Edit Desk: Grieving, not grief


Growing up, I always wanted a brother, especially an older one. While I’m so happy to have an amazing sister, I still always longed for a brother. 

What I had instead was a cousin.

Cliff was my cousin, but I always felt like saying “cousin” was selling him short. He presumed the role of a cousin, brother, best friend, tutor and overall someone who always supported me.

When he passed away, I had to learn how to live without someone who wore so many different hats in my life. 

What would my day look like without FaceTiming him? How would I figure out my statistics homework without consulting him first? What would future birthdays look like without our shared birthday cake at family gatherings? 

I had so many “what’s” and “how’s” that ultimately turned into a series of “why’s?” 

A month later, my study abroad program in Florence, Italy, began. At the time, I was unsure if being 4,000 miles away from home, family, friends and Lehigh would be feasible when so much was going on in my life. 

I knew that going forward with the program was something that Cliff would have encouraged, so I did just that. I traveled to Italy — and I’m so glad I did.

The next four months included some of the most memorable moments I have ever had, even though I was trying to navigate the uncharted territory of grieving.

Every weekend while I was in Europe I would travel to a new country or city. And every weekend I would text his phone number telling him what I was doing, who I was traveling with and where I was going. I knew there would never be a virtual response, but I instead heard from him in different ways.

In Portugal, I passed a restaurant that shared his initials. In Spain, I met someone who knew him from childhood. In Greece, I saw someone who looked exactly like him. 

And in Florence, my home for the semester, the signs of him and from him would flood in every single day, just when I needed them most.

The experience of traveling while grieving someone taught me there are signs in everything — you just have to be willing to look for them and know what to look for in the moment.

While I may never be able to call him again or beg him to read over my resume one last time, I know that Cliff is still with me everywhere I go.

Even now, he is still visiting me and sending me signs in unconventional, yet heartwarming ways.

I am still trying to navigate the grieving process. I know it is something that has no clear start or end date, but is rather my own personal journey. 

I like to think about it as grieving rather than grief because grieving doesn’t stop — it is continuous. 

I realized there is always something to see, something to try, someone to meet, something to say and something meaningful in everything. There are a multitude of things I still have yet to learn, but bringing Cliff along on the journey is what matters to me most.

As my birthday approaches this month, I know I’ll smile fondly thinking of the memories that we have had but will always wish that his name was still on the birthday cake, too. 

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply