While talking about death can be tricky, and even seem taboo, it’s one of the many facets of life itself. We encounter death every day when we read the newspaper or turn on the TV, but we are mostly detached, as losing a loved one is not necessarily something everyone goes through.
But having gone through the motions of grief recently, I’d like to talk about what we are learning from this aspect of life that none of us can escape from experiencing at some point or another.
Things will change forever, for the better.
As I write this article, today marks two years since I lost a parent to cancer. And still, two years on, it never ceases to amaze me how daily, things about the world just seem to be making more and more sense to me. For instance, this quote two-and-a-bit years ago would have seemed like another hippie-esque cliché reserved for bumper stickers and tacky household nick-knacks…but hindsight is a beautiful thing.
“The flower that blooms in adversity, is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”
You see, while grief is (I believe) one of the most gut wrenching, confusing, and horrific human emotions, it also has the potential to be one of the most beautiful and rewarding. I’ve always felt a sharp pang of shame when I say I am grateful for my grief – but had I not suffered such a tremendous loss, I would not have the positive outlook on life that I have today.
Nothing is as big as it seems
Problems begin to disappear, because in comparison to what you have just experienced, trivial issues like the toaster breaking or missing the bus are put in true perspective. These are minor, if not irrelevant speed bumps in the grand scheme of things, and you will forever take them more lovingly in your stride.
The clichés are true.
Back on the bumper sticker talk… “Carpe Diem – seize the day!” “Life is what you make it,” “Live every day like it’s your last,” “Life is short, buy the shoes.” Hell YEAH I want these cringe-worthy statements slapped across my car, because they are damn well true. Life is short – very short – and so unbelievably, incomprehensibly precious. And this kind of over-the-top enthusiasm about life is something you feel when you witness death first hand.
Love never leaves you.
Grief is never easy. It creeps up on you and disguises itself, buried deep within those fleeting moments when something doesn’t quite feel right. It can also pop up during times of bliss and joy – it seems so crazy to cry when you are laughing, but the extreme range of emotions sometimes crossover. Just go with it. This is because when you lose someone, you lose a piece of yourself, and when that piece is taken away nothing will ever quite be the same. The beauty is that while you have lost a part of yourself, you will always carry that person around in your heart and when pain and sadness do pop up, it is just a reminder of the beautiful love you shared.
You will learn to speak your tongue.
Unfortunately for us humans, there is something that seems to holds us back in critical emotional moments. Those moments when your soul is aching for you to verbally express your love and affection toward somebody, but the fear of rejection or sounding silly makes us bite our tongue. Goodbyes are never easy, but when you have to say your last goodbyes, for real, you find a tremendous amount of courage to let the love flow. And it will probably keep flowing as life goes on. Tap into the child inside of you who has no reservations about expressing emotion, happy or sad.
Grief affects everyone around you.
The natural reaction to when a friend is going through a tough time is to reach out and offer your shoulder to cry on, should they need it. But during times of adversity, particularly when dealing with death, it’s important to understand that everyone reacts differently. For example, if you’re going through a break up, usually your girlfriends will want to pop a bottle of bubbly and take you for a night out on the town. However, there isn’t really a text book method of support for when the grief stems from someone’s passing.
While you may crave empathy and nourishment, understand that you need to be empathetic to those around you who might not know how to handle the situation. Speak with your friends, and ask them if they are okay – they may be grieving too. Don’t be afraid to be direct and discuss support, even if it means asking that they call you every day for a chat. I can almost guarantee that if you ask, they will.