On Grief and Loss

Getting “over” any loss – whether it be a death, end of a relationship, or otherwise – takes a huge toll on me, and I’m not sure I’ve fully moved on from some of them. For some, I’m not sure I want to move on.

My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Greece. He grew up in a small village, survived a war, married my grandmother, and moved his family from Europe to Toronto in search of a better quality of life and opportunity.

Before I moved to Canada permanently, I’d stay with my grandparents during every visit. While his English wasn’t perfect and my Greek was basically non-existent, we forged a bond between papou and grandson that was cut way too short about eight years ago.

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Papou manning the grill.

I lost my grandfather in the middle of what should have been my final exam period in university, and got the call that he had passed right before walking into an exam room. While I knew that he wasn’t doing well, I don’t think I would have ever really been prepared to lose someone close.

Needless to say, I never took the exam. Still reeling, I was forced to essentially re-live his loss every time I had to talk to a professor, ask for a death certificate, or apply for some sort of extension allowing me more time to get things done academically. In the end, I would spend an extra semester in school making up for classes and exams that I just could not get myself to sit through. I still dream about my grandfather, and there are days when – even though it’s been years – I still feel the loss deeply.

Grief doesn’t always occur with a death. It can happen with a breakup or divorce, loss of a job, death of a pet, or even financial hardship. Sometimes, the loss doesn’t even have to be your own.

Around a year ago, a friend of mine lost their mother. I had met her in person only once, well over a decade ago when I was still new to Canada. It was a cold fall night, and I boarded a GO bus from York University to Streetsville, Mississauga (which might as well have been a flight to China – I didn’t know what direction I was headed in and nothing looked familiar) to visit my friend at her house.

If you’ve followed my posts so far, you’d know that that period of my life was complicated to say the least. While I was still struggling externally with adjusting to a new country, and still battling with an internal need to belong, a woman invited her daughter’s friend into her home with a large smile and open arms. I don’t remember many of the other details of that night minus a grand tour of the house and a hot meal, but what stuck with me was the way I felt there – welcomed. To see and experience that sort of kindness, offered to a complete stranger…that’s something that, for me, would be very hard to forget. I can only imagine how her loss must have affected (and still affects) that family, and they’re in my thoughts and prayers.

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Papou and I, early 90’s.

Everything you read in life about grief and loss will probably tell you that losing someone you love is one of life’s biggest and most difficult challenges. Most sources may even tell you what the symptoms of grief are, or that there are several steps involved in the process of grieving, or that there’s professional help for that sort of thing. What you may never read, but definitely may experience at some point in life, is just how long it takes to get to the other side of grief. Sometimes, you may even feel fine for a while – even years – and then that one song plays or someone brings up that thing you used to do together, and you’re back to where you were before.

Getting “over” any loss – whether it be a death, end of a relationship, or otherwise – takes a huge toll on me, and I’m not sure I’ve fully moved on from some of them. For some, I’m not sure I want to move on.

That being said, if you’ve got someone in your life that you love and appreciate…don’t wait until they’re gone to show them that you do.

Until next time,

Phil.

 

Continue reading “On Grief and Loss”

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10 Things I (Sometimes) Hate About Me

I couldn’t stick to just ten, so here’s a bunch of random things about me. Maybe you can relate.

I initially had a longer and more emotional post lined up for this week, but I’ve been having a rougher-than-usual last few days (even by my standards). That being said, I decided to post something with a bit of a lighter mood.

I couldn’t stick to just ten, so here’s a bunch of random things about me. Maybe you can relate. I may make a “Part 2” sometime. Maybe.

  • Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Like…do you actually want to know about my day? Because I accidentally spread a mask on my toothbrush this morning instead of toothpaste…Clarins tastes like shit.
  • Are we still talking or can I, you know, just walk away now. No? OK cool I’ll just stand here. Wait, was I supposed to say “You too!” or just “Thank you.”? Fuck!
  • I really love dogs and every one I ever dog-sit becomes my child. Sorry my son peed on your hydrangeas Kathy.giphy[1]
  • Being a neat freak and caring for animals is an interesting mix. I love dog sitting but do not love cleaning enough hair out of my vacuum to stuff a decorative pillow. Wait, do people do that? *Googles ‘can I stuff a pillow with my dog’s hair’*
  • I used to be a morning person. Then I became a night person. Some days it’s debatable if I’m even a person at all and I need a coffee IV to function like a human being.
  • One of my fears in life is not having a future or making a terrible decision and ending up alone and homeless and never being able to make beautiful, emotionally-and-financially-supported mixed babies.
  • Sometimes the most anxious moment of my week doesn’t have anything to do with my future, but ma’am you are ringing in that guy’s groceries way too fast and I can’t pack mine fast enough aaaahhhhh…
  • Ma’am I really do have two dimes just give me a second *shuffles in pocket* – NO it’s not OK I have it I really do just give a second *awkwardly places condoms on counter* – What? Yes I have an optimum card.
  • I’m usually very good at eating healthy, but sometimes I have a setback emotionally, can’t be bothered, binge eat, and immediately hate myself. #OxfordComma
  • I quit drinking for 4 months earlier this year. I lost a bunch of weight and it really helped the pockets. Since then, I don’t drink heavily or regularly…but will have a beer or a rum here and there.
  • After an eight-month layoff due to various personal ills, I finally made it back to the gym last week. Now I just have to make it back.
  • As of late, most of my depressive days have been manageable. Some days though, I just want to go home and hop into bed for an eternity. Sometimes, instead of bed, I make a blanket fort in my kitchen by draping a duvet over the bar and hiding under it.
  • Managing my medication and activity have been pretty good as well. Some days though, I forget and I’m just a mess the next day…which is a struggle. The recently-increased dosage isn’t helping the cause either, I’m sure.
  • Sometimes I leave my mom’s voicemail messages on my phone longer than usual…just in case I ever need someone to tell me I’m handsome.
  • Sometimes I use my sister’s Instagram account to check up on people I no longer am in contact with. Not because I’m stuck in the past or am holding onto something I shouldn’t…sometimes I care more than I probably should and am always back and forth on how I feel about that.
  • Most of my closer friends are a significant distance (e.g. a plane ride) away and sometimes it sucks (Hi Hanna). 
  • I think it’s cool that more and more people are opening up about mental illness, especially men. I hope this trend continues.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my life, and the blog as a whole so far if you’ve been following.

Until next time,

xoxo (my love is very special),

Phil

 

How I Talk About Mental Illness

I’ve made it a mission to make talking about depression, anxiety, and other personal struggles the norm, so I make no apologies for being open and honest about my mental illness.

“Yeah…what did you get up to last night?”

“Oh, nothing too crazy. Cleaned up the house a bit, did some laundry, popped a pill, had my depression nap…you know, the usual shit.”

The last parts of my statement usually get a chuckle or a weird look, depending on who’s on the receiving end. It’s the transparency, the openness, the vulnerability of the statement that either puts people off or piques their interest. The words make some people uncomfortable, and others find it refreshing. Some people shy away from the topic, while others embrace it.

I never used to talk about my mental illness. Hell, I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling was even “real”. I was afraid, ashamed, and confused that I was going through something I didn’t understand. I’m not a big talker, but it wasn’t often that I had trouble putting anything into words. However, on my worst days, I could barely string enough words together to describe how I was feeling. The worst experiences, though, weren’t always what was going on inside of me…but what was going on when I tried to reach out.

Let’s not sugarcoat anything. Talking about mental illness is exhausting. It’s extremely difficult, and it’s even harder when the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand or suggests various ways to cope that just don’t make sense (FYI: “Cheer up”, “Suck it up”, “Get over it”, and “Have you tried praying about it?” are usually bad things to say). So often as people, we listen to reply instead of listening to understand. Sometimes, the person reaching out doesn’t even want to hear your “solutions” or your opinions, they just want you to hear them out. Your job is to make it easy for them to talk to you, not force them away.

I think we all need to do a better job of providing an outlet for other people in our lives, especially loved ones. So often, people struggle with various ailments for so long without reaching out and getting help simply because the few times they’ve tried, they were met with resistance or negativity.

So, how exactly do I talk about mental illness? The answer is “In any way I can.” I may post to this blog, share a video or status on Facebook, talk to someone face-to-face, or simply send a “How are you doing emotionally?” text to a friend. The more I talk about it and bring it up, the more I hope others will. It is my dream that one day there will be no stigma attached to mental illness, and that everyone is able to talk about these topics as easily as others.

That being said, the next time you ask someone “How are you?”, I implore you to really mean it. I’ve made it a mission to make talking about depression, anxiety, and other personal struggles the norm, so I make no apologies for being open and honest about my mental illness. If you have any questions or comments, or just want to talk, feel free to reach out. I’m here for you.