“Grief changes people. It makes them trust less, overthink more and deeply regret what never was”
John and I were great friends toward the end of our sophomore year of college. We walked and talked almost daily, our campus filled with farms and woods that made it magical. We could talk about anything. As we were both readying to go home for the summer, me in Fords, he in south Jersey near Cherry Hill, we talked about what we thought our friendship could become. We decided that we would continue to talk over the summer and decide by the time the school year began, if we wanted to take it another level. We both were seeing other people and knew we would need to deal with that at some point. For now, we were thrilled being friends.
Two days before moving back to campus John and I decided we would break up with the people we were seeing and allow our relationship to grow. We couldn’t wait to see each other back at school. I never got to see him. The day before we moved back to school he was killed in a motorcycle accident. I wasn’t even sure how to react. My room mates knew the friendship he and I developed and were all supportive of me and my rants, tears, and astonishment. My boyfriend never saw any of that, he had no idea except that a friend of all of ours was killed.
I remember parts of his memorial service. I got there right before it started and settled in the back of the chapel where nobody could really see me. I walked into the beginning of Freebird, our generations’ perfect song about being free and going home, where ever home would bring you. I had had a number of cocktails before I got there, to numb the pain I was feeling. His best friend Chris spotted me and came and got me. He wasn’t going to let me blend into the woodwork, I was going to sit with him and his girlfriend up front. I don’t remember much more except that I cried, I laughed and I was changed forever.
Grief took over. Yet I couldn’t show why this grief to this degree was felt by me because I shouldn’t have felt it this deeply. I trusted everyone less, I kept my mouth closed about a lot. I thought a lot about what should have been, what could have been. I was convinced that John was for me, that we would have had what has eluded me since. The forever love, the deep connection, the best friend who is always in your corner, I knew John could have been all of that to me. Or grief made me believe that. Deeply regretting the relationship we wanted and never had, but talked about.
After my brother died, which was 18 years after John, I trusted even less. By this time, I had already gone through John’s death, my divorce and now my brother. So much grief, so little trust. I no longer trusted people’s word, I didn’t trust any men and I became paranoid. I found that I was scared when people I loved were late. I assumed they were dead on the side of the road. I used to think perhaps I got that “panic and think the worst” thing from my mom. That was her reaction. Too many things and people taken away before they should have been, or before I knew they should be. My mom must have had that reaction from her grief as well. Trust everything and everyone less. Regret everything that wasn’t said, that didn’t happen, that wasn’t done.
Through this year of loss and my grief, I trust even less, I overthink even more and I regret far more deeply. I regret opportunities that were missed, time spent working instead of living life, words that were never shared, people I hurt. I overthought everything from friendships and silly comments to things people did or didn’t do. I didn’t trust what people said they felt, I regret those I did trust who didn’t mean it.
Grief does change a person. Time helps a person reclaim some of that trust, create peace in their mind and heart and focus on the here and now. Grief changes you one way and time helps you to grow from that change.
As I move through the first year of mom being gone, that peace is starting to come to my heart. Grief does change you; love and time allows you to process that change and begin to grow.