“It is for the best.” “You have to be strong.” “Why are you crying?” “Why aren’t you crying?” “You have to be strong.” “It’s part of God’s plan.” “He’s in a better place.” “You have to be strong.”
I found it otherworldly ironic how people saw a grieving child and urged her to immediately conform to the expectations they had set for her. I used to wonder if some of the adults who extended their condolences used the WikiHow section of “What not to say” as their cheat sheet. My resentment and complex emotions rose during the most confusing time of my life, while everything became incredibly overwhelming and challenging. The added grief and sadness did not make life summatively harder, but multiplicatively, as I was forced to grapple with arguably the most complicated emotion: grief. Beyond the fact that grief is not a temporary emotion you choose for a couple of days but rather an everlasting feeling that holds you in a place of unease, grief is like a cold storm. It will arrive of its own accord, and when it does you are left to shiver as the sky grows dark and the air becomes colder. All you have to uplift you is the knowledge that the storm will pass, and the sun, although not exactly the same as it was yesterday, will rise again.
I waited for eight days before I realized that it would take time for the sun to completely rise again. In the meantime, my self-generated warmth, although incomparable to the heat of the sun, was achievable. And so, I turned on the lights and let the fireplace’s dancing glow slowly flicker into my heart once again. To get there, however, I had to face many challenges.
The first difficulty I had to overcome, and frankly am still fighting against, is my self-imposed emotional barriers. The passing of my dad made me aware of the dam I had built myself. The dam had always been there; the difference was I had previously been holding back a mellow stream of emotions. It took this tsunami for me to realize that I had built quite the dam and, therefore, a colossal wave of water was bound to spill over.
Although I certainly still have bad days and even worse days, I have begun teaching myself how to healthily open up about my feelings in ways with which I am comfortable. I am learning how to talk about my dad without ending in a grim spot. I am learning to acknowledge my feelings and allow myself to shiver when storms come.
I am no longer hyper-focused on not wanting to be cold anymore. Instead, I am learning how to be the warmth that I desire and how to produce an energy so strong that myself and those around me continue to glow. I now realize, months later, that this strength I have built and am continuing to build, is a result of my decision to push through. Immediately after my father’s passing, I had been in a place of resentment where all I wanted to do was find faults in the people who had re-entered my life suddenly. I wanted to hold grudges against every doctor who did not do enough for my dad.
I wanted to push everyone away because no one’s love compared to my dad’s. I wanted to react perfectly to everything and grieve the way everyone else wanted me to.
All of these things I thought I wanted to do were not what I knew, deep down, were best for me. It took hard work and persistence for me to reconnect with my emotions and needs. The end result was that I realized I did not want to resent people who were doing their best to support me however they could.
I did not want to push everyone away. And so, I came out of the “comfort” zone I had temporarily built myself and I encouraged myself towards the person I used to be, except stronger than ever before. I started seeing the beauty in everything again, and my dam had been broken down into nothingness.
I learned to slow down when I needed to because life has become more of a marathon than ever before. I have proven to myself that even while facing gut-wrenching sadness and emotions reaching complexities I had never even imagined, I have been able to persevere.
This grieving process may never truly end, I know that I will survive the good days and the bad days, and I am very proud of the person I have become. The person who is not strong because others told me I needed to be, but the person who is strong because of her drive to do better than yesterday.
I have worked towards a better version of myself, and I hope to continue to hold a fraction of the strength of my biggest role model: the best Appa in the entire world.
Maya Samthanam is the 2021 1st Place winner of The Discovering Me...A Without You Essay Contest for Teen Girls Ages 14 through 17 presented by Esther Productions Inc.