Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series
Yeah, I know. It got dark real fast… But honestly, this is something that’s been weighing heavy on my heart and mind for the past month.
There’s been a lot of death going around these days. Whether it’s someone you know, like a close family or friend, a friend of a friend, a highly regarded celebrity. I’m sure you can name at least 3 people that you know who have died this year.
I’ve always had a passive anxiety about losing someone close to me– there’s something a bit unbearable about the possibility of waking up one day and the person you adore and love being taken away from this Earth where you can never see or talk to them again. Throughout my life, I hadn’t really experienced or been exposed to death that much. It was always an older relative or a distant cousin– but no one super close.
There was that one time I lost an elementary school friend and I took it real hard. Other than that, nothing crazy.
Losing Kobe at the beginning of the year felt really close to home– he’s my husband’s favorite player and felt very much like someone we knew on an intimate level. I saw my husband cry and mourn the loss of this person whom he idolized and looked up to most of his life.
Then, last month I lost my uncle– my mother’s brother. It was a semi-unexpected death and devastating to my entire family. When I found out he died, I was in the middle of class about to give a presentation. Then shortly after, Chadwick Boseman. Then my aunt-in-law. Then RBG.
My uncle was my second father. He lived directly across the street from us (like I could literally see his backyard from my front yard) and pretty much raised me throughout much of my childhood.
My uncle was such a gem, too. He was a hard ass on the exterior but such a sensitive being on the inside. He would give me and my cousins money for each “A” we made on our report cards. He would take us to see Monster Jam and The Harlem Globetrotters every year. He bought us bikes for our birthdays and would even throw us on the front of his four-wheeler and drive us around town on occasions.
I would have just as many (if not more) presents under the tree at his house for Christmas as I did at my own house. And if I ever needed anything, he was there in a heartbeat.
When my uncle died, I experienced immense fear and anxiety… mostly for my family because I had no idea how we would handle this devastating loss. Most of my fear stemmed from the fact that I’ve never really seen my family navigate or discuss death and was skeptical about how we would get through this together. Another piece of that fear was for me… because I didn’t know how I would handle his death… how I would get through it.
I tried to go through my history and find some sense of confidence that I would be okay– find a conversation that I’ve had with someone about death to provide some sense of understanding or comfort… but I found nothinG. i realized I couldn’t find anything because there was nothing there.
No one has ever had a conversation with me about death. And I’m not talking about the “what happens when you die conversation” but the “how do we navigate/make sense of this” conversation.
We don’t talk about it… at least in my family we don’t.
We’ve been socialized to put our heads down and “be strong” through losing people because “that’s what ________ would want.” Although, if you’ve ever lost anyone, you would know that there are periods of the grief process where you don’t feel strong at all… where you feel like you’re the weakest, most vulnerable you’ve ever been.
The fact that we don’t talk about death, grief, and loss enough is most surprising to me because we are all going to experience them one way or another… they are literally the most guaranteed, certain things– things will change and people will die. So, why is it so hard for people to talk about it when we all have to go through it?
There are specific support groups for people navigating grief and loss. But, if you ask me, the world should be a support group for grief and loss. There is a shared humanity in experiencing death, but people are so often left feeling alone and isolated in their experiences like no one else can relate to that pain.
We can all relate to that pain.
I am a firm believer that the more we talk about and communicate things, the less scary and mysterious they become. For me, death has always been this dark and confusing thing, this monster that I never wanted me or my family to encounter even though I knew it was inevitable that we would.
Throughout my own grieving process, I’ve found talking with others most helpful. Talking about the loved one I lost, talking about my feelings, talking about my fears, and letting someone else bear witness to my pain. The more I was able to feel my way through it, the less intense things felt for me. And I was only able to feel my way through it because the people around me allowed space for that.
I guess I’m writing this as a way to break the ice and call out the elephant in the room, so to speak. In my time of intense grief, I searched so desperately for answers on how to navigate it and what it would look like. I often questioned if the way I was feeling was “normal” and if there was a better way to handle losing someone.
On top of grief, it doesn’t make sense to also feel alone and confused in your experience because, like I said, we’ve all either been through it or will go through it. So, let’s be more supportive of each other through our journeys of navigating death. Go beyond the usual “sorry for your loss” comment and get down in the trenches with people– it’s easier to get out with someone cheering you on and letting you know they’ve been down there before than it is if you have to figure it out alone.
Normalize talking about death. Normalize expressing pain.
Because things will only remain dark until we shed light upon them.
Be that light.
This post is dedicated to all of the ones we’ve lost. May they live in us and through us for as long as we are here.
– Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series