What Grief Really Looks Like

It’s trying to find a new base, a new place to root your personality, because all your previous interests, even your friends and relationships, are now part of the before.

I try to always make my writing based in concrete details, in looks and colors and turns of head. But when writing about this subject, it’s impossible to do. I can't explain away in anything other than metaphors— in sounds and nightmares and imaginings.

Photos and feature photo by Mary Fehr @marycfehr

Photos and feature photo by Mary Fehr @marycfehr

Let me start at the beginning. In March 2013, my brother passed away. Technically, he committed suicide, but since my mom
doesn’t like the term "committed suicide" (because it implies that suicide is a crime) I will leave it at this: one day I woke up and he was gone. I walked into my roommate's room, alerted by email from my father to find my friends and call him back, and fell straight to the floor. When I see that moment, I see my friends, I see the spiral staircase behind me and the illuminated bathroom mirror in front of me, and I see my body as I fell to the floor. Lying on the ground, I made the noises that cows make when you take away their young. This is the moment that I forever stopped being me.

I was drunk the night he died, and whenever I try to piece together the events of my night, I try to intertwine mine with his. Was he alive as I took my first shots of the night, when I was dancing with my friends to Robyn Thicke in a room illuminated only by cell phones and Christmas lights? Was I in my apartment when my parents found out? Did I even think about him that night? A normally forgettable evening has become ingrained in my mind because it was the last time I would ever feel the before, before my personality and life was taken over by his suicide, before my entire personality became about pretending.

Since he died, almost two and half years ago now, I have tried to find a way to explain how it felt. I need to capture that feeling of constantly floating, trying to find a way to come back down to earth. I want to explain how I became a completely different person, forever unrecognizable to myself and my past needs and wants.

Photos and feature photo by Mary Fehr. @marycfehr

Photos and feature photo by Mary Fehr. @marycfehr

I try to describe this phenomenon, it becomes almost impossible. It’s like floating, I say, over and over. You start clinging for any anchor. It’s trying to find a new base, a new place to root your personality, because all your previous interests, even your friends and relationships, are now part of the before. The former you does not exist anymore. And while that doesn’t mean the love for those people is gone, it now comes with an expectation: that you will return to the you from before, that you will get over this thing and become the person that you were when you started your friendship, the person they signed up to know, not the person that exists now.

And at some point you start pretending, pretending to be who you were so that maybe you can go back to that person again. And you pretend and pretend and pretend until finally, you become about something more than pretending. Or at least that’s what I hope happens. Two and a half years later, I’m still pretending, but every day it feels more like it’s based in truth.