Two years ago today we lost our Ina. It really doesn’t feel like that much time has passed since I heard her voice and held her soft, wrinkly cheek against mine. Then again, it feels like an eternity since she last called on a Sunday morning to catch up about the week. Time perception is a weird, weird thing. The anniversary of my granddad’s death is coming up this next month, too and I am already dreading the day. These markers of time always bring on strange feelings and there seem to be more and more of them every year.
Then last week, we found out about the loss of our friend, who was by all means considered ‘too young to die’ and it made me realize how different and yet the same grief can be.
I still miss my great-aunt terribly, but I can rationalize her death with her age. I tell myself that it was time for her to go, that this is the circle of life. We are born and someday we all die. I keep thinking about our friend and how much more life he should have had in him. He was such a positive force, a beacon of light for so many people and I do not understand why he had to go already.
J, who for the first few days was simply devastated, said last Friday that he was feeling a little better. That he was still sad and in disbelief but that he was trying to draw strength from what happened (however one does that), that he’s trying to be thankful for having known him, having spent time with him… just to be hit by another wave of grief like a freight train again a day later. I kept trying to comfort him, to tell him that it gets better. But does it?
The thing about grief is: it doesn’t really go away. It will accompany us – once we’ve been hit by it once (or multiple times) – for the rest of our lives. We will always miss the people who have left us. It will never be ok. It’s the burden we carry as humans as we grow older. Missing people, learning to live without them, carrying on with our lives even though they’ve been forever changed.
Sure, grief changes, too, comes in different forms and intensities. Some days you’re just smiling to yourself, because a memory with someone entered your mind unexpectedly and you’re thankful for the experience that you had together. On other days, you’ll start crying for no apparent reason (but of course you know the reason all too well).
The emotions, they come in waves, but not predictable like high and low tide, but mostly at random and you never really know when the next crushing grief-tsunami will come and roll over you and leave you gasping for air.
Underneath the surface, grief is always there, but we as humans have learned to push it down when it’s inconvenient and in order to function in a fast-paced world. As much as we would like to slow things down, to catch our breaths and try to comprehend, time does not really stop when someone dies and we keep trudging along, trying to keep up and adjust to the new normal.
I know we’re not the only ones struggling with grief today, old or new. I know for sure that there are some of you, if not all of you, out there who can relate in some way and who feel the same pain. Know that you’re not alone, that we’re all in this together, and go hug somebody tight today.