I often find myself thinking of an interview Andrew Garfield did on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert about Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021) and grieving his mother. He opened up about how he “hopes this grief stays with” him and how grief is “all the unexpressed love” you have for someone who has passed. I couldn’t agree with him more. 

I have lost quite a few people in my lifetime, many of whom were young—and as hard as that experience is, I want to feel the grief from those losses for the rest of my life. In a lot of ways, I believe grief is a sign of just how much those people impacted my life. How human connection can be so powerful, even after death. How our memories are keeping people alive forever. 

I lost my best friend from high school when she was seventeen, and I was only eighteen myself at the time. I never planned to live into adulthood, so I didn’t think I would ever lose anyone around my age. I remember getting home from school and opening up Facebook to find tributes to her. That is how I found out she had died. I so vividly recall each second of that discovery and feeling like my heart broke into a hundred little pieces in an instant. She was the kindest, most wonderful person I had ever met, and her not being able to smile at me again seemed like the end of the world. But the world kept spinning and I was so angry at it for that. 

Despite how hard that was and how desperately I wish she wasn’t gone, I would rather feel the grief than nothing at all, because this is the living memorial to how wonderful she was. I am a testament to the power of her love. I still think about her every day, even though she passed almost eight years ago. I can still vividly picture myself being upset at a school dance and her shimmying up to me and wrapping her feather boa around my neck to get me to join her. How I laughed so hard I thought my chest would collapse. How she smiled at me so brightly I thought she could act as a flashlight in the dark. 

I remember talking to her mother during the calling hours and how she hugged me so tight I thought my ribs would bruise, and how I didn’t mind it at all. How it felt like she was holding my body together in her embrace. How she held my face and told me “my daughter loved you with everything in her. And if you can’t find the light, think about her. She’ll help you find it again. That’s how I keep living, and it’s how you will too.” I broke down in her arms and the two of us just let ourselves fall apart and start coming back together. And we did; we came back together, albeit a little more crooked than before. 

And so I keep living. And I keep remembering. And I keep crying and laughing and hurting and feeling joy because my friend needs me to do that. Because there was nothing more she loved to do than to make people smile and to let people feel. Sometimes the world feels like it has less oxygen without her, and then I recall her singing Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle”, and I think, “It just takes some time.” And I breathe, and I give myself some time.