Today I am grieving the absence of a friend. And I think I am going to be grieving for a while. She didn’t die. She just went home. But it was unexpected, sudden. Yesterday I had a roommate, and today I do not. The bare mattress and empty closet have stared at me every time I’ve come home since last night, reminding me of the absence in my heart. I need to rearrange them, but I haven’t found the courage to yet.
She is not permanently gone. She is just removed. There is still hope of being reunited in the future. But for the first time I am experiencing a taste of having someone near and dear to my heart being jerked away. There was no time to prepare, to accumulate the strength to let go. She was just gone. Maybe she will get to come back. Maybe not. But either way I am bereaved of her companionship for the months ahead. And the ache in my heart is throbbing.
In part, I feel guilty for feeling so strongly. There are so many in this world who are experiencing pain more acutely than I. In my heart, death has not called, only separation. But are they so different? Isn’t death just another level of separation? Today I can sympathize, albeit imperfectly, with those who are grieving from the worst kind of separation. On a small scale I can relate to those who never have the time to say goodbye, who are left unprepared for the gulf that an absent loved one leaves behind.
Barbara and I shared life together. We weren’t family, and yet we were. She became as a sister. We lived together, cooked together, ate together, sorted laundry together. We laughed and cried and shouted our frustration in tandem. As far as possible she knew my world and I knew hers. We shared a bond of loving common souls. She was the safest place for me to be myself, and I hoped I was the same for her. We were honest, with our questions, our struggles, our triumphs. We weren’t afraid to discuss hard questions and leave them unanswered. Every small joy we shared, things that if I told anyone else, they wouldn’t understand.
It’s the accumulation of all the small things that is hardest. I can cope with the fact that she is gone, that she needed to go home. I find it harder to face the million of small triggers throughout the day that remind me of that loss: the picture on the wall that is no longer there, the champagne glasses we bought together in target just to drink ginger ale, the fact that I am walking to class alone when she usually walked with me, seeing the q-tips in the bathroom drawer that she told me keep. And there are more. So many words I hear, words from friends, from strangers alike, my mind relates them to what I want to be present. No allusion is too vague for my memory to lock onto. There are stories hidden within each reference, each object, each empty space. I find her everywhere.
I don’t have any insights to offer on these feelings I am facing. I just want to state them. I just want to acknowledge that I can sympathize with grief. Someday I will realize what I am gaining through this experience. But not today. Today there is no explanation for the tears I am letting come at will.