him at the garage, at the dining table, everywhere.
Only that he was there no more.
I have a lot of regrets. I wish I could have been more patient when Papa asked for help in attaching pictures and sending
e-mails on Yahoo and Gmail. He was never good with gadgets and tech.
I wish I could have thanked him more for buying the groceries, driving us to school, cooking our meals, and taking care of us the best way he could.
I miss our conversations. If only Papa knew how much his opinions matter to me. What would he say about the latest episodes of our favorite teleserye “Ang Probinsyano”? I bet he would be thrilled by the plot twists.
He would have joined me in cheering for the Fighting Maroons as they made their way to the UAAP finals. But he would also be the first to join my Atenean Kuya in teasing me after our loss to the Blue Eagles.
What would he say about the latest in government and politics? What would he say about my new job? I can only imagine his answers.
Grief heightens my fears and anxieties. After Papa’s death, there’s this recurring feeling that I could lose someone at any moment. I can’t even begin to understand where it’s coming from, but there’s no sense in denying its haunting presence. I guess I just have to learn to live with it.
I do believe, though, that my relationship with grief is slowly taking a turn for the better. Just like any other friend, once you learn more about the person, you get to understand and accept his or her quirks.
Instead of fighting grief, I have come to embrace it. I realize that with pain comes learning, and that my friend is actually a good teacher. It teaches me to be more grateful, to appreciate the little things, and to cherish the experiences.
Grief motivates me to use my time wisely and spend it with people who matter most. I am grateful that, because of my
freelance work, I get to spend more time at home and be with
my Mama, my brothers, my sister, and my naughty nephews. How lovely it is to wake up to the sights and sounds of a big, crazy and happy family.
Grief teaches me humility in the most profound of ways. When you realize that time is too precious to waste, you are more inclined to defuse an argument and find ways to arrive at a constructive compromise.
You get to understand that listening is sometimes more powerful than talking and fighting. That your gift of presence and effort mean so much more than any other material thing you can offer. That it’s not about insisting on what you think is right, but about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would the other person feel? How can I make him or her feel better?
Grief teaches me a different kind of hope. The kind that does not say everything will be okay, because certainly there will be times that things won’t be. But in that moment, you surrender and graciously accept defeat.
Then you give yourself time to heal. Then you try again. You practice the art of failing forward—learning from negativity and focusing on possibilities and opportunities.
I believe there are two sides to everything, and that it all depends on perspective and choice. I pray for the courage to look on the bright side of grief. December 2018 was another Christmas without Papa. But it was also another Christmas to celebrate life and love.
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Fatima Reyes, 26, is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter.
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