Written by Toh Boon Kheng Artwork by Foong Keng Wah

With life, comes death. Despite this, death is a taboo subject for a large portion of our society. So if you must, turn back and read another article. Still here? Good. Firstly, let me ask you a simple question. What would it be like, if one day, someone we love and care about was gone forever?

2015 was not exactly a fun year. Within a span of 6 months, five friends who were dear to me decided to take their own life. It made me wonder; I aim to be a psychologist, to help those in need, but I couldn’t help those close to me, so how could I help others in the future? The fact is, I am far from qualified, but above all, we are human. Now I know how certain they were about it, it becomes possible to respect their decision (though agreeing is a separate matter). This feeling of helplessness and self-blame allowed me to see that there are many things beyond our control as well as the things we can miss simply by being caught up in conversation. Don’t we wish to turn back time and change the outcome, or to look into the future and avert disaster? All we can do though, is to do what feels right, right now. Sometimes, it is not about what happened or what will happen, rather, it is about what we make of the present that we have.

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Image obtained from: https://dangerouslee.biz/2012/09/07/win-a-fight-by-walking-away/

It is a tough task to avoid feeling empty from the loss; drained and tired of life. When it really happens, there is no instant cure for the despair. It is okay to be sad. To be angry at the world for everything. To cry. But eventually, we have to take our own initiative to continue walking forward in our own life journey. Easier said than done. If it was ever easy to begin with, then it would probably already be done. The question now is; how do we do this?

All this talk of loss, and we tend to overlook that the loss has left a space in our lives. A space that perhaps we should fill. It’s not as simple as taking another person to fill it up. Each individual experiences the loss in different ways, and filling the gaps can be done in various ways as well. There are some of many things that we can bring into light:

       1. Appreciate the living.

We lost someone we care deeply about. Yet we are not the only ones grieving. Others who we are also close to, is in the same state as us. From personal experience, it helps to reach out, and support one another. Being there, knowing that we are not alone in this, that there are still family/friends to care for, all contribute to rebuilding the damage caused by a death. Losing a close one, and gaining a newfound closeness between those who remain.

2. Maintaining memories.

For those we spend a lot of time with, the loss will hit harder. Suddenly, you have plenty of alone time, or even an emptiness in the group. Even though, this person may be gone now, he/she/they would have left a significant mark in our lives. Plenty of moments shared, experiences learnt, and moments to cherish. It may not seem like much, but by having a small gathering of close family/friends to share and release these memory fragments, we remind ourselves that this loss does not change the memories made. It also serves as a reminder that this grief is simply dark clouds shadowing the sun, and that beneath it all, this person who had lit up your life still will, through shining the past into the present, even after they are long gone.

3. Doing something you love.

Basically, do something that makes you calmer or happier. It is not to distract your mind. Instead, it is another form of reminder. To remind us that life goes on regardless, and how this person we lost would be happy to know that we gained a greater appreciation on the fragile life we have. Stretch our insight and overlook on the world. Go on a vacation, and stare out into the ocean until a smile appears on our mouths. Hike that challenging mountain while we still can. Draw a painting of how we feel about the loss, so that all can appreciate this aspect of living. Or write an article about it all, so others know that it is human to feel loss, and that it is not the end of the line for us still here.

Of course, there is also grief counselling. This is merely an opinion article of how I believe one can self-cope, and there are plenty other things that can be done. Just don’t expect yourself to recover from the pain perfectly fine to carry on life as before. Someone is gone from your life now, and they will never come back. The way we see things, the way we get tasks done, the way we love, will never be the same again. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Change can very much be beneficial, as long as we maintain the core of ourselves. We learn from where we lack. A wise man, who goes by the name of Viktor E. Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” We may end up lost while changing ourselves for the better, but hopefully, we can one day say that we have found our better selves.

In memory of; Ben, Ariana, Raj, Din, and Lizzy (Benjamin, Ariana, Rajagopal, Abidin, Elizabeth). You will be remembered fondly.

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