What My First Encounter with Loss Taught Me About Relationships

What My First Encounter with Loss Taught Me About Relationships

One writer unpacks how grief changed their view on relationships



It's been approximately two months since my grandfather quietly passed, marking two months since my first close encounter with loss. Of course, the devastation feels immeasurable, and so does the sadness and the grief. I've accepted that navigating the world without someone I've known my entire life takes some getting used to. Old habits, as much as we'd like to argue that they die hard, turn into memories in a snap. Sometimes the sadness comes sparingly, shallow, just tears at the corner of my eyes. On other days it's heavier, like a giant wave washing over me until I feel immobile. But perhaps one of the things about grief that I was never prepared for was all the reality checks it can bring. It forced me to rethink how I do relationships—platonic or not. I can handle feeling my emotions and acknowledging the heavy loss and change I'm experiencing. But once it involves other people, I find myself at a loss…until now.


Attachment is a quality I used to—sometimes, still do—resent, and it spills over to how I used to navigate my own relationships. So despite spending most of my college years studying human communication, I could never apply what I learned to myself. Those tips on effectively communicating and ending conflict were just suggestions, words on photocopied readings I barely even read. My philosophy on relationships often rubs salt onto a wound I've inflicted. But after this pivotal moment in my life, my view on these connections changed.


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Be more forgiving.


Forgiveness is an action easier said than done. It requires you to be the bigger, kinder, more understanding person. It's challenging, especially when we experience extreme pain. I used to be unforgiving that any wrong committed to me or any of my loved ones made me lose all respect for a person. Sometimes, it even warrants even a block all around social media. 


But grief showed me that, much like the world, relationships aren't black and white. We all go through our own issues, and these manifest differently. There are instances that we take it out on others or vice versa. So instead of closing my doors and keeping my guard up, I learned to be more forgiving. Cut people some slack the way others do to me. Give them room to explain their side of the story, even years later. Extend to others the understanding you want to receive.


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Time heals all wounds.


There are always people meant to leave your life one way or another. It's just how fate and the universe work. Maybe the both of you need to grow apart before having a healthy relationship. Discover what's life like without the other before fully realizing how much you need them. During my grandfather's funeral, I reconnected with an old friend who I thought I'd never talk to again. The conversation flowed so freely as if we picked up where we left off before our big fight. I didn't hesitate to ask them how they were after our last talk (which involved a lot of crying and whatnot) and if they still wanted to remain friends with me. They said yes.


Talking to them showed me that we've healed, ready to revive the friendship again. We were going in separate directions at the time, forcing each other to remain constant when the only thing that stayed the same was change. So we had to go on our separate ways, learning new things in our different paces and circles, apart. Rekindling this relationship showed me that some connections are meant to fizzle out for a while, for the better. So when you get together, you're in a better disposition. These kinds of relationships have no more expectations, just a mutual understanding that things happened for a reason.


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Stop hesitating and say what you want to say.



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I often pride myself on being expressive and affectionate. But when it came to the person I lost, I always seemed to be at a loss for words. Maybe it's because I'm uncomfortable with silence, or I never really knew what to tell them. But the thinking that they'll stay with me forever stopped me from being expressive. Until it was too late.


Please, always tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Set aside your differences and make your peace. Finally organize that coffee date with your long-time best friend. Don't be scared to send that text. Give them a call or tag them in that meme. Make your feelings known because you never know how much time you have left with the people you hold close. The least you can do for yourself and for your loved one is to have no regrets during your time together.


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Grief is a teacher whose lessons you learn independently. Their lessons are never spoon-fed, never hinted at. You learn everything the hard way to further understand the value of each relationship that you have. It takes a lot of time, effort and understanding. It requires you to rethink the way you handle conflict and change. It can even bring out the worst in you.


But with enough effort and an open heart and mind, it can lead you to the best version of yourself.



Words MT

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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