Confronting Grief

Natalia Wimberley/

On the 22nd of January, things as we knew them changed forever.  When contemplating how I should write this personal essay, I asked myself, is there a poetic way to recall how a 20-year-old died in his sleep?

gravity of loss

It was a Sunday morning when the news started to propagate in our messenger boxes. One simple sentence that would change our perspective on life permanently.

“Guys, I have bad news… Miguel passed away.”

My heart sunk. I felt nauseous at the sight of this text. So, I call my mum, crying and sobbing. She’s in shock and disbelief.

weight of it all

The next few days are dedicated to feeling a heavy and foreign weight on my chest – the weight of grief and bewilderment. The following week is likewise devoted to endless hours of struggling incessantly to focus on university work. 

How did he die? Was it a dodgy drug? Did he drink too much? Was it a natural cause? But how does a perfectly healthy 20-year-old die naturally?

The autopsy results hadn’t been released. Every day passes, in which I am calling friends seeking comfort and solace during the day, while having nightmares related to loss during the night.


My friends, my parents and I attend the wake. Preceding this funerary ritual, I ask my mum, “have you ever been to a twenty-year old’s wake?” Questions like these make me feel I am trapped in a claustrophobic and bizarre fever dream, one where I cannot discern what reality truly is.

I walk into the sombre room. I approach his distressed mum. A powerful and incredibly intelligent mother, who recognised me, despite us having met only briefly 3 years ago. Who, despite the unthinkable news, carries herself with an unbelievable grace. I hug her and tell her that her son was, and still is, very loved.

I see his best friends walk into that wake in sheer disbelief. They stand in front of his coffin, and weep. No longer grieving him, I mourn for them. I weep for the brother they have lost. I tear up because had he been my best friend, my world would have frozen too.


One of his best friends, Jan, bravely and impressively makes a speech at the funeral. “We must continue to live our lives and enjoy, because that’s what he would have done”

So, we attempt to honour that promise and cherish the life we’re fortunate enough to live when he wasn’t.

After what seemed like one of the heaviest and most depressing two hours of my life, confined within those walls of the church and listening to Spanish prayers, we go to a bar and celebrate all the joyful moments we spent with you. We commemorate how unique and special you were. We start smiling for the first time that day, followed by moments of crying again.


Dear Miguel, I want to thank you for bringing us together. I am eternally grateful for the moments in which you made everyone around you smile.

On a less optimistic note, I wonder where you are now.

I’ve never been strongly religious, but now I constantly question if finally, there is indeed an afterlife. If so, is heaven fun? Are you feeling lonely? Is your spirit reincarnated into another living vessel? How did you feel in your last minutes of life? Were you awake at all?


Henceforth, what do I do with this information? How do we live knowing tomorrow is disgracefully not promised? How do we continue naively enjoying our lives while simultaneously acknowledging that our friends will not necessarily always surround us?

This is something I have yet to comprehend and absorb. I do not know how to carry the weight of such precious, yet cruel information.

The saying “rest in peace” is of utmost importance and brings the remaining family members and friends a feeling of tranquillity. So, rest in peace, my friend. Even though you did not need that peace. You were still so full of life.

you were always…

Your energy was contagious, your smile warmed our hearts, your tireless desire to play reggaeton and flamenco at parties made us dance. You were not ill and did not seek that infinite amount of peace. Yet you were cruelly and so abruptly taken away from your family and friends. But simply because tradition calls for this saying, I too will say: rest easy.

We will never forget you.

About the Article

An examination of one’s feelings after a personal loss of an irreplaceable soul.

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