I’ll never get better at dealing with loss.
In any other capacity, the amount of times you have to do something inevitably improves the way in which you do it.
But death is not something I will ever adapt to. Losing someone is without a doubt one of the hardest things we as humans have to deal with. The helpless feelings of grief and loss are overwhelming and all encompassing until eventually you find the strength to accept it – you don’t move on or get over it, you just learn to live with it.
It’s happened again and it pains me to think how many people this now makes it. I’ve seen far too many people, young and old, leave this world in an unfair, cruel manner that makes me mad at the world, at life, at inevitability.
When someone dies, I of course struggle with accepting that I will never again see that person but the part that hurts the hardest and for the longest is knowing and literally feeling the pain of the friends and family closest to the person who passed away. Knowing all too well what it feels like; I hate the thought of someone I love and care about feeling the enormity of grief and despair. Its unrelenting, all consuming and can effect someone so deeply, it can sometimes be just too hard to come back from.
I’ve seen it twice now; the heartache someone feels when losing someone close to them can actually wind up leading to the death of that very same person. Grief begets grief and its tragic.
It changes people, sometimes for the better but more often than not for the worst.
We get so used to things being the way they are. Our routines, schedules and lifestyles become our safety nets. We take for granted the likelihood of change and spend each day merely getting through the day; cliches like ‘live each day like its your last’, ‘live for the moment’ and ‘seize the day’ become a collection of meaningless words that evoke little relevance or reaction. We’re stuck in the ruts of the mundanity of our lives, forgetting the very fragility of them because we’ve not truly had to remember for a little while.
Until, in one fleeting second, everything gets turned upside down. We are reminded, coldly and harshly, that we are all living on borrowed time and are only ever a moment of unfortunate fate away from it all being reduced to nothing.
And suddenly we come to appreciate life and all it’s magic again. We take the time to appreciate our children’s laughter, our parent’s embrace, our friend’s kindness, the glory of the sunset and the beauty of the simplicity of nature. What all were, only a few minutes before, almost laughable cliches, become the things we truly value most again.
You never know what day could be your last. And thats the truth of it. Very very few of the people whom I know to have died in the past 10 years knew when they woke up that morning that that very day would be their last.
That utterly terrifies me.
And of course you can’t live each day in fear that you may not make it back into bed that night but perhaps holding on to that feeling is something we could all stand to do if we ever wish to truly ‘live life to the fullest’. Its just too easy not to. I’m guilty of it all the time.
The first funeral I ever went to was a friend of mine’s father. I was 16 years old and I recall being utterly shocked at the speed inwhich the cancer stole his life. Our whole friendship group was. But something I felt the moment we stepped outside of the funeral home after the service, partly due to someone suggesting we get to the pub for a pint pronto before our friend’s father struck us down with lightning, was a visceral sense of love, comfort and dare I say it joy. And it wasn’t just love I felt for his father but for all the people around me. We were all united in our mourning; it brought us closer and made us kinder to one another and ourselves. If only for that moment in time.
Sadly, after that, the deaths just seemed to keep on coming.
Brutal battles with cancer, brain hemmorhages, dementure, car crashes, overdoses, suicides and just downright awfully unfortunate accidents started occuring one after the other, after the other, after the other. Each and every time I was stripped of what I was used to feeling and knowing every other day and came back to being appreciative, grateful and benevolent. As well as miserable, cheated and desolate.
Its odd to say but some of the most incredible occasions I’ve ever been apart of have been loved one’s funerals or wakes. It brings such comfort and peace to see everyone come together, reminisce about the good times and focus on nothing but the deceased person’s best qualities, greatest accomplishments and most defining moments. You leave with a sense of fulfiment and gratitude for having known the individual and feeling honoured to have shared their life with them. You leave feeling thankful that we as people when we come together during times of tragedy, have the ability to truly care for and look after each other.
Last year I went to two services, one for an extended family member and one for a very dear school friend, and at some point during each of those occasions I took the time to stand back and look at the people gathered, feel the palpable love everybody had for one another and shed a tear, for the first time not for the person who’d passed but for the stunning legacy they’d left behind. All of the people gathered there who may not have spent much time with one another in any other capacity, all brought out the best in one another and were banded together in their being touched by the person whose life they were celebrating. What more could you ask for out of life, really?
I do think though that funerals should happen when you’re alive. It seems so sad and nonsensical to me that someone’s favourite people should all get together and say the loveliest things about you, recalling events and moments that you were funny or kind or heroic or smart or selfless, when you aren’t there to enjoy it yourself!
Although, saying this as someone with no belief in religion or afterlife, a part of me really hopes and believes that the person who’s life was being celebrated was always there in spirit. Or at the very least, could from afar see the beauty of what was happening in honour of them.
But before that acceptance and peace can set in, the heartache and remorse has to take hold for a while. Like the ocean, it ebbs and flows; tidal in its’ ability to nearly drown you and leave you completely breathless, until it finally draws back out again, allowing you a moment of reflection and calm. If that restbite is only temporary, its what allows us the strength to cope with the day’s formalities until we can sit back and feel again what it is we need to feel in order to heal.
Having someone who you can go through all that with is everything. Whether they knew the person or not, having somebody to hold your hand, hold you tight and remind you of all the positivity in life is needed in moments of such distress and torment. To all the people who have ever done that for someone they love, thank you. Your strength is truly admirable.
To everyone who has ever lost someone; please know that you are not alone and there is no real right or wrong way to deal with your grief. We all know and can relate to those feelings and you should never feel alone or inferior when dealing with them. We are emotional creatures who need to just surrender to such emotions from time to time. I believe its what makes us human.
And though during the thick of it all, it’s probably hard to believe or understand but grief, in time, is a good thing. You wouldn’t love as fiercely, fight as hard, laugh as heartily or be as strong as you are without it. Your determination to overcome and live with your grief is what defines who you are as a person. The person whom you lost would be honoured and proud to know you have felt it and accepted it. Its how they live on inside of you.
In loving memory of Jordan, Dave, Tom, Will, Annie and Calvin, Harry and Doreen, David, Poppa Jim, Uncle Smudge, Mike W, Mike F, Joanne, Andy, Vyvyan, Jake, Kerry, Viv, Julie, Che, John, Jaymie, Leigh, Nola and Chops.