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Appreciating the Small Parts of Life: A lesson in Grief

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

The month of April brings a vast amount of feelings to me every year. The relief of knowing school is nearly over, spring has finally arrived with its (slightly) warmer weather, and the comfort of knowing summer is just around the corner. But it also brings bittersweet memories of two of my loved ones that I hold very close to me. The early days of April give me reminders of just how short life really can be. Losing someone close to you causes you to experience a lot of different and strange emotions. Sometimes they come back in various forms as time passes. From anniversaries of their passing, seeing pictures or videos of them, hearing someone speak about them, to finding an object that reminds you of them and their personality. 

I lost one of my older brothers on April 7, 2017. It was one of the first times I experienced a death so close to me. As someone with a lot of half-siblings, especially much older than me, I was not close with many of them, and he happened to be one. Despite this, I have fond memories from my childhood of him actively trying to be a part of my life more. Though this faded as I got older, he still remained the only one to reach out every once in a while. Whether it was running into each other randomly with his children, texting, or hearing through my cousins that he always asked how I was doing — I knew he cared for me more than one would think. 

Grieving my brother was more confusing because of this, however. I was made to feel guilty and undeserving of the emotions I had, all because I was not as close with him. A life lost is a life lost — a young one at that. Is that so unfair of me to grieve? He is still my brother. And in turn, I am now grieving the relationship I can no longer have with him. No more chances to talk, hang out, meet my niece and nephew, and see each other grow older. I loved him dearly despite our level of closeness.

Though I am not a very religious person, I do have a strong belief in the afterlife and the possibilities of connecting with loved ones who have passed. This only grew after the loss of my brother. Not long after his death, I went to bed normally and proceeded to have an extremely special dream in which I got to see him one last time. Throughout my dream I was having a very basic day. Towards the end, I was hanging outside my house with some friends, when I happened to see my brother walking around the corner of the street.

Ecstatic and shocked in my dream, I bolted towards him yelling out of happiness, “Chad! What are you doing here?” 

Reaching him, I gave him what felt like the most realistic hug I could ever imagine. To which he replied, “I just wanted to stop by.” 

My dream ended shortly after that, and waking up I knew that it was him saying goodbye to me. He did not live in my town at the time, I have not dreamt of him before, and I have not dreamt of him since. My genuine shock in the dream of seeing him, his response, and the hug was so realistic. I knew he was visiting me and I held that close to my heart. 

All my life I would hear the phrase “appreciate the little things,” but I never truly understood the meaning behind it until I lost someone so close, yet so far from me. You truly have no idea when someone may be gone, and before you know it, their existence becomes a whisper. It has been seven years since my brother passed, and I have learned to embrace the small doses of happiness that the world offers me every day since. 

A stranger in the store smiling at you, someone complimenting your outfit, or cuddling your pet. FaceTiming your best friend, spending mundane moments with a partner, or a game night with family. Feeling the ocean encase you at the beach, watching the sun paint pictures in the sky, and the flowers bud in the springtime. Walking past a shop whose smells return repressed memories or stopping to appreciate the sound of rain hitting the earth as a storm passes. We experience these situations almost every day and yet we let them go over our heads. When we focus on these, we can remember what it is like to be human and appreciate that we are simply alive.

I have learned to cherish every person that squeezes their way into my life. Every hug, smile, tear, laugh, and act of kindness I experience will forever be imprinted in me, because the hardest part of losing something important to you is filling the void that’s left in your heart after it’s too late to say goodbye. 

It is such a privilege to be able to live. Do not take it for granted.

Emma Richardson

U Mass Boston '24

Hello! My name is Emma and I am a senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I am majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. I also love reading, drawing, and going to art museums in my free time!