In this edition of loss(t) convos I talk to Tara Chloe Dusanj, a 32 year old writer, social media consultant and content marketing specialist (peep some of her kickass horoscopes here). Tara shares her story of losing her best friends' parents, and consequently, for a time, her best friends.
Its a great read for all those wanting to help a loved one through grief, especially with the holidays around the corner.
What's been your most significant loss and why?
My most significant loss was losing my friends' parents, and the temporary strain on our friendships that resulted.
My teenage years were spent at the beautiful and unique home of my best friends. Every moment was full of energy and infused with love. I can say without question that it was the happiest and most carefree time of my life. I became extremely close to both of the sisters as well as their younger brother. Within no time, I considered myself to be one of them and their tribe came to be my tribe, my family.
One day, out of nowhere, the fear of loss set in. Within moments apart, both of my friends' parents were diagnosed with terminal stage-4 cancer. We lost their mom in March of last year, and their dad recently passed this Summer.
I felt like I lost my happy place (a place I considered home). I felt like sincere inspiration had left me – as I questioned the world and how it could do this to such good and deserving people, my dear friends and my second family. It felt like everything came crashing down. We were surrounded by love, but something was missing. When someone you love is gone, you can feel that empty space.
Whether they could recognize it or not, this great loss really changed my friends. I thought it would make them see what/who mattered in life, but it felt like they all acted differently. They were less open to hanging out, and when we did, it felt like they were mostly stressed and pressed for time. Sometimes I felt pushed away altogether. No matter what kind gesture I made and regardless of my loving words, and tears, it didn’t seem like I could do anything to help them.
What did this loss teach you?
I realized that everyone grieves differently, and that my friends' responses weren't personal. When the girls were ready, they would return to me. My other best friend had lost her brother, and she needed space too, but when she was ready she came back around and now our friendship is stronger than ever. It was through her that I learned that a loss is always with you, no matter what happens in your life.
I learned I wasn’t meant to blame myself, which was my initial reaction. I learned to understand that what my friends are going through is not something I can comprehend. There are certain places that love doesn’t reach right away. You truly have to experience the loss yourself in order to understand it. Even if people aren’t sobbing every two seconds, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t in serious pain.
I realized that any small stress imposed upon my friends would make it worse. I needed to give them their space, and make light of life for awhile. While I also felt this doomful void without them, I knew it was the right thing. They could only handle so much and needed to say “no” more in their lives. They needed to do what felt best. All I could give them is what they asked of me, and I wasn't prepared to make this complicated process about my own feelings. Though, I had so many, and was also experiencing my own loss as I said goodbye to two people who are very near and dear to my heart.
When tragedy strikes, you just want to help, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to make the situation better, nothing to do, but respect the wishes of the people affected. Grief is a thing we often have in common with others, but it is reflected differently and expressed differently by everyone. Its not truly death we have to grieve, it’s the life, it’s the loss, and it’s the unwanted change that disrupts our lives.
For everyone, grief comes in its own time and in its own way. The most effective thing we can do is strive for honesty and be real with what we are feeling. I love my friends and their family so much, and would do anything to protect them from this pain, but it dawned on me that I couldn’t impose upon them. All I could do was support their wishes and respect their need for space. They were undergoing a huge loss, and so was I.
What is your advice for those facing a similar loss?
Regardless of how you choose to cope your grief is always with you. The moment you think you’re past it, it [can] come back and hit you, and it can do this at any given moment. I noticed this with my friends and even with myself. At times, I would be fine, and at others I would be besides myself, soaking in the sadness of the situation, thinking to myself how unfair it all was.
Grief comes and goes, but it doesn’t go away, just because someone is able to smile, laugh and enjoy the moment – doesn’t mean that the grief is gone. Nothing my friends did or said in their grief changed how I felt for them. In my heart, they were a constant presence, as I too was grieving this loss, and couldn’t come to terms with it. Love brought us back to where we needed to be, it was only a matter of time.
Keep the memory of those who have passed on alive within you. Honour them, in any way that you can. Acknowledge what you’ve lost but remember that every loss comes with gain. What doesn’t break you will only build you up in strength. You will have more to give back.
If you're helping loved ones through grief - reach out, check in, the small stuff really matters. You might think you are strange to show your support, but any and all support is appreciated beyond words.
Mad love to Tara for sharing her story - helping others through grief is the best give you can give this holiday season. xo R
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