For someone my age, I’ve experienced a fair amount of deaths of people close to me. Each had a different cause, and each had a different reaction. I discovered a lot about myself in the different stages of grieving, but it never really gets easier.
The first death I experienced was when one of my best friends took her own life. The thing about suicide is you tend to play the blame game. No matter who you are or your relationship with the person, you get frustrated with yourself because you didn’t save them. I, as well as others, found sorrow in not being a saviour.
What I learnt was that you can’t always save people; it’s not your job. As much as I wanted this person to be happy, as much as I wanted her to see the world in the same beautiful light as I did, I couldn’t. Mental illness conquered my efforts and I can’t beat myself up over that. I grew up a lot during this period. I remember that after receiving the news of my friend’s passing, I asked my mom what I needed to do to feel better. She said she wished she knew. I realised then that parents don’t always have the answer to everything. There will be multiple experiences in my life of which my parents have never encountered. They taught me so many of my values and gave me so much strength, and recovery was a matter of putting those values into play and being the strong person they taught me to be.
About a year after this experience, my nonna passed away. To be completely honest, this passing did not hit me quite as hard as expected. I like to think of these experiences as rollercoasters, because once you ride the biggest and scariest rollercoaster, the others don’t feel quite as bad. They still have their ups and downs, but there’s not quite as much emotion. I absolutely adore my nonna, she had so much love in her heart. The thing is, she was sick for a very long time, and she died of old age. It was a lot more expected than the suicide of a teenager. Rather than feeling bad for not feeling all that bad, I supported those close to me who were struggling with the loss. Accepting how I genuinely felt and using that emotional state to help others was beneficial for us all.
Now we come to the most recent experience of death – when my uncle passed away unexpectedly. This was a weird whirlwind of emotions for me. I wasn’t close with my uncle, but he was a very well-known man. His wake included countless numbers of people telling me how much of a great man he was and how positively he affected their lives. Seeing so many people broken by his death really hurt me. It made me regret not putting in more effort with him. It also made me think of the death of my friend and reminded me how quickly people can be taken away from you. Once again, I tried my best to support those around me.
It’s hard seeing my parents so broken. They’ve given me so much and they deserve so much happiness, but life likes to throw punches at times and we were all at the receiving end. No matter what your age, I believe there’s always room for growth. I saw that with them both and I’m so proud.
Grieving is a painfully long process, but we learn so much from it. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to grieving and everyone reacts differently. I can confidently say that I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t had these experiences. I know there are more to come, and I promise you I am far from ready, but know that I’m capable of living through them.
Words: Lindsay Olivieri
Image: Suzie Mason