Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 21, 2021

Finding the beauty in moments of grief

By ZUBIA HASAN | February 20, 2020


The sun has not been out in days, the rain seems to never stop and the dull ache in your heart is a constant, ceaseless pounding. Letting go is one of the hardest things a human being has to experience, but letting go is probably also the most universally human experience. It is not possible to navigate life without loss or grief — so one day or another we all have to let go of something or someone.

I cannot give anyone answers on how to let go. For me there is no first step or last step or any steps in between. There is no magical moment or a gradual understanding. There is only this realization that I am grieving and I don’t know how long I will have to grieve for.

We are stories, you know. Every part of our body is marked by the stories. I can trace out a map on my body. Every part is accounted for. The mark on the right side of my lip is my sister warning me it is only going to get bigger, it is my mom telling me it is a beauty mark, it is my friends telling me not to get it removed, it is a person staring at it as if it’s the most beautiful thing they have ever seen.

The hair on my legs is my friend and I snapping a picture of our unshaved legs — “Not All Legs” we said as a reference to “Not All Men.” My left hand is a brown mole that appeared one day out of nowhere in the middle of my palm — that is my aunt telling me it is a mark of either great wealth or great poverty. My arms are the scars that withstood during my darkest times. My hips with stretch marks, a reminder of my body’s capacity to fill and fill and cushion me when I need.

And almost all of these parts are marked by stories with a person, too private to mention but too public not to write about. So letting go is hard because how can I let go when my body is nothing but stories and the written text of the person I want to let go of? How can I let go of arms and legs and limbs that make up me? If we are stories, then I cannot let go of my stories. I cannot let go of me.

So I guess it is not so much letting go of stories as it is letting go of the fact that they happened and may never happen again. It is letting go of certainty and future plans and more stories. It is knowing that you are marked and it is a beautiful marking that you have stored in a treasure chest of stories — each marking only makes it more ornate and beautiful. It is knowing that letting go of a person does not mean letting go of stories. It does not mean letting go of the parts of you that have developed because of them. You are you and you are whole.

My sister, always regal, always a queen, always so guarded and so careful and so so beautiful got married recently mashAllah. Two years ago I sat on my purple bedspread while she folded clothes standing in front of me. I remember every moment of that conversation. She told me to be careful with my heart. She told me to not be so vulnerable all the time. She told me to be guarded because that is the way you survive in a world so careless with hearts.

She just wanted to protect me. She saw how expressive I was, how ready I was to give love and this scared her. If my sister saw me right now, she probably would be justified in saying, “I told you so.” “I told you your heart is a precious commodity.” “I told you to guard your emotions under lock and key.”

To my sister, I love you and I respect you and I would do anything for you. But I disagree with you. I think a fitting response to the world which tries to beat the hardness in you is to remain soft. So I don’t think I will stop wearing my heart on my sleeve. I don’t think I will stop being vulnerable. I will not let the world harden me. I will experience love and heartbreak and friendship and all that being human has to offer. I will experience closeness and then I will experience letting go. So as I sit on my bed today, I welcome this grief, I let it wash over me. Even this I will make into something beautiful.

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