One, two, many…

Keyukemi Ubi
5 min readFeb 2, 2023

Many times, people fail to understand that, as humans, you can hold two equally strong yet opposing feelings about a thing without one invalidating the other.

You can be sad and grieving about a friend who has just died, yet you are glad they are no longer in pain.

However, the actual conflict is how to react. Do you cry your heart out, sigh deeply in relief and do a little jiggle that your friend is no longer in pain? If you do neither, are you “processing” it properly? Cos, that’s what some people would say. “I am not sure you are processing this properly”. But oh, shut up! Who are you to tell me how to grieve?

A screenshot of my music player, playing eyes to the sky by Jon Bellion
A screenshot of my music player playing one of my favorite songs for when I feel sad and overwhelmed.

Speaking about grief

I have never really known how to process grief. When I was much younger, and my parents broke the news of friends and family who had been lost to me, I shrugged it off and said it was part of life. I rarely cried, and when I did, sometimes it was because I didn’t want people to think I was a freak. My mom knew, though; she called me cold-hearted.

These days, I cry a lot. I bawl my eyes out at every little thing. My mom says I have become a crybaby, and she doesn’t understand what has happened to me.

You see, I like formulas. I like straight arrows. This has worked before and should work again, but grief has no formula. Neither is it linear. When I think I have figured it out and created a formula for handling loss, each new loss incites a different response from me.

Some days, you cry your heart out until your eyes sting. On other days you get up from the floor, put on your gym clothes, and tell yourself, “if this person were here, they would want me to keep living.”

A year after, life seems better and clearer. And then, one day, you are in the market, and someone says something in passing, and all your carefully built healing walls come crashing down. Right there in the market, the tears fall uncontrollably.

You feel stupid; you have known loss before, and this is not your first rodeo, so why aren’t the formulae working? Why does it still hurt? I am doing everything I did to get over the former loss, but why does the hole in my stomach keep getting deeper?

I suppose it is because everyone we meet and hold dear leaves an individual marker in our hearts. I recently lost a friend, and while I haven’t spoken to her in a while, when I was told of her loss, I felt myself being pulled into that pit of pain, anger, and regret again. Then I remembered that she had suffered almost all her life, and maybe now she finally has some peace. So I didn’t know whether to cry, laugh or accept it all and keep living. I wasn’t sure how to react.

I just know I felt the heavy weight in my chest that I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Eventually, I felt the tears roll. Then I started to laugh, then I cried some more, then I checked her IG page and smiled some more.

Throughout that day, the memory of one of the days I spent with her kept playing. The jokes we made, the critical societal issues we discussed, the food, and the music. Those are the things we grieve, but also the things that make us smile.

But here is the thing about pain and grief: beauty can come out of it. Let me explain, up until a few months ago, I used to believe I was alone in this world. I mean, we are alone, you know, “born alone, die alone.” that sort of thing. But that’s beside the point.

I don’t know how else to explain it, but I was absorbed in my perceived loneliness. But at a time when I truly didn’t need to be alone, my friends and family showed up.

Their overwhelming love and care reminded me I had many things to live for. So even if the pain were unbearable at that moment, they would be there to hold my hand. Their love showed me that I am never alone and that there’s always someone that loves me.

Five porcelain figurines of 3 Hippos and 2 Elephants in colors Yellow, Purple, Blue, Red, and Green
A symbolic gift for one of my friendship groups.

So, to my closest friends, this is just my way of letting you all know that if you ever tried to leave me, “I will haunt you, and I will find you.” Ok, just kidding, just kidding…but really, where do you think you are going?

It’s gonna be okay, kid, it's gonna be okay

What I am trying to say is I know it hurts. But it's okay to find love, happiness, and meaning even in pain. You don’t have to feel guilty in those moments. It is not dishonoring your loss.

I know it's crazy, but how do you explain that it is possible to feel one, two, or many opposing or complimentary feelings and for all those to be valid?

That it’s okay to know that you want something, but your subconscious and body know you are not ready to accommodate that desire and vice versa.

That it is possible to love someone very deeply and resent them for how much they hurt you.

I think therapists have their work cut out for them. The human psyche is such a complicated thing to measure, evaluate and treat.

Recently I have had to hear a lot about healing. “It takes time”, “it’s a journey”, “it’s a process.” But how do you know you are healed enough to try again? How do you know you aren’t masquerading healing and acceptance with fakes but experiencing the real thing?

To be honest, I don’t have answers to these questions. But I know the darkness. I know it’s very easy to slip into the darkness and sink into despair. The darkness is easy.

So any day to catch a glimpse of light, tell yourself that you are okay. And on the days when it's too dark, and you can barely find your way, I hope you have people around you to hold your hand and pull you through till you see the light again.

For Dr. D., I am glad you loved and were loved. I hope you finally have peace and true rest.

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