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Coping With Loss

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Native Max Magazine’s Kelly Holmes (Lakota) shares with us how she coped with losing her best friend.

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At only 26 years of age, I can say that I’ve had my share of struggles, difficulties, and anguish. It seems my life has always been a sort of rollercoaster of highs and lows. However, losing my best friend has been my biggest heartbreak so far.

I’d like to share with the readers of WIOT Magazine how I coped with losing a best friend, how I personally dealt with my loss and some thoughts on what can help you handle a loss.

I met her while we were waiting to play tetherball in 3rd grade. We were standing next to each other and I said something funny that had her laughing. From that moment on we became best friends, and shared a close friendship for close to twenty years.

The last time I saw her was when I was passing through my rez on my way to Standing Rock. I’ll always remember that warm evening. The sun was starting to set behind the grassy horizon. The wind was a little breezy. I don’t think there was a cloud in sight. We gave each other the biggest hugs and smiles. It was like no time has gone by, considering that I haven’t seen her physically in about seven years. She was so proud of me. She shared with me how extremely happy she was for me, and how I made it. She told me to keep going and to never stop what I’m doing. I had to leave as it was getting dark. She gave me one last hug and said: “I love you”. I could never imagine that’d be the last time I’d ever see her alive. The last few seconds I was there with her, we were laughing. I said something funny that had her laughing, like the first time I ever met her.

About two weeks went by when I received the dreaded news. All of a sudden, I was cast into a nightmare. Nothing seemed real. The amount of work and deadlines seemed insignificant. All I could think about was how I just saw her not too long ago. How I just hugged her warm body and saw her beautiful smile.

The next few weeks were tough for me. Everything, every place, every song, everyone, reminded me of her. “We’ve been here... we did this here…” echoed in my head. I’ve lost a lot of people in my life. Family members and countless friends. But nothing hurt quite like this. Losing my best friend. My sister. I always wondered what a heartbreak truly felt like.

Now, I don’t have any professional knowledge in counseling or how to cope with grief; it just comes from past experiences of losing loved ones, from when I was a little girl until today. I understand that it may be a difficult journey for dealing with a loss to some as there’s no instructional manual or shortcut, but I’d at least like to share beacons of progress.

At first, I didn’t want to believe she was gone. I felt disconnected from reality, suddenly thrown into an endless nightmare I wanted to end. I wanted to go crazy, only to see her beautiful smile again. It’s easy to fall into the search for something that’ll numb the pain. It’s easy to try and hide from the grief. But it won’t be easy to confront it. Denial and shock are okay.

I just followed along with how my mind and soul naturally dealt with my loss. All I thought about were my family and friends that I lost before. My heart would hurt and my eyes would cry. Crying is okay.

I took some time from my work to cope. Of course, during my time of grieving, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. My head and eyes hurt from crying and I was always tired. I found myself laying down on the couch for, what I thought were minutes, hours at a time. Being exhausted is okay.

Along with the grief is this new realization of what’s and who’s important in my life. The less important people, places, and things are irrelevant, while the positive things in life are more important. Prioritizing your life is okay.

All eventually returned to normalcy. I began to work on my stories and catch up with deadlines. Despite the pile of work and chores, I wasn’t upset with myself. I kept myself preoccupied with beading, writing, designing and cleaning. I kept my mind busy. I then found my strength to open up and share my memories and feelings with my family and friends. Talking is okay.

My life’s mission is clearer and my passion is stronger. I have more motivation to become successful. I promised my best friend that my success will be her success. She’ll always be with me in whatever I do and wherever I go. It’s hard to cope with the loss of a loved one, but make certain that you don’t lose yourself in your nightmare.


Kelly Holmes, Lakota from the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota, is the founder and President of Native Max & Other Media Ventures, an award-winning global multimedia brand with a constellation of platforms and networks that expands indigenous talent across print, digital, web, mobile, video, events, e-commerce and partnerships. She is also editor-in-chief of Native Max Magazine, a glossy publication which features the fashion, culture, and lifestyle of Native American and First Nations people.

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