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The New Me: The Me Without You

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Grief changes you. If you have never experienced the true pain of it yourself, it can be hard to really understand just how true that statement is.

If someone told me the death of my brother would have made me into the person I am today, the person who is so unimaginably different from who I was before, I wouldn’t have believed it. I always thought grief made you into a slightly sadder person, maybe someone who appreciates the value of life that little bit more, and definitely a person who values photographs like gold dust. But I never, ever, imagined that grief could actually twist, snap and break my personality and everyday life into a new and completely unrecognizable shape. But it can, and it has.

Before the crash, I was someone who loved to be busy. Productivity and achievement were vital to me. I’d read all of my university reading six months before the semester, I was going to the gym six times a week and sticking to a strict diet, and I was agreeing to every possible extra shift at work. I always had a long to-do list, and I loved it. I thrived on it.

But then you, my 16-year-old brother, were taken from us. Everything stopped. I knew it would. I expected the first few weeks/months to be a time of constant agony. I knew I would miss university lectures, and the ones I did attend, I knew I would take minimal amounts of information in. I knew I wouldn’t want to work at all or even get dressed. So I didn’t. I expected this. I’d planned on it happening after we were told.

But what I didn’t plan was the over-six-months mark. I thought it would be that little bit easier after six months. I guess that’s because I’ve not experienced sudden, tragic death like yours before. But it wasn’t, and it isn’t. I just assumed I would always be a sad person now, that I would always have this constant ache inside now that you’re gone. But I didn’t realize how much it would actually change who I was.

Now I struggle to leave the sofa to get dressed or shower. I miss university sessions frequently. I only seem to manage one gym session a week, at best. My diet isn’t what it used to be. I can’t focus or concentrate. I can’t remember anything. I can’t feel anything. Everything is numb, and then it just hurts. I spend hours thinking about how to end it all whenever I’m alone. I can’t sleep. I get fed up of small talk. I have panic attacks because a shop gets a little bit busy, or because I can’t decide what present to buy for a birthday. I feel overwhelmed by the uni workload now. I don’t agree to extra shifts but feel guilty for days afterwards. I overthink everything. I’m on six different types of medication every day. I can’t be bothered to make an effort anymore. I just want to lie and do nothing at all. I just want my head to be quiet. I just want you back.

But what I have to keep trying to remind myself, and what other people keep reminding me, is that despite all of those things — I am actually doing pretty well. My brother died over eight months ago, and I am still here. I am getting out of bed and getting dressed, irrelevant of what time I do it. I do manage to attend most university sessions, and I try to keep up with the workload. I’m ahead of myself; I still have three months to get next semester’s reading finished. I haven’t missed any deadlines yet or needed the extension I’ve been offered. I’m managing to go to work regularly and to go to the gym when I feel like it. I’m eating. I managed to get a first class degree. I’m now studying for my Master’s. I’m sustaining friendships and socializing. I still make to-do lists, it’s just that my lists are a little shorter now and I often abandon them in favor of crying because I miss you.

I have no idea how, but I’m actually managing to survive. It’s a slow, empty existence without you, but it’s an existence nonetheless. I am still managing to live. Even if it is completely different to how my life used to be, I have to keep telling myself I should be proud. That you would be proud. Every day I manage to survive the pain of being without you and manage to do something. Maybe that something is making my bed and then watching TV all day and crying. Maybe that something is going to work or researching for an essay. Whatever it is that I manage to do, I need to try and tell myself I am doing amazingly just for doing something. Anything.

So, grief has changed me. Completely, entirely and greedily. Grief chewed to pieces the strong, confident, proactive person I used to be and left behind this anxious, panicked and hurting new version of myself. Nothing could ever be as painful as losing you, so maybe I somehow actually can learn to live with the pains and struggles of the new me. The me without you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Getty image by Moussa81

Originally published: November 24, 2017
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