Losing a Loved One Changed the Way Actress Beanie Feldstein Sees the World
"It’s like all of a sudden, a pair of glasses were strapped to my face. And I can’t take them off. Ever.”
It is impossible. Grief is just impossible. It cannot be contained or summarized or enclosed. To describe the wound grief leaves if you have not experienced it is to come to it hazy and out of focus. But then there are those of us that unfortunately see grief in sharp, unrelenting focus.
About a year ago, Jordan Feldstein passed very suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a remarkably generous, intelligent, loving person. He was an incredible father, beloved by his boys. He was a deeply devoted son. He was a brilliant creative mind. And he was my biggest brother. He gave me so many things, including my name. In this past year, I have learned an immeasurable amount about the bandwidth of my own heart. The pain is so unbearable at times, so unremitting. Yet, in addition to the deluge of feelings leaking out of me at all times, I have found the process of grief (because it is and will always be a process, never finished, never concluded) to be just as resonant in my mind as it is in my heart.
It’s like all of a sudden, a pair of glasses were strapped to my face. And I can’t take them off. Ever. And these glasses make me see the world differently than I did before. The colors bleed together more vividly. But they are somehow more than they ever were before. More visceral. More vibrant. More present. Simultaneously more awe inspiring and more aching. Sometimes I can push the glasses to the end of my nose so I can peer over them to see the world the way I used to see. But I can only see over or around to my old perspective. I can never see it totally as it was ever again.
That is the aspect of grief I had no idea was coming. This monumental shift in perspective. Not only does the world become so much deeper and more painful, but sometimes unbelievably alive with joy and gratitude. And those two previously opposing concepts are now merged, now barely distinguishable. There is a whole new layer of my own personhood, but also a broadened humanity, that I could not see before. These glasses that were forced on me, grudgingly gave me the ability to see and appreciate a more intricate understanding of this vast world we live in.
And when you find others that have experienced this shift, others that wear the same prescription, there is an instant bond. There is this profound feeling of connection, not only because you both have experienced that pain, but because you also see the rest of life differently than everyone else. It is not only an acknowledgement of shared emotion, but a recognition of shared lived perspective.
Oh what I would give to never have had this shift happen. What I would give to take the grief glasses off of loved ones, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers. But I cannot. All I can do is try to positively acknowledge the aspects of the grief glasses that lead to feeling real love, happiness, and gratitude more presently and more fully. The part of the shift in perspective that leads you to be immensely thankful for what you do have.
A year ago, I found myself unwillingly in a new club. Well, new to me. A club that has existed for all eternity. A club that I wish did not exist. A club that every time people who are not in it don’t help me feel better, I feel grateful that the world hasn’t hurt them. It is a club full of suffering and questioning, but is also a community of people that have a truly broadened perspective on the human experience. And if you are also in the club, please know you are not alone, because I am also a begrudging member. And while I wish I could rip my grief glasses off my face and have it all be a dream, I try to recognize what the glasses have given me: that unique blend of humanity that is simultaneously the darkest dark and the brightest bright.
Feldstein stars in Booksmart, in theaters May 24. For more stories like this, pick up the May issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download on April 19.