"See My Grief" by Orlagh Skafas
Although my relationship with my grief and the death of my dad have been the most inconsistent part of my life, they may have brought me to discover the most consistent part of my life, Circle Camps. I have been a member of the Circle community for nine years now. My dad died when I was nine years old from colon cancer. Although my memories of my dad are few and far between, every single one is positive. He was the most loving, caring, funny, and honest person I have known to date. He always put those he loved before himself and feeling the effects of that through my childhood, as well as noticing them as I go through life without him, has left me with the feeling of wanting to be just like him.
My entire post-death life leading up to college, I have done my best to suppress my grief in the effort to be present and there for those around me. The thing is, after my dad died, I could certainly feel my grief, but it was difficult to see my grief. Whereas when I looked at my mother who just lost her best friend and the love of her life, and at my little brother who just lost his role model and his father, I saw their grief right in front of me. From that point, I bottled up my feelings and pushed them to the backburner because for me, the feelings of those I loved was the priority. Just as I cared about them, my family cared about me deeply, and making them see me as okay was what was most important to me.
In high school I would go on drives just to listen to the songs that reminded me of my dad. I was a runner and would go running in places that reminded me of him. I always seemed to put myself into situations where I could allow myself to see my grief for what it was but no one else. I knew exactly what I was feeling but I did not want anyone else to see it on the outside.
However, when I got to college that seemed to change. When I was at home, I had my mom and brother right there with me, seeing all their emotions. When I got to SNHU, there was no one else’s grief to watch. The only emotions were the ones I felt that I could now see right in front of me in an isolated setting. The difference now was I did not choose to be in this isolated setting. I was no longer leaving my house intentionally when I was sad to go for a drive or a run. I was now in my dorm room with no one around to witness the external effects of my grief, so it all seemed to just come out. Throughout my short time at SNHU, before Covid hit, it became apparent to me that when I got to the point where I could see my grief, I knew how to care for myself. Before that point, I was unable to regulate my emotions. I no longer had other people right in front of me to worry about, it was just me here, and it was time for me to start pulling my emotions back to the front.
Each time I sat in my small dorm room at school, upset because of the dad-sized hole in my heart, I always found myself thinking of how those who loved me would feel seeing me upset like this. How would my mom who just had her first child leave home feel if she knew I was grieving this deeply alone, or my little brother who was navigating high school all for himself, or even my father who was looking down on me as I navigated my life without him.
As my time at school continued, I began to notice that I saw my grief much less. I had built a number of amazing friendships with neighbors and classmates, dove into my major of elementary education, and got involved in organizations across campus from giving tours to incoming students as a Penmen Guide to planning events for our school newspaper. Being involved in the community around me and having such an amazing support system here at school has helped me get closer to a place where I am prioritizing myself when I need to over others.
Being lifted to a better place through these things in my life made me truly realize how precious life is. We only get one life, and we should not live it fearfully. For me, the only place where I truly felt fearless was when I was at Circle, surrounded by those who understood what I was going through. Now I have realized it doesn’t matter if those in my day-to-day life really understand what I am going through, because they care about me for me.
Leaving for school was scary and exciting at the same time. I always knew these were my years to become myself and find my way. Being alone forced me to prioritize my feelings over those around me, and although I still care deeply for those I love, my feelings need to be my number one concern. The ones who love me would never want to know I had been grieving this way.
We should live our lives to bring ourselves joy; we should take up space where we deserve; we should take risks as we see fit and be endlessly good to ourselves; we should show those around us effortless love. Through taking care of myself when I felt I needed it, rather than only worrying about others, I was able to heal the parts of myself that were preventing me from being present in life, in my relationships, and in my grief. Our feelings deserve to be felt. We need to give our sadness and anger and grief room to move just as much as we allow happiness. The dark clouds need to pass before the sun can shine.
“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” - Kurt Vonnegut