When I was about sixteen years old, my cousin died. It was unexpected and it was a huge shock. Everyone was devastated – of course. As anyone would be when a teenage boy tragically and unexpectedly dies.
I remember everyone crying a lot.
I also remember not crying much.
His sister, always my closest family member was broken. I remember being there for her. I remember how in her grief, she would lash out at me. But I do not remember crying.
Several years later, my father too, died tragically and suddenly. A car accident that killed him after a long and drawn out period in the hospital.
Though I hardly cried during the days he was in hospital, five of them, while he lay in a coma – this was different for me.
I prayed like I didn’t know I could pray.
I prayed and I begged and I pleaded.
Please don’t take him
Please don’t let him die
This time was different. Not because this was my dad and he was everything to me, no; I loved my cousin as much as if he had been my own brother.
This time was different because I was older and wiser and sadly, more experienced. More familiar, with death and what death means.
I cried when he died. I cried a lot. In fact I cried for years.
So why was this different you may wonder?
Well, let me tell you in the best way I know how.
I cried, because I knew what was coming. I knew that old familiar feeling…
When someone dies, you don’t cry for them. They are dead – they don’t need your sadness. They don’t need your grief. And my beliefs tell me that they aren’t looking down on you and stroking your hair while you mourn. No, I believe that the dead are just gone. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…
I know that when we grieve and we cry, we cry for us. We grieve for our own loss – not the loss that they don’t know…
We are sad for the birthdays they won’t share with us.
For the phone calls and conversations we will never have with them.
For the love they once gave us that is now replaced with absence and longing.
When we grieve, we grieve for all the things we will no longer get to tell them and share with them. The things we will never see them do. All the ages they won’t reach. We grieve for the 30th birthday that we won’t share with them. For the future that they will never know.
We grieve for the children we have that will never know them.
We grieve for us.
Grief is not about THEM, it’s about US. It’s about us and the big dark hole they leave behind. It’s about the space we can’t ever fill. No matter how much we try.
So now, I cry more easily.
When someone I know loses someone who they love. I don’t cry for the person who has died that I don’t know. I cry for the person I love and care for. I cry for the sadness that they will now feel. I cry for the pain that they will endure. I cry for the loss that they will experience. I cry because I know what’s coming. I know what the next few days, months and even years will feel like. I cry because no matter how many years pass, your pain never goes away. It only becomes an easier burden to carry. It becomes easier to be okay most of the time.
Death is something that happens to people who die.
Grief is what they leave behind.
Oh grief, if only we weren’t so familiar.
If only we didn’t know each other so well.
If only you could let go for a minute and let me be.
If only I could just stop these feelings. My pain, the pain I feel because I know what comes next.
If only I could stop living in fear.
That’s the trauma grief gifts you so kindly. A constant fear, somewhere in the back of your mind as you watch your loved ones, silently hoping that they aren’t next.
Hugging them a little too tightly, saying I love you just a little too often. Watching them with eyes that never want to forget the shape of their eyes, the smell of their hair…
Death is something that just happens. It is what it is. It often has no reason or rhyme. It doesn’t happen to someone because they deserved it. It doesn’t always take the good ones, it just happens.
In the wake of death, lies grief!
Grief is the that feeling that we live with forever. That teacher of empathy. That friend that we just can’t let go of.
If only I had never met you!
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. ― C.S. Lewis Click To Tweet