2020 has seen a lot of this. It seemed my friends and I would make it out alive. One of us didn’t.
I am unfamiliar with the grieving process, very new to it in fact, and along with a whirlwind of instant pain, denial, regret, more pain, and consistent waves of feeling the need to give up, pathetic nihilism has punched me directly in the gut.
New followers (welcome and thank you!) may not know, but for those of you who have been following me for the last few months, snooping through my old posts and wondering if I’ve fallen from the earth, know that I approach things from an excruciatingly logical and philosophical standpoint. I use scientific research as support for and against my own curiosities. And so when my best friend of 13 years passed away from child birth complications at 25 from a pregnancy she thought had ended months ago, I fell into panicked logic: everyone dies. She hadn’t been taking care of herself, very rarely cared for her health. The hospital she went to is notorious for poor service. I listed at least a hundred reasons why this happened, but that didn’t soothe all the emotion: fear. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Some more anger. The feeing of unfairness. A hallow feeling for her alive son, 3 years old. Terror: this could have been anyone. This could have been me.
We were going to go “turn up” at our high school reunion together in three years. I won’t be going now.
We were going to hang out on this vacation I’m currently on. We never got the chance.
Our kids were (eventually) going to grow up together. They won’t now.
We talked every day, and although we had many fallouts over really petty things, we knew deep down we cared for each other.
I regret not making more time to see her. Although we constantly told each other “don’t die” when we knew the other was doing some stupid stuff or was sick, I regret that my last text message to her that she never saw, the one I sent before taking off to Ukiah for a few days and a soak at Vichy Springs, was “Don’t die; if you die, I’ll never talk to you again.”
To give that text some context, she had said she was throwing up from some bad pork, and was convinced it wasn’t COVID.
European studies show the grieving process is different for everyone: some benefit more so from mourning in solitude and immediately returning to their daily routine. This could include work, school, family life. The same studies show if those people attend talk therapy or journal, their grieving lasts longer, the dark feelings linger longer and they effectively get worse. The same study showed others needed the talk therapy and the journaling to process the pain. Despite what people think, and despite what I thought, grieving comes in all shapes and sizes.
Living with anxiety and Schizoaffective while on zero mood stabilizers or antipsychotics means big events like this can yank me into Alice’s wonderland. There are things I do to prevent this: isolate, cry, read, and fall into a pit of existentialism.
Why are we here? What is our actual purpose? If we simply die, and we will at any time, any place, for any reason, what is the point of remaining alive? These are questions we’ve all thought about. They’re basic, kind of petty, and when looked at logically not very scary at all. But I understand on an emotional level now why people run toward faith in something, anything–another human, a god, a monster, a devil. Postulating about our own mortality in the first quarter of life, the supposed meaninglessness of it that is, is enough to bring the strongest, smartest, most emotionally stable person to their knees.
I feel that I’ve crossed into another world, this world, but something’s different while everything’s the same. It’s the same feeling I got when I graduated high school and it’s the same feeling I’ll get when I graduate college: that’s over–now what? Why does everything feel new? I wake up feeling like I’ve never woken up before. I eat like I’ve never tasted food before.
I’ve also felt lost about the afterlife. We always told each other we’d haunt one another if one of us died first. She hasn’t haunted me yet.
So, I turned to Daoism for guidance as I always do, before I turned to depression, anxiety, voices, or thoughts of matrix glitches. In Daoism, death is never focused on, and neither is mourning. Death is supposed to be about transformation and the return of The Being to the universe. It’s a celebration, then, that the one who has passed hasn’t really passed, but has just been redistributed. The absence of them, then, is not absent at all. This gives a more concrete understanding to the saying “she’s still with us.” She is, because she is us and we are her and all of us are the universe.
Maybe it sounds cheesy, unbelievable, and scientifically invalid, but we know very well that energy cannot be created or destroyed. In fact, we don’t even really know what energy is other than “a capacity to do work.” I’ve taken so many classes where that’s been drilled into my head that I have no other way of saying it other than that very definition, quoted from every physics, chemistry, and math professor. We also know that matter, down to it’s truest form, is tightly condensed energy. We are energy. We cannot be created or destroyed, in a particle sense, and so in some way we are redistributed: whether that be into soil, into the mouths of maggots, or any other disgusting decomposing terms you can think of. The one thing we haven’t really understood yet is consciousness. What is it and where does it go? It’s chemical of course, we all are, but it’s something else too. I wonder if one day we will identify a similar “spooky action” of consciousness.
Daoism also sees death as life, meaning they are both one. Neither can exist without the other, obviously (we wouldn’t have a concept for either if that were the case). But philosophy is philosophy and our observation of things, our mathematical understanding of things, can only go so far as long as we’re trapped in this physical world. Perhaps there is nothing after this life. And what’s wrong with nothing?
If there is nothing, then there is something. Our nothing will be the something, and something tells me we’ll feel that in the nothingness.
I will always miss her.