What grief has taught me about my responsibility to the world

“To be is to be perceived, and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds, that go on and are pushing themselves throughout all time.

Our lives are not our own, from womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

Revelation of Sonmi 451, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This quote in itself has become somewhat of a substitute for traditional religion for me. It speaks to me, not just because it is a part of my favourite novel and film, but because in my life, I have experienced a great deal of loss and grief.


It’s a heavy word, it doesn’t roll off of the tongue naturally. It feels uncomfortable to say.

Grief is the result of loss, a natural result of tragic circumstances. Those of us who have experienced grief will often tell you; it never goes away, it becomes a part of you. You make space for it in your heart, you learn to live alongside it, carrying it with you throughout life. For a long time I hated my grief, but over the years it has taught me important lessons about my place in the world, and even the universe.

Grief is our proof that ones we loved and lost once existed. As painful as it is in the early days, it reminds us of the love we once had. Grief is unique, it adapts to the person we have lost. It ensures that no one is ever truly lost.

Grief exists because every person who exists makes a space for themselves in the world. We are a pebble in the water, and our words and actions ripple out, forever changing the universe. We are connected to each other, and by merely existing we have an irrevocable effect on the universe.

This realisation taught me that I must use my limited time on this earth to do good work. The world is a broken place, so I will use my time to help the world feel a little less broken. I want the ripples that my actions cause to be a force for good. When I am gone, I want to be sure that the legacy of my actions is one of positivity and light. I owe this to the world for simply existing, and I owe it to the people that will grieve me when I am gone.

Those early days of grief can be incredibly painful, but listen to them. Embrace them, allow them a place in your life, and learn from them. Each of us changes the world, we are each drops in a limitless ocean that could not exist without us. The people we grieve may not be here in person, but the result of their existence will ripple through the universe eternally.

Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, no one is ever truly gone.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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