Updated: May 21, 2020
Sometimes grief can feel like an endless ocean drowning us in it's darkness, but grief isn't shameful or embarrassing or wrong. Grief is love.
It’s been 9 years, but it never gets easier. She was beautiful, she was beautiful and happy and full of more life and fire than anyone I had ever met or have met since. She was a fighter, fiercely defending what she thought was right. She was rebellious, like we all are as teenagers. And she will always come to the forefront of my mind when I shoot tequila, cringing a little as it burns in my stomach, like it did for us the first time we tried it at 13. Noelle was my best friend, a friendship curated through intense partner science projects where we threw spaghetti at my mom’s walls, slumber parties and prank calling boys we liked. A friendship that withstood the test of time, through liking the same boy, through puberty, through everything. That is, until I lost her to a freak accident on a winding road on the coldest January night of the year, one minute she was here lighting up our world, and the next we were hurdled into total darkness.
Grief is like a black hole, sucking you in when you least expect it, and spitting you back out days or weeks or YEARS later; disoriented and usually a little bit hungry. Grief doesn’t follow a timeline, it isn’t rational or sane or simple. It doesn’t ask “is now a good time?” Instead, it hits you at strange moments, especially as it lives in you for years at a time. Grief isn’t wrong, it isn’t shameful, and it doesn’t need to be hidden, it needs to be embraced, forgiven and recognized.
You can try to run away, to hide from it and to pretend it isn’t there. You can try to push it into the deepest corners of your heart and turn your back on it, acting as though it doesn’t exist; but that’s the thing about grief, whether it’s in the farthest corner or the forefront of your thoughts, it remains. Grief becomes like an old friend, an ugly old friend who rears its head when you least expect it to, and you have no choice but to sit with it and let it wash over you. Sometimes it can come in small waves, like the ones created by bath toys and slippery bodies, and sometimes it hits you like a hurricane, crashing over rocks and sweeping you out to sea without a life vest, holding you under the surface of darkness until you can barely take it anymore.
I wish I could say it gets easier, I wish we could make grief retreat to the deepest corner of our being and remain there, a dull throb never to be called back to the light again. I wish grief offered closure, and that it would eventually help it all make sense. But the harsh reality is that it doesn’t make sense, grief isn’t pretty and neat, it’s not to be packaged up in a little bow and tucked away when it’s been “long enough.” Grief is a strange creature, living in us and around us and through us, feeding off of our love for those we’ve lost, making itself known when we least expect it to. And in a way, we’re lucky, we’re lucky to have grief and sadness and to be overwhelmed, because grief can only stem from one thing, and that’s love. So when we’re drowning in our grief, whether its new or 20 years old, we can hold onto that knowledge, that grief doesn’t exist without love, and love conquers all. Love will carry us through the ocean of grief, and help us get safely to the other side, every time.