How Grief Prepared me for 2020

If I had to explain how grief feels, I’d describe it as having chronic diarrhea that occurs in your central nervous system instead of your asshole. You’re walking down the street and all of a sudden, it hits. You pause and realize there’s something not sitting right with you inside and it’s stirring up all kinds of feelings. You continue to walk and focus on acting very calm, so you don’t alert anyone of your issue. You start breathing exercises, and this helps you hold it together. With each step you pray you make it back to your apartment as quickly as possible. Once home, you run straight to the bathroom, lock the door, and immediately let it all out. It is a relief to unload, but then you begin to worry your roommates heard your wailing. Your clean towels are now ruined, covered with streaks. Your body is physically spent after squirting out everything possible it can produce. You tell yourself that no one can truly know what went on in the bathroom. If you told your friends details of what you were dealing with internally, they’d be speechless. There are things that provide temporary relief, but you know you have a burning hole and it will follow you for the rest of your life. Grief feels like shit.

We can all agree that 2020 is shit. It’s bad, but I’m getting through it. The events I experienced in 2019 have prevented me from completely crumbling present day. Last year was shave-my- head-hit-a-car-with- an- umbrella-tell everyone-I’m winning-and-have-tiger’s blood type of year for myself. I’m able to hold it together today because I have a grotesquely strong support system and am lucky to be part of an amazing community that literally has my back. Last April, I lost a very important person in my life. The best ex boyfriend turned best friend I will ever have, Eugene. Losing him was as painful as when I was ejected from a golf cart and busted my head open. For the record, I endured a traumatic head injury and continue to date men that cry because they overpaid for headshots. After Eugene was gone, it definitely affected me and I experienced pain, but the full scope of the loss and grief didn’t set it until a year later, present day. Now I am a self proclaimed expert on grief and writing blog articles.

Currently the entire world is experiencing grief, and I found it an appropriate time to share my two cents and hope that my run on sentences will offer encouragement during such a dark time. It is also Eugene’s birthday and I always feel compelled to write something to honor how amazing he was and show how meaningful our relationship was through art and end up dry heaving through tears in my laundry hamper. It’s like if Eugene was 9/11 ( September 11, 2001 traumatic event in American History) and I’m sitting down September 11, 2012 trying to write about all the special times I had inside the twin towers. It’s emotional. I think about how many times I’ve attempted to write about us during quarantine and it’s just a montage of ugly crying in various parts of my apartment with an animal print towel drenched in mascara.
The furthest I can get is a log line of the relationship. Eugene and I met six years ago when I first moved to New York City. It was one of the first times I used a dating app and I matched with him based on his profile picture: a handsome guy doing a stand up set ( spoiler alert this becomes a problem later in my life). We had one of the best first dates, if not best, I’ve ever experienced. I always noted this fact years later whenever I would cry to him about my horrible dates and romantic issues. In a relationship and friendship dynamic we had the dumbest fights. We broke up after I sent a seething text about him hanging out with “slutty versions of Daria at the beach”. We would get into disagreements as friends and go months without speaking, one time after he told me he was going to take a class on crowd work. I shared my opinion on paying for a class teaching one how to interact with an audience, and we both had absurd heated reactions. We would always make up and he would be there by my side throughout the years and provide an essential foundation for me to survive in New York. We did fun things. We would get brunch, go to the theater specifically to see “thrillers”, get super stoned and write screenplays about our relationship, and exercise together. He made artisan cocktails for my girlfriends on my birthday, and remembered every single insult from my roast and would repeat these for years. He was there for each heartbreak, usually over the same toxic guy. He would literally leave whatever he was doing, jump on a train, and meet me if I was crying then cook a meat-heavy meal and encourage me to eat. We would FaceTime after every stupid date I went on, or just FaceTime to do stupid bits and giggle together. We have so many inside jokes together, to this day one pops in my head and makes me stop in my tracks. We would always make plans and then on the phone in a valley girl voice say, “ let’s just cancel”. Every single time I make plans with someone I hear him and I just want to tell that person “let’s just cancel”. He gave me so much insight and advice, on issues I finally have clarity on now, like bad relationships or my self worth. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. When I experience hardships now, or interact with a dud of a guy, I hear his encouraging words. He encouraged me to do “better” and “smarter” comedy. He would come to every one of my shows and after each one say “ not my type of humor”. It is really hard to experience life without him. I want his advice during tough times, and I want to share accomplishments when things are good. I miss his shady commentary on the world and would love to hear his hot takes on this pandemic.

**

If I can survive 2019, I feel hope that normal people can pull through this pandemic and 2020.

Everyone is experiencing grief of their own, small losses and big losses, and accepting this impact takes daily energy. In my experience, once things are completely stripped away, that’s when we have clarity. We see gratitude, our passions, the goals we never accomplished, and the people who we love and most importantly the people who love us. We are forced to work and fight to keep these things in our life and grow.

To be honest, it’s really annoying. I am not disciplined enough to write a self help book on grief, but I have compiled a list below of things I learned in 2019 that might help others survive 2020/ get me on Oprah’s podcast one day:

  • Surround yourself with people that lift you up, cut out toxicity
  • Candlelit yoga is good for toning, staying fit, and a safe space to bawl in darkness to cool music surrounded by expensive candles. The yoga classes are also expensive.
  • The idea of a birthday party at a strip club is better than the actuality of the event, also on this subject throwing parties isn’t always a great solution to problems.
  • Vaping is actually….not cool?
  • Cigarettes: cool in highschool, weekends in college, or when your significant other is out of town
  • Supporting and encouraging other women is a lot more fulfilling than being jealous of literally anyone else that is female because some emotionally unavailable dude makes you feel insecure about yourself all the time and the only thing you’ll ever get from these types of men is an e-mail asking if your 90 minute episode of a Sex and The City podcast about red flags in dating is about them while you’re grieving the death of your best friend.
  • Let yourself heal from trauma before jumping in the dating pool again, you will only get material for a maximum of three open mics and spend $50 on Plan B
  • Having four paintings of the empire state building in your bedroom is a design aesthetic called “industrial single”, a great activity when experiencing grief is redecorating
  • All the different ways one can try to “solve” or escape grief don’t really work. All you can do is embrace the loss, let the person influence positive things you do: your art, your own growth. You can still receive life lessons when they’re gone.

**

Eugene and I had a recurring inside joke we’d always say, “right under our nose”. I still have the picture he sent of a sketch of us holding hands under a nose as a “literal representation…get it?” Whenever we’d complain about relationship issues we’d always joke and be like, “what if all this time it’s just been…right under our nose?”. The main lesson I have learned the past year, besides grief is like diarrhea, is this inside joke holds up. To lose someone that pushed you to be your best, loved you when you didn’t love yourself, is hard. Especially when it was right in front of you the entire time. However, all this time it was right under your nose and it will always be there. That doesn’t go away.

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Heather Ann Harrison is a southern bred comedian/actor/writer trained at the Annoyance theater NYC originally from Raleigh, North Carolina

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Heather Harrison

Heather Harrison

Heather Ann Harrison is a southern bred comedian/actor/writer trained at the Annoyance theater NYC originally from Raleigh, North Carolina

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