They say there are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts – before and after. For me, one of those moments came a little less than a year ago. I still remember everything about that day. It was a beautiful Sunday evening. The sun was peaking out through the clouds as it was setting over the trees, creating a picture perfect postcard view. The air smelled like rain from the afternoon showers and the weather was nice – not to cold but not too hot. We were all just sitting around the table about to have dinner and he just fell. He fell out of the chair and onto the floor. Just like that, he was gone. It was less than a second, maybe half a second, but it changed everything.
Losing someone you love is a hard thing to go through but having to watch them die, unexpectedly, right there in front of you is unbearable. And hearing the words “He’s gone” creates a feeling you didn’t even know you could feel. Your heart just drops. It’s like missing a step when walking up the stairs. It feels like that except it doesn’t go away. It stays there inside of you, this feeling of emptiness and pain. And it hurts. It hurts like hell. But that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt. And you can’t escape it. You just can’t. Every time you think you are starting to feel better, something happens. You see something that reminds you of them. Or maybe you’ll hear their favorite song on the radio. The memories all come rushing back to you and you get stuck in this period of nostalgia and all you wish for is a phone that will call Heaven so you can hear their voice just one more time and tell them all the things you had left to say to them. And then it hits you so much harder than you ever thought it would. You think about the fact that you will never be able to hear their voice again, or the sound of their laugh, and see their goofy smile that comes out when they laugh. You’ll never again be able to feel the warmth of their hug or be stuck listening to the advice that you never wanted but they always gave you anyway. And also the advice you did ask for because you knew they always gave the best advice. And it’s even worse when they are not there celebrating milestones with you like your college graduation, or your wedding day, or the birth of your first child, and even the moment when your biggest dream finally comes true. You think you would find comfort in knowing that they are there with you during those milestones, but more than comforting, it’s just sad.
They say that life goes on but that’s the saddest part. How can life possibly go on when they were such an integral part of it? The hardest part isn’t losing them; it’s learning how to live without them. Everyone around you will try to make you feel better. They really will. But there isn’t anything anyone can say or do to make the pain go away. Some will try to comfort you by saying “God needed another angel.” But you know what? That statement just makes me angry because it’s easy for them to say that when God didn’t ask for their angel. Others will tell you that your loved one is looking down on you and watching over you. That’s nice in theory but in reality, we don’t want them looking down on us. We want them right beside us, watching over us and protecting us. And furthermore, at least for me, that statement just makes me feel lonely. Doesn’t the Bible say that those in Heaven know no pain? We are down here on earth feeling pain and sadness all the time so really they aren’t watching over us in our worst moments when we need them the most. My personal favorite is when someone says “Time heals all wounds” or “Just give it some time and it will get better, it will get easier.” That’s all well and good but time takes time. What am I supposed to do right now, in this moment when all I want to do is disappear somewhere and forget about the world? I don’t need someone to tell me it will get better; I need someone to tell me it hurt because it mattered.
I wasn’t prepared for the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It wasn’t just sadness, and it wasn’t linear. Somehow I thought that the first days would be the worst and then it would steadily get better, like getting over the flu. But that’s not how it was. It’s still hard. Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere, all of a sudden, this overwhelming sadness rushes over me. And I get discouraged and I get upset and I feel hopeless, sad, and hurt, and once again, I feel numb to the world. And it’s not the kind of sadness to where I cry all the time, but more like the sadness that overwhelms my entire body, leaving my heart aching and my stomach empty. Making me feel weak and tired and yet I can’t even sleep because the sadness is in my dreams too. On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly make it through, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that is pretty good. And I have come to realize that sometimes it’s okay if the only thing I did that day was breathe. I made it through and that’s what matters.
Saying goodbye is hard. That’s no secret. But rather than focusing on the goodbye, we should celebrate the legacy being left behind and remind ourselves, in the words of Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”