How I Learned That Grief Really Can Be Good

How I Learned That Grief Really Can Be Good

A Story by Gina Bisceglia

The worst day of my life began a little after 1:00 in the morning on May 14, 2004. My mom woke me to help her get my dad to the car. His pain was so great that he physically could not walk on his own, and it terrified me. For a few hours, I stayed home with my siblings while my mom took dad to the hospital, but by 6 a.m., our grandparents had picked us up, and we all gathered in the waiting room.

At the time, I was still in very serious denial that my dad’s life was in mortal danger. The doctors told us they were going to have to amputate his arm, in hopes that they’d be able to prevent the infection from spreading any further. We said goodbye to my dad (who was not conscious at that point), and I decided to go to school rather than sit at the hospital and drive myself crazy with the waiting. I had no idea I’d just seen him alive for the last time.

We as humans (and me in particular) have a rather innate need to control things. It’s what keeps us sane. We all need a constant. For me, that was my dad - but this story isn’t just about the tragic loss we faced. It’s about what happened after. Spoiler alert:

It got better.

It got worse first, though, and healing wasn’t a quick and painless process by ANY means. In fact, the process is still, and will ever be, ongoing. Fortunately, the thing about tragedy is that it often eventually leads to other, far more pleasant things. Don’t go thinking it’s easy, though - It takes a lot of time, a lot of work, a LOT of tears, and a giant mess of emotions that can never quite be whittled down to something eloquently and coherently stated in an essay. HOWEVER, if you have patience and a willingness to accept that instant gratification is not a thing when it comes to grief management, something wonderful can come out of a seemingly hopeless circumstance.

For me, personally, one of those wonderful things was my best friend, Audrey. Over the course of my 28-ish years, it’s become increasingly apparent that life is a series of choices; some mundane, some complex, but all important. Am I saying that deciding to make a grilled cheese sandwich instead of a ham sandwich could change the entire course of your life?


What if you burned your hand on the pan because you forgot it was hot (because if you’re anything like me, that WILL happen on occasion)? What if you then went to the ER for treatment of said burn? What if while in the ER, you struck up a conversation with someone else who was waiting for treatment? What if that person became your best friend? BAM! ENTIRE LIFE PATH: CHANGED.

Now, that’s not what happened to me. (Yet.) The story of how I met Audrey is a bit less dramatic and involves far less physical injury, but it’s still pretty extraordinary. Considering we live roughly 2,121.5 miles away from each other (not that I’ve Google-mapped it or anything), the fact that we ever met at all is an extraordinary thing. Whoever said real friendships can’t be formed over the internet clearly didn’t know that a shared love of a TV show is capable of creating a lifelong bond. It started with some good old-fashioned all-caps flailing over the characters and a LOT of ranting over the showrunner’s rather questionable choices, and now, 10 years later...well, we still do those things. But also, a kind of miraculous thing happened. She became a constant in my life.

I can’t pretend to know everything about the universe and all its mysterious workings, but there are a few things I’ve taken away from what my family and I have endured. One of the most important of which, I feel, is that ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. That one took me a while, and again, it’s something that takes constant work. (See what I did there? Heh, heh.)

My dad loved  life. He appreciated every moment he had, and I have learned to live in a similar way, as a sort of tribute to him. Yes, there will be days when I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. There will be days when I feel intense sadness and loneliness for reasons I can’t seem to pinpoint. What I’ve discovered is that even when we’re feeling our worst, there is a choice to be made. We don’t always have to feel empty and alone. We don’t have to let all those big, bad emotions consume us and rule our lives. We should, of course, allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel, but we also have the choice, no matter how bad things are, to keep moving forward. To appreciate every single second we’re given.

Whenever I feel all that icky stuff creeping in, I remember my dad, whose laugh filled up the whole room. I text Audrey, who I am convinced actually shares a piece of my soul. (We’re like Voldemort and his horcruxes, except, you know, not evil and stuff.) I think of my other constants - my family, and all the people who supported me through the greatest loss I have ever endured. I remember that every single choice could potentially change my entire life for the better, and I make the choice to keep going, even when it feels impossible. I decide to enjoy every possible moment. From losing my dad, I’ve gained the knowledge that the purpose of life is to love, as deeply and for as long as we’re allowed.


© 2017 Gina Bisceglia

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Good words. Thanks for sharing.

Posted 4 Years Ago

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Added on June 18, 2017
Last Updated on June 18, 2017
Tags: essay, personal essay


Gina Bisceglia
Gina Bisceglia

green bay, WI

Wordsmith, reading enthusiast, part-time zombie slayer, full-time nerd. more..