How to Deal With Grief as a Young Adult

Losing someone in your life and dealing with the grief that follows is one of the hardest struggles one can face.

Similarly, finding out your purpose and who you are in this world can also be very difficult and trying at times.

Combining those two adversities and experiencing them simultaneously can be overwhelming, defeating and so incredibly confusing.

This article is going to serve as an open discussion, an outlet and a place of comfort to help young adults dealing with grief. 

I lost my father when I was 16 years old. It’s a long story filled with many, many layers and details but I'll spare you the story and tell you it was and is very hard to deal with, as all deaths are.

I was just starting to learn real responsibilities and starting to grow as an individual. I was finding my interests and passions.

What is supposed to be this wonderful time in your life of fun and self-discovery was now pushed down by the weight of confusion, loss and regret. Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing memories and I have a blessed life, but this struggle is always something you carry with you - and I mean always.

You’ll have these great moments and remarkable milestones and you’ll feel such a high, as you should with experiences like graduating high school, earning that award or feeling butterflies toward another person.

You’ll get so caught up in the pure joy of those moments and then your day comes to an end. You slip into bed, close your eyes and then it starts.

Racing thoughts of, “I know they’re proud of me regardless, but I want them here. I want to hear them say they’re proud” or “I want their advice, I want their love, I want them to see how far I've come.” 

You can sit there and tell yourself that they do feel this way, and their watching over you with the biggest smile and fullest heart, but more often than not that never feels like enough. This may seem negative, but I want anyone reading this who deals with grief to know they aren’t alone, their feelings are valid and that these are normal and OK thoughts. 

Although feelings and emotions can seem like a problem, they can tell you a lot about yourself.

For the longest time, I didn’t allow myself to fully feel because I was scared of what it would do to me, and I just didn’t want to accept that my father was no longer alive.

Over time, I learned how to let the tears fall. I learned to scream, I learned how to feel and I learned how to allow my thoughts to spiral for a little while. In turn, I recognized how this made me feel a lot better after the fact.

In the past, I was under the impression that if I just didn’t think about the situation or my feelings toward it, it wouldn’t affect me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I bottled up my emotions or pushed them away, the slightest inconvenience would send me over the edge. I'd have a full-on mental breakdown and not know why.

Allowing myself to feel these emotions granted me the knowledge of parts of myself I had not known before and a better understanding of how I can make myself feel better.

It’s not every day that I have a cry session or scream into my pillow, because some days are far easier than others. But with that being said, some days are a lot harder. That’s when it’s important to not push your feelings and thoughts away but rather embrace and accept them, cry and feel for a little while, then get back on your feet.

Nothing can compare to hearing your loved one's voice in person. Although death can take this privilege away, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them.

I know, I know… you’re probably so overhearing from others, “they’re always with you in your heart,” because I was too.

Everyone tells you that this person is in a better place, but you can’t help but think, no. A better place is here, with me. That’s the selfish (but also OK) answer.

Then I began to think outside of that negative, and honestly saddening mindset and tried to accept the situation. He was gone, and I couldn’t do anything to change that.

I began to reach out to him and ask to talk. I’d sit in my room and talk out loud telling him about my day, what I'm stressed about or what I was looking forward to.

It felt weird at first, but the more I did it the more comfort and less alone I felt. I could feel him laughing about the silly situations I was in or feel his push to keep trying even when I wanted to give up so badly.

I wanted to talk to someone about it, but I never felt like I could. Not because I didn’t have anyone to talk to, but because no one really understands exactly how I feel about it, and sometimes I don’t either.

Death isn’t one of those topics you can talk about with someone and they can make you feel better about it, it just doesn’t work like that. Then I realized, who better to talk to than the person I lost?

I can be honest about how I'm feeling and feel like our relationship is continuing to grow. I even began to ask him for advice. I asked for specific signs to tell me if I should or shouldn’t do something, and he delivered.

Although it’ll never be as good as hearing their voice, talking and reaching out to them can surprisingly make you feel so much better and like a huge weight has been lifted off your chest. 

No matter what anyone says or how long it’s been, dealing with the death of a loved one is so traumatic and has so many layers to it.

Some days you feel so incredibly down and like you could drown in your tears, other days you feel so enraged that you feel as if your body is on fire, then some days you feel so unfathomably empty. However, with anything bad, there is also good, even if it's really, and I mean really hard to see.

Going through something like this can affect you in two ways: it can break you or it can shape you. For a while, it broke me. I was so lost and confused but after a year of dwelling, I looked at my life and told myself that I was going to make him proud.

I decided to transfer my energy to better my life. I joined clubs, earned leadership positions, changed jobs and started spending more time with my family. Without attempting to put my energy into positive activities, I truly don’t think I would’ve earned my spot here at theUF, and that’s my bright side to this situation.

Even though talking to other people doesn’t help  me with my feelings, listening to them sometimes does.

One of my favorite videos to watch is the TED Talk, “We don’t move on from grief, we move forward with it“ by Nora Mclnerny. She offers a great mindset on grief without being super depressing in the progress, she’s quite funny. I recommend watching this to anyone dealing with grief, as it helped me accept the situation and learn about what I'm feeling.

To those working through grief, remember that you are not alone and you are so much stronger than you think. You have already made it through your worst days, you can get through anything. You don’t have to move on from the grief and pain you’re feeling, you must learn to move forward with it.