Opinion: How am I supposed to grieve the loss of a friend?


Emily Roberge

Everyone grieves differently. Some choose to distract themselves with busy schedules to suppress the pain. Some use family and friends as a safety net. Some like to keep to themselves, dealing with all their emotions personally. For me, I still haven’t figured out what works for me. It’s always changing.

Although there have been positives in the past few years, there has also been a fair share of negatives. Most have experienced loss in some form or another. Whether it was illness, a part of your life you can no longer do during the pandemic, the idea of normalcy within our world being shattered or a family member or loved one that has been lost to COVID-19, we have all felt some pain in our lives.

For so long, I tried to hide my feelings whenever I was struggling. I wanted my life to appear perfect, and I wanted to appear put together. It wasn’t until I endured a great loss in my life when I really accepted that it is okay not to feel okay. I took this feeling as the first stop in my journey of grieving, as it is the most nonlinear experience I have ever faced.

I had never really felt what it is like to grieve. It wasn’t until last year when I unexpectedly lost one of my lifelong friends to a car accident where I really felt lost. I questioned everything. “Why him,” I always asked, “why did it have to be him?” At just 17, the world was his oyster, and then all of a sudden he was gone. He would never return the text I sent him the night before. I would never be able to have a conversation with him again. It was all just a shock at first. I refused to believe that he was really gone.

No one will ever grieve exactly the same, and that is expected. I don’t really believe there is a “correct” or “right” way to the grieving cycle, as I am constantly changing how I cope with loss almost a year later. At first, I couldn’t stop crying, and I didn’t feel any motivation to get out of bed in the morning. It didn’t seem fair, and it still doesn’t. After I really came to terms with his death, I felt angry towards the world. I questioned why horrific things had to happen to such good people. Everyday felt like a rollercoaster of emotions.

I don’t really have any suggestions for how to grieve. I’m an amateur at it myself. And that’s okay. Everyday, it’s something new. Recently, it’s been the little things that I’ve found comfort in: the photos and videos of us when we were little kids without a care in the world or the memories. I always remember the Fourth of July, that was our day as kids. It was full of popsicles, face paint, smiles and the Chatham Fourth of July parade. I’m always trying to remember days like those, finding ways to honor his legacy.

Sometimes, I take this pain of loss out on others around me. I lash out on my family members. I put my struggles onto everyone else around me. I can’t seem to fathom why I do this, but I think I’m just scared of losing another person close to me. Some days, I become emotional with no explanation. I never know what will come next.

I didn’t start thinking about the concept of grieving much until some other members of WSPN and I interviewed Malcolm Astley, the father of Lauren Dunne Astley. We interviewed him for an article about how they keep Lauren’s legacy alive 10 years after her death through the Lauren Dunne Astley Foundation. He discussed how grieving really works.

“A psychiatrist friend said to me that all our relationships end, no matter how precious they are, they end in breakups, divorce or death,” Astley said. “We have got to be open to that.”

His words really stuck with me. It made me feel it was okay to talk about grieving. That’s my point in writing this to you. It’s normal to feel lost in your journey of grieving. I, myself, am still finding ways to honor my friend. I don’t know if I will ever really be at ease, but I’m trying. I’m embracing the ups and downs of this process, rather than suppressing my emotions.

“We can learn to prize the precious things that we gradually lose,” Astley said. “It’s one of the amazing things about being human. We care, we love and we lose, and it’s an ongoing cycle to be prized, not to be afraid of.”

Astley’s words solidified everything I needed to hear. This journey of grief will never be perfect; it’s not supposed to be. We can prize every moment we have with those we care about. We never know how many of those moments we have left. All we can really do is be there for each other and accept that loss will happen. It’s something we should be open about. Everyone is grieving in some way, and I know I’m not alone.