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Processing grief, in five chapters.


I feel a lot of pressure to make quick decisions, to anticipate the future, to placate angry people, to console grieving people, to emote more, to emote less, to hurry, to wait, to hope, to be realistic, to pray, to rest, to do, to be, to grief adequately, to perform grief correctly.

Yet, all I want is to have my two favourite people in the world by my side, snuggled under covers on a giant sofa bed, watching 500 episodes of Friends on an endless loop until time ends.

I want to go to there. Tell me how.


Do bus drivers who cover the route to hospitals witness a lot of grief? Can they tell from one look who just had a big wail? Who is barely keeping it in? Who is super chill and accepting of mortality?

Are these buses sanitised more often than usual because patient commuters are more leaky? Because visitor commuters are more weepy? Because everyday commuters feel more icky?

How many grieving people on these buses type away on their phones to keep it all together throughout their journey? How many of them play games? Or text? Or speedily, hastily, agitatedly tap out Tumblr entries to themselves as a way to process grief?

Why is the bus so cold?


I love to you.


I have many rapid fire thoughts. I write to myself all day under notes on my iPhone, or on one of my several blogs. I write not to archive or catalogue or remember, but to deposit bad feelings in totemic spaces and times like checkpoints in a video game, and to unload the things in my head to make space for more things.

For instance, I have realised many things these past days.

One, that it is remarkable how my sister and I made it into adulthood as loving, functioning, rational, achieving, adjusted people, considering the way we were brought up. Two, that we were remarkable teenagers who never pedalled in rebellion or delinquency, and were problem-solvers. We whine a lot to each other as a coping mechanism, but we also always always got our shit together and made things happen. Three, that I have never had an adult as a soundboard for important decision-making things or to consult for general things in life. Four, that sibling body language is magic. I know what each of my sister’s five hundred glares or frowns or squiggly eyebrows imply and react instantly. It is our secret language and nobody can take this away from me.


I have been experiencing a series of transient intimacies. While these haven’t been as tragically romantic as I like, they have been immensely life-changing.

Two days ago I sat in a room in front of two complete strangers and received the gravest news of my life. Amidst my mad sobbing and a quick string of decisions, I repeatedly churned out bite-sized analyses of their composure and tact: Dude, this person has 100% bedside manners. And of the two hundred adjectives they could have chosen, their seasoned brain and muscle memory pulled out the most appropriate ones that conveyed the gravity of the situation while being encouraging while refraining from distributing false hope while speaking in faith while. And I did all this verbal vomiting aloud. They listened. I also told them I hate hospitals and never want to give birth because I never want to voluntarily go to a hospital but I want to have five kids so I will just end my rant here and suck it up and probably go to a hospital when I have to give birth because I don’t know how to give birth on my own. They nodded.

One day ago I stood in a room in front of three semi-strangers and told them I found it strange that I was affect-dumping on three semi-strangers at the most difficult point of my life. I aired serial two-minute summaries of history. The drama came out very clinically. I remember thinking to myself that I was super impressed with my crisis management skills, but that I was also probably broken inside because I wasn’t crying and sobbing and wailing while spewing some of the most painful recollections I haven’t prodded in a while. A1 was frowning so hard she looked like she was going to cry. I wondered why I wasn’t going to cry. I verbal vomited my stance on marriage equality in Singapore. And how I feel torn between my principles and priorities. And how existential crises don’t make sense and are therefore crises. And how I was excited for the elections the next day but have to actively stop being excited and transit from doing work into doing grief. And how I have faith but medicine has science. A2 said we can’t hold on to two things at once. I closed my rant and told them I was closing my rant because I was getting annoyed at my endless talking as a coping mechanism. I asked them to tell me what to do. I told them I feel I need to do things. Then I told them I just heard myself say I need to do things, and hearing this made me realise I think doing things gives the impression that one is being helpful and productive, although it probably is just a way to power through being busy in order not to fall into a lull because grief will come and eat you. Z said to eat.

It is now 0319hrs on a Sunday. I type this as Z’s wig and headpiece eye me through the curtains at our DMZ border. I type this as I toggle between the OST of Beauty World and Kings of Convenience’s Quiet Is The New Loud. I type this as I stare at my bottle of water contemplating whether or not to drink any more because I am too lazy to walk out to pee.

I appreciate that I have this space in which to hide out this week. I know nothing of the people and the place. I feel like a stranger passing through. It therefore feels like some kind of beautiful. All the static and feedback is cut off from me. I have space and time to go inside myself to process things. All I have with me are my bare necessities. And a few things that are constant and comforting – my bottle of water, my laptop, my phone, my books. I’d always thought that in times of crises I’d latch on to the familiar to help me tide through loss. I guess I’m now realising that my familiarity is not rooted in spaces or places or people, but in practices. I walk for hours on end and write to myself on my iPhone. I play Bejewelled or Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone when I want to divorce my mental presence from my physical presence in an awful place. I type away at my laptop at absurd hours to think through things.

I guess now I can go to sleep.

Beep here.

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