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.

The Past, Present and Future

My past has always been a shadow of the being that I am today. Regardless, I learned from it well despite the fluctuations of fortune as well as problems that arose in between then and now.

When I was younger, I took pride in the thought ingrained in me that I was the only one who mattered and that I came first before anyone else. It was a mentality that grew from habit fitly from my being the last child and daughter between my parents who pampered me much more as opposed to the harsher conditions that my two older sisters had to endure due to the early years of my parents young marriage and simple wealth.

Reading in between the lines, I was not prepared for what laid ahead of my years when I stepped into primary school at 7 years old. I learned from the good and the bad, meeting different people from different walks of life but as I was young then, I still hadn’t quite thought about things not pertaining to me too much. Throughout the years, I grew to learn the people who were good for me made me know who I wanted to be. I grew up to meet newer people who stood by me in circumstances that I had once stood alone and I met people who had a greater influence on my life.

Now in the present, the same people remain but it was, however, quickly decided that I store the ones I had met and are good people but bad for me somewhere untouchable yet reachable whenever necessary. Strong words, harsher life. I live in the moment of the present, as how I am writing this article now but as each minute passes, I grow wiser than I was before because of the thoughts that enter my mind as I think about the next chapter in life.

My present is ever-changing, because of the people who come and go easily but where does it lead me – how does it affect my future?

The future is unwise to predict. As I always say to those who question the future, that it is always better to strive for what you want but never expect that it should happen lest it fails.

It is, however, expected that the future will continue to persist as will time but what is our future? We think so selfishly for ourselves that we forget that we will not live forever.

I was, yet again, walking down the streets in the city when I witnessed an elderly man in his 60s beside a young woman of about her late 30s walking. And holding her hand was a child – presumably her son. They walked past me without a simple glance in my direction, one of which I was not bothered by, but it was however, in that moment, that I realised something befitting.

The epiphany came instantly.

That child will be our future, as how the other children of this generation will. They are the kings and queens of the future because when the time comes for us to grow as old as the elderly man in our later years, we step down to allow the younger generation to become the kings and queens.

My conclusion is simple and comes in two forms; Our parents are the past, we are the present and our children are the future. Our parents were the kings and queens once, we are the kings and queens now and our children will be the queens and queens in the future.

As I write this, my thoughts stray to another – how will the future of the people around me fair? How will my future of my own child be when my future is his present?

I am, by all means, stricken by the ideology that we are consumed by our own lives, too engrossed in the insight of our businesses that we don’t understand the veracity of the truth; we never stop to worry about the future of the others around us. We live in the moment, the present as how it is, with the people we are with, rather than stop to share our plans with someone we don’t know.

Our lives are intertwined and each day, we share our future with different people as how we did our past and do our present but we never notice because we are only consumed by ourselves.

You never know that the man sitting next to you on the train could be professor of one of your classes in university, or that he could be the man who saves your life when you’re in a dire need of help. We share our moments only with ourselves but never together, only focusing on individualism that should, while exist, coexist with others.

The past, present and future are ours, but we should share it between ourselves while we are still the kings and queens of our time. When we allow the next generation to take the world on, we are no longer but followers of their reign as they take on positions that once used to be ours.

My past has always been a shadow of my being today, but my future will always be good because of the things I’ve learned the hard way before. I stand now in this time and moment with the hands of only a few beside me but as time progresses, perhaps more will be there or less will but it is always good to share my future with someone I perceive to be good for me, no matter the time or place.

Looking At The Bigger Picture: Untold Soliloquies

I’ve always looked upon others with a simple question; why?

To a person unknown to me, it would seem bitter and heartless but from my perception, it seeks out the truth from what I only see. Looking at the bigger picture, I see what actions say as opposed to the words that only speak little.

My life has a single meaning to it; to strive for what I want despite the setbacks of anything and everything – but what does it mean to others? What do the lives of others mean to me? In all of honesty, very few people have a special place where I keep them but it matters not because there will always be space for others.

Albeit, looking at the bigger picture of my meets in life, I have become wary of allowing a significant number of people into my life but only because I have lost more than I can imagine. The lives of the people who were once very dear to me are now lost souls – living or dead – but lost, nonetheless.

The bigger picture is this; caution is what I keep by me always.

Everyone you meet has a story – be it a sad one, depressing, happy or tragic – we are all entitled to our own story. However, as strangers who pass you everyday, we are unaware of their bigger picture, the one that hides all truth and only speaks through words. We are, by our subconscious, ignorant and nonchalant to the likes of others who do not matter to us.

So this article is mainly, for those who have stories untold and unread.

I was walking down the streets in the city once when I stopped to watch a young man in a suit offer a bedraggled elderly woman in tattered clothes some money. To the public eye, they could only come to two conclusions; the man is kind and the woman is homeless.

It was, however, only a general statement. I stood where I did and asked one simple question; why? 

Why was the man so kind, and why was she homeless? In these situations do we look upon the words and stories not spoken and ask the questions about the people who do not matter to us. Many looked on the woman, some offering her money without giving her another glance but have many wondered why was she placed in such a predicament?

The life of the elderly woman is of no concern to me, but her bigger picture was, however, a question. The young man, suited and seemingly well-off, took thirty seconds off from his busy day to dig into his pocket for small notes of cash to offer to a woman who mattered not to him.

Why?

Did he at one point of time feel and experience life the way the woman did, or was he brought up to understand the hard work that had brought him where he was today? Was he, by any chance, a kind man not by oppression from society and parents but by choice and past experience?

These lives are the ones with stories untold from the start. Soliloquies that only they themselves understand.

We come to the general conclusion of situations when we know not of the truth behind every action and every word. We do not choose to see what is not shown because it is easier to not question why when the people involved do not matter to us. We do not question for reasoning but yet choose to come to a conclusion only obvious to the public eye.

I have spent days alone enough to think of what it means to understand the meaning of the bigger picture. It is as often, hidden by nature or sometimes by choice, but hidden mostly because vulnerability is threatened. Exposing your story can cause both positive and negative reactions – both to be expected from human nature – but just because it is hidden does not mean one does not question it.

We are too engrossed with our own lives to bother knowing the lives of others but with every step, you pass the chance of knowing a different story as how you pass strangers without questioning the simple question of why?

I have, by all means, discovered the true meaning to my life ever since I underwent a ten-minute talk about differences and bigger pictures, courtesy of my father whom I had learned from to accept and understand people from different walks of life. It is by this discovery, that I understood why I do what I do.

This larger insight on a person’s life is more than stories that changes a person, even if it does not matter to you. I could have walked away the day I saw the suited man and elderly lady but instead, I chose to stay and watch because it changed what I thought about the people around me. I was given a chance to question a man’s actions and a woman’s well-being because without it, I would have not understood what it meant to be in both their shoes.

Both their lives may not have mattered to me, as how I would not have mattered to them but the bigger picture, however, intertwines us all into a story in itself.

And we must always question the story.