Three months now since the passing of McCrae. Three months and so many of the same feelings remain. Bewilderment. Shock. Heartache. At the same time, new feelings have emerged. My sadness has transitioned to grief. “Deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.” Or a better one I found, “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” I was appreciative of the open-casket wake, and funeral that followed, because it gave exactly what it was supposed to: clarity. I saw what looked almost like my friend in that casket. Just missing his smile, color, and charisma. I touched his cold corpse, and felt the absence of his life. While this was painful, it was necessary. It made it clear to me that McCrae was gone. There was no denial, and there was nothing I could tell myself to change that reality. It was evident. It was tangible. What I mistook however, was thinking it gave me closure. Why does our sadness after a loss turn to grief? Why do those undeniable feelings become “conflicting feelings”? My initial answer is the tendency to compartmentalize. Being at school, I am often able to put my entire focus into the happenings my day. I can go hours, and often days without truly feeling the pain of McCrae’s loss. The way his loss affects me when I am at school does not compare to the grip it has on my mind when I am home. But they do arise regardless of where I am, even if their frequency is decreased. I am made to believe that while my pain does not and will never compare to the pain of his family, both in magnitude and sort, the feelings I am experiencing must be common. My most plaguing conflict is the constant back and forth between disbelief and awakening. At times I am in that same place as before the funeral. McCrae is not dead. I just haven’t spoken to him in a while. Even while I know that isn’t true, the thought persists. Then the reawakening to reality, which usually takes a buildup to reach or some triggering moment. I’ve repressed this pain so much that in order to feel it, I usually have to pull it out. I have to go sit in Elizabeth, Mac’s car, and think about him until it hits me. What’s even more tormenting is the fear that the circumstances of McCrae’s death have brought to us all. I am scared every time I see a person, let alone a friend, that falls while we are out, or people say just drank too much at a party. My reaction to this fear is often as irrational as the fear itself. I am thankful that it has made my friends and I more attentive and responsive to what could potentially go wrong, but it is that fear that most effectively brings that pain back to the surface. I have wiped away more tears from faces of my friends and myself that we ever should have at this age. And perhaps the most confusing aspect of my grief now is how initially McCrae’s death motivated me to be my best unconditionally. To push harder in that workout. To wake up earlier, to put myself out there more, to simply do more. And while many of those inclinations still hold true, as time passed they grew more inconsistent. I had no less desire to make McCrae proud. But there were some days when I just didn’t want to do anything. This is a conflict of grief that I have only begun to reconcile by recognizing it. And it is through continual acknowledgement of the loss that I have found some growth in all areas of my life it has affected, and what I believe to be the best form of acceptance and moving forward. It is true that “pain demands to be felt”. I have admired Dianne, Chris, and Chase because they have not denied themselves the pain that they feel. Dianne unapologetically showed her sadness to me as I prepared to take Elizabeth off her hands and through it, exhibited her love both for me and her son. Chase remains unafraid to confront his torment and visit his grave, even with me present. Chris’ grief much like theirs is one I cannot fathom, yet I see his willingness to invest into projects and to still do, though his heartbreak is visible in his eyes. I have no answer to the question how are they doing, for my perspective is my own and only from glimpses. But I can say that their willingness to be vulnerable and let others both be there for them and search for comfort with them has been a testament to their strength and love for McCrae, everyone he loved, and his memory. The tournament, gear, past and upcoming events that are being held are all proof to the person McCrae was to us all. It is no one’s place to tell any of us how to mourn, or how to remember him. But if you want some help, here are some things I suggest.
- Go in your car, and just BUMP to whatever gets you going. If it happens to be A$AP, T-Pain, Mario, or The Weeknd, then great.
- Go to the gym and prove everyone wrong. Squat higher, run faster, lift more, go longer.
- Invest your complete self into whatever it is you love for an hour. Turn off your phone and just do it.
- Be creative…write, draw, make something on the computer, or paint.
- Call someone up that you miss and meet up if you can. Otherwise, sit there and catch up.
- Tell that girl you have a crush on straight up.
- Shop at smile.amazon.com supporting the McCrae James Williams Foundation.
- Sign up for the CrossFit event this Saturday.
- Be you.