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For the girl I was honored to call my friend, the brightest light, forever with me.

The Story

2020: a year filled with the darkest and cruelest, most earth-shattering events that will ever occur in an individual’s lifetime. From the global pandemic to repeated racial injustices, there has been no place in between for a breath of air. Grieving became a common emotion among everyone. Many lost their jobs, homes, education and most devastatingly, their loved ones to COVID-19. Just like every other student, I was yanked from my campus before I could even understand the severity of the virus that we would be living with for the foreseeable future. Living in isolation for months, we could only dream about the day we would be able to get back to our normal lives as  college students. Like most students, there were very few reasons I could actually complain about the return to campus. Yes, there are no parties and yes, most classes are online, but I am healthy, back to some kind of normalcy, and everyone is in this together. When I first got back on campus, I was only really grieving the loss of my college experience, which is valid, but it was not until the afternoon of September 2, 2020, when my whole world was forced into perspective. It was an average day of classes, and my friends and I were taking a quick break to eat lunch, when I received the worst phone call of my life. I had never felt the feeling that I felt that afternoon, my heart at my feet, completely helpless. Frozen. I knew exactly at that moment: This is not a feeling any 20-year-old should face. I received the earth-shattering news that I had just lost one of my best friends. 

 

The Grieving

The first week was the heaviest. There were many moments where I was not sure what to do with my body nor my mind. It also did not help that we are still in the middle of a pandemic and there’s only so much comfort you can get from the people around you. Desperate for answers or some type of peace, I searched for words to help soothe my heart. There were a few things that helped a bit, so if you’re ever in this position—though I would never wish this upon anyone—I hope my words can resonate with you. It needs to be understood that grief comes in waves. It can be waves of anger, waves of sadness, even waves of happiness. This part was alarming to me, as in one moment I would be okay, but a little thing like seeing her car or hearing her laugh in a video would send me spiraling. During the hardest moments, I realized I held onto the feelings that my friend was still with me. Any sign was her. This might seem crazy to some who haven’t experienced grief like this, but to me, it was so comforting to feel like she was still here, helping me through the grief. When I sought out advice from people who had experienced similar grief, I learned the following analogy: You have a box and a ball. The box is the idea of time, whereas the ball symbolizes grief.  When you first start to grieve, the box is the smallest it will ever be, and the ball is a snug fit into the box. As time goes on, the box grows larger while the ball remains the same. This describes how although grief will never go away, the spirit of the person will never leave you, nor will the memories ever really fade, it does get better. The waves become further apart. So, if I am able to reach at least one person when I say this: Healing and progress are in no way linear. Love everyday like there is no tomorrow and hug your friends a little closer.

 

Ava Johnson

Alabama '21

My name is Ava Johnson and I am from Jupiter, Florida. I am currently a junior at the University of Alabama, majoring in Anthropology, with a minor in Psychology and Computer Science! I really enjoy being outside, learning all about space, and meeting new people.
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