feet in the pacific, oregon 2016

On Grief

My grandfather passed away last year. On Christmas Eve of 2015, I drank a Budweiser to honor his memory, even though he had since become a Yuengling man.

This year was different. I feel like I’ve been in mourning all year. I’m grieving not only the deaths of both of my grandfathers, but also the world that I’ve known. That works on both a large scale (see: election) and a personal scale (see: mental health).

I’m grieving the end of President Obama’s two terms in office. Under our first Black President, I saw my country working toward equality and empowering women and POC. The Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, science valued over religion—I saw these things and more happen in his eight years. Not everything during the Obama years was perfect; the legislative branch created nightmares, mass shootings occurred on the regular, the Black Lives Matter movement needed to form in response to a systemic problem in our police force… But overall, Obama’s tenure is a bright spot in our history, and I am grateful to have witnessed it. I’m also grieving the party’s loss in this election. It proves we haven’t come far enough in our acceptance of women in power—because any man running for office would not have faced such scrutiny over the same details. Instead, our country elected a xenophobic misogynist accused of sexual assault, further driving home the inequality women are well aware exists in most every work place. I grieve for the dreams we thought were about to come true, for the hopes that we would see our first female President.

In these past eight years, I’ve also grown tremendously as a person. I finally have an understanding of what makes me tick. Treatment for anxiety better unmasked additional issues, and only now am I working with a diagnosis I often suspected. While I’m happy to have a better understanding of myself, I now grieve for the girl I used to be. I was a quiet mouse, satisfied to stay in one place. I’ve lost my sense of self; I not only mourn who I was before but also the opportunities I lost as that person. While I look forward to the future, I’m also worried about what changes my evolving self-awareness will bring to my life.

We can all agree that 2016 was a shit year. There’s no question that the sheer volume of celebrity deaths, the hideous election cycle with all its disappointments, and whatever personal demons we may have faced make this year qualify as a complete dumpster fire. But I cannot grieve forever. The changes, the losses, the emptiness—my hope is that all these factors can serve as motivation to live better in 2017.

Last year around this time was my grandfather’s funeral. I remember crying, unashamed because my grief was understandable, undeniable—my tears were completely justified. I have not shed tears for 2016 like I did for my grandfather, and maybe it’s time that I do. Or maybe it’s just time to toast 2016 with a Budweiser (or a Yuengling) and say good riddance.

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