Breeality Bites

In Death, We Have to Learn How to Grieve for Others Who Are Grieving

What do we do when we need to grieve for others when they experience loss? It feels like a never-ending process, sitting outside of a person you love and watching them walk through their bereavement, trying to comfort them but knowing there isn't much you can say or do to change or uplift the situation.

Last week, my boyfriend lost one of his best friends seemingly at random, a health-related situation that took this person's life out of nowhere at a relatively young age. As I watched him deal with the unexpected loss I tried to do what I could to comfort him, but it felt and still feels pointless. As a person who prides herself on being a caregiver to my partner, what could I do when I couldn't do the one thing he really wanted, which was bring this person back to the world?

See also: Remaining humble in the face of tragedy and the weird, emotional world of the Internet

I lost a friend in this person, too. But the bond he and my boyfriend had was something deep and tangible; though they lived in different states, they saw each other a few times a year and had several hours-long phone calls a month. They were friends yes, but musical collaborators first -- they created art together and were in the midst of starting a business together. His friend was not only his partner in art, but his mentor.

When someone dies out of the blue like this, it is as if they are ripped from the roots of everything they had been working on and towards. Strangely, a week prior to his death, our friend had seemingly wrapped up a few projects he had been working on. We got word from other friends that made music with him that he had sent over final tracks of albums. He and my boyfriend were able to meet in another state where neither of them are currently living, by an unexpected stroke of luck and schedules aligning. They were able to have one last big meeting for the business they were starting and played one last show together as a band. None of it was really planned, it just sort of happened. It was like he was making sure everything was right before he left forever.

Looking back it seems like kismet. Those last few moments were big and important ones that almost didn't happen because they were both busy people. But they made time when they were able to. Now, we've begun to talk about those seemingly minor events as if they were a fateful last chance for my boyfriend to see his friend before he departed.

When we lose someone, we tend to coin the experiences we had with them, encapsulating stories into permanent memories of how that person was, no longer how they are. Personality traits and habits become miniature testaments to the type of person they were -- maybe they were late all the time and though it was aggravating then, once they are gone it becomes something you miss. As my boyfriend grieves, I've listened as he cycles through these memories over and over. I've overheard him listening to old voicemails and scrolling through Instagram to hear and see his friend again. I've been there when he's wanted to call his friend for advice like he always did, only to realize there is no longer a person attached to that phone number.

It's strange how someone dying forces us to pull back our scope and widen our field of vision to look at a person as a whole lifetime of events. We've been looking back at our friend's creative body of work -- it is quite a legacy -- and are now quantifying and qualifying every piece of music he worked on. It kind of makes me wish we had done that when he was alive, asking him more about his trials and tribulations as a musician trying to get by while doing something he really loved.

Actually, it kind of sucks to think that sometimes, we don't examine and celebrate the work our friends do before tragedy leaves us wanting to create a version of them to hold on to after they pass. But we're lucky to have been left with so many ways to connect to our friend -- he recorded dozens of albums and there are countless photographs and video footage of his work. Still, grieving takes time. My boyfriend and I have done a lot of sitting in the car crying because a song comes on the radio and reminds us of our friend. I've listened as my partner fights back tears to tell another great story about the person he lost. But mostly, I've just been around. There's no bringing back someone we've lost, but just being there while my partner allows himself to feel sad while celebrating our friend's life is the best way I've found to help someone else grieve.

Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies