Come September my best friend, Joesph Gilliam, will have been restored in heaven for a year. It's crazy to think that I've somehow lived without my right-hand man for a full orbit around the sun. No day with grief has been the exact same, each morning brings new challenges and each night brings new pains. With that being said I have found ways to honor Joe, be joyous, and feel his presence. This post is to help anyone else who is also working through a loss.
Don’t Bottle Up Your Feelings
The worst thing I've done since losing my best friend is not sharing the bone-crushing heartache I was feeling. Once I started seeing my therapist regularly, we both devised ways to get other people in my life involved in the topic of my grief; and more importantly my healing.
Often I felt as though I had to be the rock for my friend group. I thought that being the best man at Joe's wedding meant I had to take on all the roles Joe could no longer fulfill. The thing is though, no one could replace Joe, no one could play the role he played in all of our lives, not even me. I was killing myself by even trying to put that pressure on myself.
If you don’t talk to someone, not only will grief eat you up, but the isolation will make your grief worse. Beginning to talk is the hardest part, but it's the only way to cope with grief and depression in these situations.
Of course, as a writer, I would be the one to say that writing helps you deal with grief, but just hear me out for a second. There’s something cathartic about screaming in silence through a pen.
You can express yourself unencumbered by the opinions of others or even the shame of feelings some pretty heavy and raw emotions. Even if you don’t what you write again it's just a great way to get them out overwhelming feelings bubbling up inside of you. Through writing, you might even feel more connected with the one you lost. I have written countless letters to my best friend in a year.
Being Sad Isn't A Crime
I want men to pay close attention to this section. Being sad about loss can be perceived as pretty embarrassing, and an emotion that should be repressed. I know that I believed my sadness was a burden to others. I mean I lost a friend, but someone lost a son or a husband.
Whatever your reasoning is for denying yourself the right to being human, it’s important to understand that you are doing more harm than good. Like I stated earlier, grief grows stronger through isolation. Repressing doesn't make the feelings go away, it just delays the reaction. Eventually, you will lose your hold on your pain and sadness.
Avoid Alcohol & Drugs ( I Didn't But You Should)
Drinking was a way for me to repress my emotions when I couldn't do it myself. A lot of the time drinking did the opposite effect. If I couldn't sleep drinking to pass out seemed like the only option. Sometimes it's easier to count the number of drinks you had than to count the number of years you're going to have to try and live without someone. You have to face your emotions and find constructive ways to deal with them at your own pace.
Think About Your Future Positively
Thinking about your own future can seem impossible in the face of loss, but it’s important to think about brighter days. Now I am very intentional in making sure Joe's legacy and light live on through me. I lost my best friend to cancer, and I don't want that to be a part of anyone else's story in the future.
I oftentimes think about how Joe would want me to be happy, living my dreams, and moving forward. I know you can’t just take on this attitude out the gate, but start to think about something positive that you can do to honor your loved one. Whatever advice you think your loved one would give you, try to live that out.
Dealing with loss can have been the most difficult things that I have done, and after a year I'm confident that I don't have it all down. That's ok. I know I'm not alone, I write about it to help others going through the same thing, and I work to make sure that Joe lives on through me. Walk hand in hand with your loved ones down the road of healing.