Grief, as it turns out, is a five letter word. It’s kind of funny how that worked out, seeing how the theme of the project was fives. Grief is something that is not linear. In other words, grief just hits when you least expect it. A certain phrase that reminds you of them. A song, a smell, a color, anything can bring you back to that moment of pain, and the weight of that loss. There are also five stages of grief. In order, they are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
That’s not to suggest they come in that order specifically, or any order at all, they just come when it’s time. Anger is the easiest to spot. I was angry back in 2019 with the captain of my ship when, while on deployment, my grandparents passed away 6 weeks apart and I couldn’t go home because of where we were in the world. Denial can often look like “This can’t be happening!” and often goes hand-in-hand with bargaining (“Please, just take me instead!”). For me, following quickly after anger, was depression.
I couldn’t believe that, of all people that this could possibly happen to, it happened to me. Denial. Why couldn’t this happen to someone else that I didn’t know? Why, if it had to happen to me, couldn’t I at least be allowed to go home and say goodbye? Bargaining. What kind of captain doesn’t even have the guts to tell his sailor that he can’t have his emergency leave approved to his face? Anger. Then comes the depression. For me, my depression at the time took the shape of going through the motions and making “too soon” jokes so that I didn’t have the time to sit and think. Which, as it turns out, is not the healthy way of dealing with things.
Acceptance was hard for me. It took me a while to get there. I got out of the Navy in 2020 (Talk about good timing), and it’s only been within the past two years or so that I’ve really come to accept what happened, that they’re gone, and that it’s okay. Talking about it helps. What helped me more, however, was making things. Exploring grief through making art, writing about it, making short films about it, etc. Just don’t keep it inside.
Expressing yourself through creativity helps a ton, even if no one but you sees it. The point isn’t necessarily to show everyone what you’re feeling, but to capture that feeling in an artistic medium. Also know that, while it can seem all encompassing and everlasting in the moment, the grief will fade with time. It might never stop hurting fully, but at the very least, it becomes manageable.
The best way that I’ve learned to deal with loss in life is to talk about your loved ones. Tell stories about them, share what they taught you with others. That way, at the very least, some part of them will live on.