Masterchef Australia’s Melissa Leong has spoken publicly about the grieving process for the first time since losing her friend and fellow chef, Jock Zonfrillo.
In a piece for Stellar, Melissa reflected on both life and loss, alluding to her own experiences “with this most enveloping of emotions” – though she notes early on that it is “too soon, too private and too raw” to address Jock’s passing specifically.
Instead, Melissa writes of her experience “sitting alone in my house and in sadness as I attempt to articulate some of my thoughts, I can tell you it is indeed a strange experience for someone who usually writes from the crystal-clear perspective of hindsight, but here goes …
“Firstly, we all deal with loss differently, and we need to honour that. People talk about the various stages of shock, disbelief, anger, bargaining and acceptance, and while that much is probably true, everyone deals with these exceptional times differently, and at different speeds.
“As you navigate reaching out to someone who’s grieving, know that a message of support left unread isn’t the recipient rejecting you – sometimes the deluge of support can be more than one can bear. And what people bear can be a lot, because grief often stirs up remnants of other loss, compounding it into something that feels insurmountable.
“While some go to pieces, others go to work, finding momentum to cope. This isn’t because they aren’t feeling, it’s because sometimes focusing on tasks is a way to find purpose in an impossible situation.”
From there, she went on to detail that while some “need to talk in order to process emotions”, others take longer to put their thoughts into words, “if they can at all”. And while some need to surround themselves with other people, just as many need to be alone.
“There is no right or wrong way to be in these moments,” she wrote, “just what is true to you. And whether you’re the person going through it, or the friend on the sidelines feeling helpless, be kind and try not to take things personally.
“The passing of someone from life is a powerfully shared experience. Even more so when that person lived a huge life and touched the lives of many.
“In their passing, a community struggles to come to terms with saying goodbye. Outside of immediate family and ‘framily’ (friends who are like family) members, whose privacy and consideration are paramount, grief is beautifully democratic.
“We must look outwards as well as inwards when it comes to our experience, checking in on the people in our lives who are also coping with loss.”
And after stressing the importance of taking care of yourself during such difficult periods with the likes of eating and hydrating, and a personal anecdote about her appreciation – as “a feeder by nature” – for comfort food, she brought her thoughts to a close.
“To feel grief is to know that the one we lost meant something important to us,” she said, adding that “what we feel in grief is proportionate to the joy and light that person gave you – a bittersweet reminder that in life, as we connect to each other, the more that’s given, the greater the loss is felt.
“In its own way, grief is a poignant tugging at the heart to remind us that we are alive, that we are human – and to be human is to feel.”
This article first appeared on Over60.