A life comes to an end… Someone you love is gone from this world… Your heart hurts… You’ve cried all the tears until you can’t cry anymore… and then you cry some more.
Where do you go from here? When such a bright light in the world goes out? After the funeral ends, when everyone goes home and you’re suppose to just go on with your day?
Your heart feels heavy and your mind can’t make sense of it. It’s like you’re walking in a fog. You’re still so sad and you don’t know how you’re supposed to just keep living without them.
Losing someone you love might be the hardest thing you have to deal with. You don’t want to let go. You don’t want to say goodbye. And yet it’s part of life.
Every person born must someday die. Every friend, lover, family member you’ve ever had, will eventually say goodbye. And it never gets any easier. With the blessing of love, comes it’s counterpart… loss.
It’s not easy. I don’t claim to be an expert on loss or grief. But I’d like to share with you the things I try to remember in times of deep sadness:
You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide
You want to run away from it. You want to pretend it’s not there. You want to push it down so you don’t have to feel it. But you can’t escape it. It’s there, lurking in the corner, waiting for a quiet moment to remind you of your loss and how fucking bad it hurts.
Of course you don’t want to feel it. That would be like stabbing yourself on purpose. It doesn’t feel good. No one enjoys feeling those feelings so it’s natural to want to escape them.
But in cases of loss and grief, the only way over it, is through it. You have to feel it. It hurts. It’s so unbelievably sad. But when you try to resist the feelings, they just get stronger, and more painful.
You have to acknowledge it. Look at that emotion. Say hello. “Hello heartache. I feel silly talking to you but here you are. I see you. I accept that you’re here.” This pain will be with you awhile so you might as well make friends.
Once you let go of trying to control it, some of the pressure eases. Instead of the pain chasing you like a crazy person with a knife, you can sit with it like an old friend that’s come to give you bad news.
You can’t outthink your pain. It’ll just creep back in over and over until you face it. And while sitting in your pain doesn’t sound appealing, neither does being chased by it.
At least when you choose to sit with it you know it’s there. It doesn’t surprise attack you. And you have a chance of someday making peace with it. You can’t make peace with the enemy you refuse to face.
Remember You’re Not Alone
You’re not the only one hurting. When someone dies, it lights up all the connections that person ever had. It’s amazing how many people one person can impact.
All these little connections, actions, reactions. The moment when you were there for someone when they really needed you. The best trip you ever took. The person you told all your secrets to. Or just a person that was kind to you when they didn’t have to be.
You’ll remember the way they laughed. You’ll picture their smile. You might remember the way they hugged you or how they smelled. You’ll think of the times you had, the lessons learned, the tears and laughter and love. And so will every person ever impacted by them.
We die alone. But we grieve together. Not necessarily in the same room. But at the same time with the same pain and the same loss.
For every tear that slides down your cheek, someone else is crying with you. Gather with those people. Mourning together is better than mourning alone.
Love Brings Pain
You love at the risk of loss. If you never loved anyone, you’d never hurt when someone died. But can you imagine what a sad world that would be?
People should be sad and should cry when someone dies. Those tears are a tribute to the love that was shared. A tribute to the amazing person they were and what they meant to you.
Can you imagine if no one cried when you died? What kind of person you must have been not to warrant tears?
To mourn someone is to honor the life they had. The spark of the spirit that touched your life. Honor that love and allow yourself to be sad. It’s okay to be sad.
Everyone Grieves Differently
You may shed all the tears, while the person next to you sheds none. That doesn’t make them any less sad. They may even be more sad. There are no rules. And everyone reacts differently to pain.
Soldiers rarely cry at funerals. Some will even crack jokes during a service. It’s not because they’re unfeeling. They have just seen much more death than you, and so they see it differently.
Some people want to hug. Others don’t want you to touch them. Some get mad, some depressed. Some are seemingly over it in a week, while others cry every day for months.
Respect the many faces of grief. You don’t know how someone is feeling on the inside. Just know that their grief may not look the way your grief looks and that’s okay.
There Isn’t Always A Reason Why
Why did this happen? Why them? Why now? You can ask a million questions like this and never find a solid answer.
For me, this is where faith comes in. Faith that you’re not always going to understand why something happens. You may refuse to believe there could be a reason good enough. But there’s a whole lot about this life that we just don’t understand.
You can make yourself crazy asking why. Or you can accept that you may never know why, and hope that whatever the reason, it was bigger than the pain it caused.
Don’t resist thinking of them because it hurts so much. Remember all the reasons you loved them. Remember why you feel so blessed to have known them. What did they bring to your life?
You couldn’t keep them here in body. But you can keep them here in your heart. It’s a poor substitute, but it’s better than losing all of them. You may cry every time you think of them for a long time. But eventually you’ll get to a place where those memories will make you smile. You’ll still miss them. You’ll still be sad. But you’ll be able to smile through it.
Don’t Feel Guilty For Smiling
Do you think your loved one would want you to be miserable? No. We all want to be missed, to feel like our lives mattered to someone. But we don’t want to cause the people we love pain.
So if, in the midst of your grief, you find a reason to smile, don’t feel guilty. Take those small moments of joy, and cherish them. Maybe your loved one is smiling right there with you.
Feeling happiness doesn’t mean that you didn’t love them. A smile doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting enough. There isn’t a quota for how sad you have to feel. It comes in waves. The sadness crashes in on you, and then it eases. And when it eases, you’re allowed moments of joy. Maybe those moments of joy are suppose to help you through it. Otherwise why would we be able to feel joy in times of sadness?
Love Like It’s Your Last Day
Here’s the truth: It could be your last day. It could be my last day. Tell the people you love that you love them. Hug them like you mean it. Those hugs where you hold on just a second longer and squeeze just a little tighter.
Tell them why you love them and what they mean to you. Tell them the best thing about them. Give out love like you can never run out, because you can’t. Take pictures. Make time for the people you care about.
When I die I want people to remember how much I loved. How big I loved. That my love didn’t have an expiration or a reason. I just loved. And that I wanted to help everyone and always saw the best within people. (Even when it burned me, even when I was called an idiot for it). We all have value. We all have good in us. And I think we all need someone to believe in us.
You get this one life. Just this one. Let the pain you feel over your loss remind you that tomorrow is promised to no one. Do what you can with today. Love hard and with all your heart. Believe in others. Love is the special something that really makes life magical. You may hurt like hell when that light leaves this world, but it’s worth it every time.