Grief. A deep sorrow after losing someone. The deepest form of grief is when we lose someone to the angel of death. That finality is not something we know how to process. It’s hard for us to imagine a world in which that person is wholly and utterly gone.
And yet, that’s the world we live in now.
I learned something else through my grief. The body understands death faster than the mind.
When I learned my father had died, I didn’t cry because I understood death. I didn’t cry because I realized I would never see him again. That form of crying came later.
The moment the words were spoken, my body collapsed. It curled up, almost into a fetal position, it released sobs and tears. It was already grieving but my mind still hadn’t processed the news. In fact, my mind wasn’t processing anything.
It understood only one thing. “My body is in pain…I am in pain.”
It wasn’t until I went to bed that night that I had a moment to process it. I laid in bed and kept repeating “I’ll never see him again” and even then it didn’t seem real. I tried desperately to remember the last thing we had ever said to each other. If you’re lucky, it was something loving. If you’re not so lucky, it was words of anger or hurt. Both cases are common enough.
The next few days were a whirlwind of preparations. I had to notify his friends, heck I had to figure out who his friends were. I had a funeral to prepare – which I figured out I couldn’t do in the slightest. I ended up asking people for help. I was still too fragile, too broken from grief, to make decisions.
The funeral was nice. I didn’t expect it to become a fond memory, but it did. A lot of people showed love and respect for my father. The real battle began the day after the funeral. I had nothing else to prepare, nothing to distract. I had to come to terms with the finality of it, it was over.
I was heartbroken.
I dreamt of him a few times in the following months. I dreamt that he had called me, I vividly remember the confusion when I heard this voice. The tears as he told me none of it was true, he was just out of town. That he would be home soon. I woke up to a mix of emotions. Sadness that it wasn’t true, and grateful to have heard his voice again.
I spent a lot of time angry.
I’ve experienced other family deaths since then. Loved ones who had been sick for a long time, who were at the end of their lives. I remember the way their immediate family crumbled at the news. I remember how angry I was at it. I figured that they knew death was imminent, they had a chance to say goodbye, to say their last words. To tell them how much they were loved. They had a chance to prepare themselves for death. I never had that chance. I was ridiculously angry, I was certain my grief was deeper than theirs.
It took me a while to realize that grief is not something you can ever be ready for.
It hits like a ton of bricks. Like a train going full speed. You’re on the tracks, running for dear life, you know the train is coming but you don’t know how far it is. Until it hits. It knocks the wind out of us, it breaks us from the inside. We survive the hit – but not by much.
Even when death is inevitable, we maintain hope. Maybe its a fault in our humanity, maybe it’s what keeps us sane. How could we possibly face a sick loved one if we had no hope in their survival? Hope allows us to keep the fear of death at bay, to overpower the existential crisis philosophers talk about (essentially the fear that life is meaningless).
Hope keeps us alive. It allows us to love and live. I think that’s worth the pain we feel after hope is betrayed.
Less than a month from now would have been his birthday, how do you celebrate the life of someone who is gone? It’s been almost four years since I lost him. I won’t lie to you and say you get over it. You don’t. You learn to live with the pain, you learn to remember the good times over the pain.
If you’ve experienced a death, I wish you peace. I send love your way. I hope you find comfort in your memories, in your loved ones, and in life.
All I can offer are my insights, the lessons learned throughout my own journey.
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be in pain. The pain you feel is a testimony to the love you have for them. That love is beautiful, it is something to be treasured. In that same regard, pain can be beautiful; a sad type of beauty but beauty nevertheless.
Find simple comforts. For me it was long drives with the windows down. Feeling the air in my face brought me back to reality, gave me a distraction, allowed me to realize the world I live in is worth living in. I found my simple comforts in the sounds of music, in the unconditional love of a pet, in a familiar tv show, in the solace of friendship. If you don’t have a pet, this is a great time to find a shelter and adopt one. Find your simple comforts and hold on to them. They will see you through this journey.
Don’t be alone. It’s hard to be with people. There’s not much to say, there’s not a lot of “fun” to be had. They won’t understand the extent of pain you are in. But they’ll sympathize with you, they will understand that you’re in pain, they’ll love you – sometimes that’s all you need to get through the day. Being alone is being alone with pain – pain isn’t very good company.
Find a way to remember. Remember the person you lost – not how you lost them but that they existed. Not one person wishes they had never met their loved one, despite the pain. That person brought you laughter, joy, love, fulfillment, peace. They made you who you are today. They shaped your life. Remember that. Remember them. For death can never take from you the love and memories you shared.
Above all, take care of yourself. Show yourself love. Drink a lot of water, eat nutritious foods, sleep. Take care of your body, for it will need to carry you through this.
On the same note, forgive yourself. For whatever role you played, for whatever you said and didn’t say. Forgive them for any old grudge. Forgive them for leaving you. I know its difficult, and its by no means an easy fix, but its something worth working for. For more on forgiving, read this post.
Someday, you’ll be able to look back and the pain won’t be so heartbreaking anymore. It’ll transform into something bittersweet. You won’t realize it until it happens though, it’s okay if you’re not there yet. It took me a very long time and I’m not ashamed of that.
You won’t forget that they died. And that’s okay. I still think of my father every single day, it’s my way of showing that I still love him. You can figure out your way of expressing your love.
It’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to grieve.
It is okay. You will be okay.
For a new perspective on death and grieving, read my new post: What If The Afterlife Isn’t What We Thought?