grief and loss

Here’s a story that I never forget, of a time long ago witnessed by yours truly.

I was young, unknowing and at that age, completely clueless of the world around me. As someone who was protected by the world, I sought to discover much on my own only to be taught that this world is not always rainbows and sunshine.

Over a decade ago, I was with family. At the shopping mall just minutes from our house by train, we were roaming around and browsing through shops like little tourists on vacation. There was much shopping to be done.

I stood outside a store, waiting for my parents to come out when I see a little girl, much younger than I was, running out a store. She trips and falls flat on her face. She stays there for a few seconds and looks like she’s going to cry.

Her father comes up to her, stands beside her and without bending down or crouching to be at eye level with her, he only extends his hand down to her with two simple words uttered.

Get up.

To me, they’re as simple as they can get.

Without another word, the little girl grabs her father’s hand and together, they walk off hand-in-hand.

A simple lesson was taught to her that day.

When life knocks you down, you get back up.

Simple, but effective.

I was taught to be independent from an extremely young age. I was taught to do things on my own without expecting help from anyone else but what about grief and loss?

What should be done to help me get back up on my feet?

Loss is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone because of the underlying meaning behind it.

Loss means forever.

This April, I loss my father in an accident. He died as quickly as it happened, unknowing to me a week before it did that I would be fatherless.

I grieved for months.

Grief helps us cope with loss but what does coping really mean? Is it means of forgetting or accepting?

I questioned that for a long, long time.

Given my work and occupation as a student, I was given a lot of encouragement and love from colleagues and teachers but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t ready to get back into the field and I wasn’t happy with how things were as opposed to before.

I blamed my unhappiness and failures in the past five months on my father’s death. And I kept doing it because I was unable to be strong and to cope.

How do I get back up on my feet?

Grief and loss turned me into a moody, lifeless person. I once had the world in my eyes and all that was left is now emptiness and sorrow.

I had almost wanted to give up on life, work, school and family.

I prayed for a different outcome in life.

To give and receive, to be given life when one was taken.

In turn, I was taken on this whirlwind of journey with someone who showed me what life truly meant from a different perspective.

What was it about this person who gave me meaning to keep on going, to live as life has offered me and to do best rather than do enough? He showered me with compliments, crude advice, and drove me to insanity before bringing me back down to help me understand that I was strong enough to handle it.

Today, I no longer grief and blame loss for many things.

I realize the control I have over my own life and it was a great portion of it.

When I wake in the morning, instead of feeling anguish and sadness, I’m filled with the drive to do something greater. Instead of expecting hope and happiness to drop onto my lap, I strive for it.

How did I cope with the grief and loss?

I let someone into my life and he pulled me out of my depression state. He showed me his side of the world and I showed him mine.

To be protected from the world, from its losses had made me weak. It had taken my energy and brought me down but one person pulled me back up onto my feet.

Today, I have accomplished much more than I had hoped for in the past score of my life.

With this loss that I had felt, it had made me stronger with the help of someone who made me realize what life was truly about. He, who helped me understand the future and he, who taught me how to think for my own.

He, who helped me grief over loss of family while learning to stand up from it.

If I had to do the same with my children, I would do what my own parents did to me. I would protect them from the world, raise them to be independent and knowledgeable.

Before releasing them into the wild.

the unknown sea

In my travels to become a writer, I’ve come across so many people from different walks of life that help me understand that this world works in strange ways.

I’ve often questioned the stories of people, those untold soliloquies that they hide under their facade for the public, and most of the time, they end up being stories that you least expect. They have stories of their past, hidden truths all that if asked, would be revealed to us.

All we have to do is listen to their voices.

Time, is of essence. Time, in its own way, teaches us lifelong lessons that bring the best or the worst out of us. It gives us the opportunity to learn and create knowledge that help shape ourselves and the future.

Three years ago, I traveled four hours from the heart of the city in Western Australia down South towards a popular tourist destination.

I sat in the backseat while my parents are up front, enjoying the fresh, cool Autumn air from the unwound window. The radio plays a song on repeat for the past hour but it’s Adele, courtesy of my mother’s playlist.

“Why did you choose to come to this place, out of many places?”

My father’s question never fails to make me wonder myself.

I’d heard of the place only from someone that I once thought I loved. I traveled from Singapore to Australia, thinking that I might be given the opportunity to see him. My heart was instead broken but I remember his words clearly that still resonates within me.

You should go to Margaret River. It’s my favourite place on Earth.

At that point, all I wanted to do was just go there and see the place for myself.

The journey was long, lengthy but comfortable. I was traveling to a place that seemed like it would have been worth the time.

I was not disappointed.

Quaint would have been the best word to describe the town that we stepped foot. It was quiet, simple and more than not, extremely small. It was the town that you knew everyone knew everyone, and even its name — Dunsborough — gave off the impression that it was tiny European style town with two supermarkets, a Target and other miscellaneous shops.

We walked along the town from one end to the other in under an hour. It wasn’t big, to begin with and we didn’t stop anywhere much because the shops were mostly closed by then. Our journey had started early in the morning and we had arrived later than expected.

What was so great about this town?

What made it his favourite place on Earth?

It was a question that I pondered on for days, weeks, years. I couldn’t comprehend what was it about that town that entranced me. Was it the scenic view, the fresh smell of air or was it the friendly people who smiled at me wherever I went?

The answer came to me soon enough.

I realised that this was the life that I wanted. Simple, away from the city and quaint. It was quiet, peaceful and nature surrounded us to the extent of caves being a thirty minute drive away.

While I was there, we visited underground caves, lighthouses that separated two oceans and even then, it was enough for me to be convinced that this was my favourite place on Earth too.

The unknown sea, that lighthouse that changed my perspective on this world remains to be ingrained deep in my mind. Its waves that crash so magnificently ring in my ears and the smell of sea breeze continues to invade my nostrils as though I was just there yesterday.

I fell in love with the sea that day.

The dark, grainy waters that could envelope a ship whole and eat it still. The view so vast I could manage to look from one end of the sea to the other and still find myself searching for the edge of the world. I fell in love with the sound that I once feared and this made me understand so much more about the person that I believed to have once loved. What he loved, became what I loved.

My love was not affected by my affections for him, but I understood him enough to understand why he loved it.

His untold soliloquy remains a mystery but I know one thing: I understand his love for a place that I grew to equally love.

An unknown sea.