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How to become un-lost

Grappling for meaning as a human and a writer in the aftermath of grief

By Bri CraigPublished 6 months ago Updated 5 months ago 4 min read
Runner-Up in #200 Challenge
How to become un-lost
Photo by Chetan Kolte on Unsplash

Content Warning: Death.

~

I cried the first morning I woke up in 2024.

I cried because I was so immensely grateful that 2023 was finally over.

Finally.

My 2023 had begun with unexpectedly losing my sister-in-law (and friend of eight years). I've lost others in my life, but my closeness to her and her family put me into a position of close proximity with her death. In the aftermath of her passing, I spent more time lingering in the most intimate moments of grief.

There was intimacy in helping. I helped peel the bloodied sheets off her bed. I helped sorted through her childhood memorabilia. I helped go through her Facebook pictures to find a good one for the funeral.

There was intimacy in watching. I watched my husband learn what his sister's body bag looked like. I watched two parents bury their child. I watched a friend sob as he dug a grave for the first time.

Needless to say, the beginning of my 2023 felt like crawling through mud. Everything felt profoundly slow, and heavy. And somehow time keeps trekking forward. And despite the gloomy shadow of loss, a handful of wonderful things also happened to me in 2023. And that left me feeling so damn confused. How do you grapple with a year that is full of such incredible highs and lows all at once?

It was a year of so many firsts, both good and bad:

First birthdays without her.

First time buying a home.

First holidays without her.

First time publishing a book.

First time waking up without feeling so damn heavy.

I've never been able to properly reconcile my thoughts about 2023. Even as I write this, I've yet to figure out how to weigh the undeniably bad against the unexpectedly good. But the calendar (ruthless, wonderful thing that it is) has kept pushing me forward.

And now it's 2024.

In a week, I will have made it through a year without her. I'm told everything gets easier after a year (I believe it). I am in one piece. I still laugh. I am alive. So what do I do now with this soft and precious life?

I spent nearly a year feeling lost. Grabbling for meaning in the wake of remembering that life is both long and short. That there is no such thing as a promised day on Earth. There is only today, only now, and only this moment with the ones you love.

So in 2024, I vow to hold on tightly to the people and things that bring me joy and comfort. I want to hug my friends. I want to call my family more. I want to laugh over wine with my husband. I want to lay on the couch with my cats.

And also, I would love to write with abandon once more.

I think somewhere along my career as a writer, I shrank into a certain sensitivity. With everything collapsing around me, I found myself paralyzed by criticism, and weighted by the pressures of perfection. I even found it difficult to write my grief into words, in fear that I wouldn't talk about it "eloquently enough."

Eventually, all of these feelings culminated into utter and complete writer's block. So I stopped writing.

And then I was completely lost.

My sister-in-law was a stubborn, fiery woman with a soft spot. I think if I had the opportunity to tell her how I was feeling, she would laugh at me and say, "fuck that." And honestly, I believe she'd probably go on to change the subject, believing that saying "fuck that" fully encompassed all that needed to be said.

And she would have been right.

Fuck that = life is too short to stop doing the things you love.

So in 2024, I'll listen to her ghost. I'll write without wondering whether people will like it. I'll write about my grief without wondering whether I'm saying things "the right way." I'll slam my fingers on a keyboard and throw my writing out there before I can second guess myself.

For her.

And for me.

This includes the way I will choose to write on Vocal. I want to write entries for Vocal challenges again because I really like them, and because I've always loved the excuse to write more. For once, I won't worry about winning. I won't worry about Top Story. I won't worry about the external validation this platform excels at giving. I'll just use Vocal as it's intended, a place to write.

I've also found my mind bogged down with the concerns that I was harming myself by not writing myself into a "genre lane," both on Vocal and in general. But instead of fretting about whether anyone subscribed to me would be confused by the weird assortment of things I wrote, I should instead keep writing in the way that makes me happy, knowing that this in the end is what will be the best for my soul.

2023 reminded me of a few precious truths.

Life is short.

Life is hard.

Life is precious.

Life is wonderful.

And 2024 will teach me that it's okay to be happy again. It's okay to write and exist imperfectly. And it's okay to dedicate your time to what you love while you still have the chance.

Because, Fuck that.

humanityVocaladvice

About the Creator

Bri Craig

Bri Craig (she/her) is a variety pack writer. She enjoys writing poetry, webcomic features, humor, short stories, and personal anecdotes. Basically, neither of us will ever know what will be posted next!

Let's connect! More about me here.

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Comments (10)

  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock5 months ago

    Yep, Stephen is right. And now my subscription list has grown by another. How will I ever keep up? At least I get to read really good work. And yes, it does get easier because it's no longer the first time you've had to go through something without her. The grief & pain are never gone, but I can tell you after almost eleven years now, it is possible (& fairly frequent) to smile with the memories. Blessings to you & your husband & all yours, Bri.

  • Jazzy 5 months ago

    Aw yes I am so glad that Stephen brought this to my attention. You are an amazing writer and this was such an amazing homage in your sister-in-laws honor. Thank you for sharing this with us, and to echo sentiments expressed here, fuck what anyone things, do no harm, but take no shit.

  • D.K. Shepard6 months ago

    What a mix of grievous and monumental firsts. Good luck on your writing endeavors for 2024! And congrats!

  • Soooo happy you placed in the challenge!! Congratulations! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Raymond G. Taylor6 months ago

    Great moral for ending a year to forget and start afresh. Congratulations on your win

  • Hannah Moore6 months ago

    Yes! Write imperfectly! The grief of today and the grief of tomorrow will feel different, so you can never write it perfectly anyway.

  • I'm so sorry for your loss 🥺 Sending you lots of love and hugs ❤️ I'm so happy for what you've decided to do on Vocal because I always tell people to only write what they like and only write for themselves. Writing is very therapeutic and I hope it's that way for you too. I wish you all the best!

  • Babs Iverson6 months ago

    Poignantly written!!! Sending virtual hugs!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Brin J.6 months ago

    I'm so sorry, Bri. I can't imagine the pain you're experiencing. I lost my dad when I was sixteen, but he wasn't extremely active in my life... his loss was felt, but not as intimately as yours sounded. I think her advice is amazing "Fuck that" lol. I agree with her. You should absolutely stop worrying about how others will perceive your work. If the words need to come out, let them. If you want to refine them later for your own satisfaction, do it. If I learned anything since I've been writing, it's that holding in what you want to say impedes your ability to fully flourish as a writer. Not everyone needs to see what you write, but it should be written regardless. I think you're a beautiful writer, Bri. From the pieces I've read, I know your stuff will be loved either way. It's the tone in which you write that ensares readers, not the story itself- that's just a bonus. <3

  • Shirley Belk6 months ago

    Beautifully expressed

Bri CraigWritten by Bri Craig

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