Earlier this summer, I lost a dear friend, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, whom I met during my college days. It was my first friendship loss. I have been to funerals as an adult when I lost my grandparents and aunts and uncles, but I had never been to a funeral for a friend and a peer. I am still moving through grief and I realize that healing from loss is a lifelong process.
I feel like a novice in the grief journey. I was shielded from much of grief because I did not lose anyone close to me during Covid. I know some people who lost family members, dear friends, co-workers, and community members. I heard stories of people going to Zoom funerals almost weekly. There was so much loss swirling around it that almost seemed surreal because it never touched me directly. I had empathy and sympathy, but I did not fully comprehend what loss does to one’s heartstrings.
Experiencing a loss makes you feel like the universe is jolting you in several ways. On the one hand, it makes you feel like you have to grow up quickly. Life gets real…really fast. On the other hand, it makes you feel like you should savor mere seconds since nothing is promised, not even tomorrow. There are just so many things we take for granted, as though they are guaranteed.
I do subscribe to the notion that we must move through the five stages of grief to process what has happened better and what is still happening. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, there is no linear timeline in grief. You may linger at a particular stage or even double back once you’ve “completed” a stage.
I have to remind myself that everyone experiences and moves through grief in their own way and in their own time. It is a unique experience. Some people prefer to be surrounded by others and laugh and leave the house, while others may prefer to be in quiet reflection by themselves. We cannot judge how people process loss and we cannot make people speed up or slow down how they process this new chapter in their lives.
I know that some days are easier than others. I miss my friend dearly, but I am so blessed the universe allowed us to cross paths out of all of the billions of people in this world. I have found that spending time with friends I love dearly has helped me begin the healing process.
However you process grief and loss, extend yourself patience and grace. In doing so, you will be better equipped to extend kindness, patience, and grace to others. May we continue to reflect on the blessing of friendship along this journey.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University; the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.