Grieving The Death Of A Friend – No Goodbyes
“I’m grieving the death of a friend,” I said quietly.
I was trying to understand grief in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everything seems surreal.
Malaysia entered MCO on the 18 March 2020.
On April’s Fool’s Day, I received a message that my dear friend, Stephanie passed on.
It was a hard day as I mustered up to tell my other classmates in the chat.
Everyone wanted to know. How did she die?
But no one asked,
“Are you okay?’
“Are you grieving?”
I remember I wanted to meet Stephanie for lunch in KL where she worked.
She and I kept in touch after we left school.
We both worked in the Central Banking District and would often have lunch together.
The thing we loved the most was food – Indian food.
Our friendship lasted for 50 years.
We would catch up, chat, laugh.
Only one other classmate knew the extent of our sisterly bond.
Kathy was older than us and we would gather in her home to eat the loveliest curries, dosa, and biryani.
Every time I manage a trip to KL, Kathy would cook, and we would feast, chat, and laugh.
Lunch Date Cancelled.
I wanted to take Stephanie to a Brazilian grill and called her a few times to arrange a time.
She seemed busy and couldn’t confirm.
I thought it was tax month and month-end all rolled into one.
She worked in Finance.
I never thought that she wasn’t well.
When she could, she told me that her eyes were blurred.
She had seen several doctors and went to the hospital to check.
There was a tumor pressing on her optic nerves.
She will lose her eyesight if it wasn’t removed.
I was traveling and flew off.
When I was in Manila, she texted me that she was going in for surgery.
The next morning, she said, the surgery went well, and she would be discharged in a few days.
We never got to meet.
Stephanie was back in ICU, having daily MRI. The operation didn’t go as planned.
I was in KL and it wasn’t possible to visit her in ICU.
Through all this, I was glad she had a friend who visited her daily and spoke to her.
None of us could attend her funeral.
It was only just her immediate family.
When everything is over, I will visit and sit with her steadfast friend who saw her through everything.
We will mourn her passing and grieve together.
Social Media and Death
Today, I thought of MG. I haven’t heard from her for a year.
When I check my WhatsApp messages, the last I sent a message was on 29 May 2019.
The last she communicated was a birthday message she sent to me.
Every year, MG remembers my birthday.
Every year, I forget – even my own.
Today I found out that MG passed on more than a year ago.
I didn’t know.
I couldn’t ask anyone as I didn’t know any of her friends.
She was the one who inspired me to travel and encouraged me to write.
We worked in the 1980s at different office buildings and became friends. Stephanie was also working in the CBD.
I would have lunch with them separately once a week.
It is strange that these two women who impacted me the most never met.
The post on my Facebook wall. Social Media and Grief
Grief is heart-shattering enough.
When I put my grief for MG on my Facebook wall – the question which one curious person asked,
“Who is MG?” made the pain unbearable.
In the past and in communities, people avoid consoling you by pretending not to know.
Today in the digital age, it becomes something that shows up in someone’s feed.
The behavior of skimping through, letting you fingers do the walking, and stopping at something on the virtual platform – is surreal.
“There are humans at the other end of every post, page, and blog,” I would tell the children.
Not everything you see is created by bots.
It was that tear choked afternoon that the words burned.
In the anonymity of a flickering screen, someone felt compelled to ask –
“Who is MG?”
What followed after that was totally unexpected.
In my grief, I read the words typed furiously on my screen.
I fell backward.
I mustered up enough grace to reply,
“Thank you for your kindness. I appreciate you and I will pray for you.”
Then a tidal wave of grief came crashing through my little digital screen.
At that moment, I realized something no one ever told you about death.
Social media is not a friend at times like this.
I need to recognize my right to grieve when no one else did.
I can manage my own grief.
What I find challenging is my inability to deal with those unable to see grief or understand that I am grieving.
The first thing Veronique Ficheux said to me was this.
“Sending you and your friend prayers and blessings.
Do forgive yourself. ❤️”
That makes more sense to me than anything else anyone else can say or do.
The death of a friend is a loss that many of us will face more than once – for me this it is hard to lose two friends of my youth one after the other.
MG might have left a year ago, my knowing this afternoon doesn’t mean my grief is not as deep or my loss is not as great as her family’s.
She was my life-long friend who taught me to be bold and travel solo when I was 19.
MG was someone I counted on and shared my deepest secrets with.
She encouraged and came alongside me during my lowest points.
For me, a friend can be as strong of a relationship as if we were sisters.
Grieving the Death of a friend
The loss of someone with whom you chose to share your time, your thoughts, and your activities – your life is not easy.
My grief is individual and unique.
How I grieve and for how long will be different than for anyone else.
I tried to set a time limit to my grief. I thought that a good cry and goodbye would work.
I was lying to myself.
Both Stephanie and MG shared common memories and experiences with me.
When death takes my friends, it also takes away two of my best connections to the past.
I have lost a dear presence I counted to be there in my future.
I wanted to celebrate my successes with them. I never got the chance to tell them this,
“Thank you for encouraging me when others never saw my talent.
I appreciate you.
I love you.
Forgive me for not being there to say goodbye.
What happens when we die?
“I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” – Keanu Reeves
Grief – Bereavement
Grief is the acute pain that accompanies loss. Because it is a reflection of what we love, it can feel all-encompassing. Grief is not limited to the loss of people, but when it follows the loss of a loved one, it may be compounded by feelings of guilt and confusion, especially if the relationship was a difficult one.
The Process of Grief