Someone asked me to write a short piece for her last week that centers around the idea of self-empowerment. It was wryly funny because I haven't been feeling very empowered lately and am rapidly approaching a day that is, unquestionably, one of the hardest of the year: the second anniversary of the loss of a dear friend.
Self-empowerment in the time of grief is almost an oxymoron. It unmoors you, snaps any tethers to a normal reality you may have and, instead, you are left grasping to find your footing. In the days immediately after loss, I'd hear the word through running in my mind, over and over. Through, I'd tell myself when I cried so hard in the shower I'd have to brace myself against the walls. Through, I'd hear as I tried to stay alert in meetings. And as the anniversary approaches, as I wake up in the mornings and want to scream into my pillows and cry and rage, I'm finding myself saying through once again until I get up and make coffee and move along.
I read a quote recently - "grief is love with nowhere to go" - and it was so instantly, delicately perfect that I wrote it down on an index card and slipped it into my top drawer so that I could hold onto the sentiment.
I have one of my own to add: grief is a motherfucker.
It happened again earlier this year, grief ripping the rug out from me and from the ones I love. It took me a long time to find my footing again after losing my friend. It took a long time for happiness to feel genuine, for the constant knot of sadness to loosen and float away, to fully feel myself again. And just as I did, it felt like, I was struck down again. Only this time, it wasn't just me - it was my whole family, everyone I love most in this world, left reeling, directionless, devastated.
Self-empowerment in moments of quiet grief is hard. Self-empowerment in moments where you look up from your own heartbreak to see it etched so clearly on the most important people in your life is harder.
I haven't felt like writing and I've barely felt like making sense of it all. To lose our family member so suddenly, so unfairly, so maddeningly was - and is - senseless. It's only been since October, but it feels like yesterday. And as we approach two years for Becky, it feels like two minutes. It feels like two centuries.
However - Becky taught me what self-empowerment meant. She was the most confident, radiant, self-aware person I have ever known. She coached me to not settle, to believe in myself, and once threatened to take my laptop from me and press "purchase" on a solo trip to Hawaii if I didn't get out of my own way and do it, already.
What I've learned and what I think honors Becky best is to share that self-empowerment in moments of grief and doubt comes from knowing that through is enough. To be sad is enough, to want to talk about it is enough, to want to not talk about it is enough, to be happy even during pain is enough. To know that whatever you think and do and feel, however you react, no matter how long the rollercoaster of the process takes - it is enough.
I felt her with me a little this fall, reminding me that through was enough. Her legacy, to me, is self-empowerment, self-care and unequivocally protecting and advocating for yourself and those you love. I think of her at least once a day and I know as the anniversary approaches - Valentine's Day, bittersweet because of how fully she embodied the term "love" while she was here - I will realize that she taught me so much more than I ever thought. Self-empowerment in times of grief is simply allowing yourself to embrace the through, and knowing that the love is still there. It just isn't sure where to go.