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Embracing the beauty of grief

Every year, my Valentine’s Day is marked by a rollercoaster of emotions. On one hand, it's a day for joy and love. Hell, it’s even my parents’ wedding anniversary. But Valentine's Day is also another anniversary. 

Four Valentine’s Days ago, my friend, Alec, died of sudden cardiac arrest. 

So while the world spends Feb. 14 rallying around grand gestures of love, I’m left remembering fragments of one of the greatest losses of my young life. 

That’s not to say I’m a wreck every Valentine’s Day, just that it can be a little tough for me to fully buy into the love that's supposedly in the air. 

On the fourth anniversary of my friend’s passing, I found myself reflecting on the week that followed Alec’s death. I was struck by the amount of beautiful memories I have from that time. 

I spent so much time with my friends, but I barely remember even going to school. While I definitely remember the sadness and the pain, I also remember the love and the joy I felt with my peers. 

Initially, I thought it was strange to use the word beautiful to describe a period of such grief. But as I thought more about it, the word perfectly described the time.

From laying in a friend’s driveway gazing at the stars above our heads, to eating Chipotle as a group and laughing until we cried, to standing in an oddly comforting silence watching cemetery employees lower Alec’s casket into the ground. 

I had never thought of grief as being beautiful before. Transformative or even life-changing, sure. But realizing and accepting the beauty that exists within grief was eye-opening.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about grief. I thought I understood the complex web of emotions it's composed of, but I’d never accounted for its beauty.

And if you really think about it, grief has to be beautiful. It's a journey through the darkest parts of life. It teaches us lessons that no other experience can – and there’s an innate beauty in that.

Grief is a microcosm of life – and life is beautiful. 

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If there’s no beauty in grief, then how could I have such important and formative memories surrounding my experience with it? How could I solidify lifelong bonds with friends as we grieved the loss of one of our own?

The answer is simple: I couldn't have. Recognizing the beauty that is always present, even in the darkest of days, is the only way to find peace in your loss. 

So I’m choosing to remember the beauty in my grief. I’m choosing to remember the laughs I had during my tears. I’m choosing to remember the joy I found in my pain. 

And it won’t be easy all the time. It hasn’t always been easy these past four years either. 

Valentine’s Day will always be a challenge. But it's a challenge I will continue to overcome. 

Grief is a journey, and it's a damn beautiful one at that.