For something that ceases to exist, absence can have an elephantine weight to it. As Fiona Apple put it, “Full is not heavy as empty, not nearly my love.” After having lost my father in 2017 and my mother in 2018, all the absence seemed to pile up within two calendar years and all the subtraction in my life was multiplying. But where do you put absence? Much like how you tidy a home quickly, I was stuffing all my feelings into dark, cavernous corners, shoving them into, under, behind, and inside anything and everything that I could lock away. My body became my grief stashing grounds. With all the feelings I was experiencing I oscillated between feeling everything and nothing. I couldn’t get in my body and all I wanted to do was get out of it. I was a catatonic tempest.
I craved major action and shifts as if to call in a garbage truck to quickly remove all the excess. I quickly realized that immediate recovery was not only impossible but potentially damaging. Beyond that, all those things I perceived as junk were things that needed to be sifted through rather than blindly amputated.
I quickly realized that immediate recovery was not only impossible but potentially damaging.
I felt like a pregnant balloon— ready to pop on even the roundest of corners and only small releases could save me from a major explosion. A walk, a bath, journaling, etc. The other salve was connecting with those who also knew grief first-hand. I would sigh when I didn't have to explain my mood, tight lips, wet eyes, or unfathomable sorrow, and was instead met with space to be whatever it was I needed to be in that moment.
When I entered into this foreign landscape I also thought about foreign lands. From my travels I recalled the burning ghats of the Ganges in Varanasi, India, the cremations and parades in Bali, and other celebratory events such as Día de los Muertos in Mexico. I desired something of that nature but didn’t know where to find it in the Western world. While I experienced an incredible amount of support, I was also surprised by how many people remained silent or distant only to find out later they “didn’t know what to say,” and ended up saying nothing at all. It was at this point I knew I wanted to create something that was both healing and celebratory to those grieving and helpful to those that didn’t know how to approach the subject. As humans we will all experience death, yet language around it can feel quite elusive, challenging the path to healing and overall well-being.
Grief is something I will never master but one thing I will always learn from. Without exploring it we will personally and collectively become that untidy house–a magnet for more trauma. If we approach it brick by brick and have others by our side, we can restructure and rebuild an uprooted foundation–our very own home for healing.
I started foraging my own path into grief by creating Oh Good Grief. A platform that aims to change our dialogue around death A soft place to land when you need to cry, reach out, and yes, even laugh. I created it alongside my friend and fellow griever, Amelia Mularz as well as my sister who is also our resident psychologist, Dr. Maia Jamadi, PhD. We’ve created several ways to express, share, and find healing and community as to aid in those small releases.
As humans we will all experience death, yet language around it can feel quite elusive, challenging the path to healing and overall well-being.