I struggled coming up with a title for this post; one that would be both appropriate and do it justice. I started typing a few options and quickly deleted them. They didn’t feel right. So I’m just leaving it untitled and letting it speak for itself.
Almost one month ago, I had to learn that one of my very best friends had unexpectedly passed away. Trust me when I say that if there’s an emotion out there, I’ve felt it. All of them. I don’t know if there’s truly only five stages of grief, but I can tell you that there are too many and each one is as hard as the next. Each feeling is too messy to be packaged up in a pretty little bow with the words “anger”, “denial” or “acceptance”.
But as hard as the last few weeks have been, I have also learned more about life, myself and my friends than I ever thought possible. It’s funny how disaster and grief can bring perspective. “Funny” isn’t the right word. It’s actually quite cruel and maybe a bit bittersweet. But since writing is my way to cope with most things in life, I figured I would use this as a way to share my lessons learned and let them serve as a reminder to us all. None of these are monumental prophecies, but they deserve repeating.
Life isn’t fair. We’ve all been told this since we were old enough to understand. Any somewhat mature individual can comprehend this. That being said, the realization that life isn’t fair never gets easier over time. It’s hard not to get royally pissed at it all. At God. At whatever you believe in. At her. At life. At the people who mean the most to you. It’s easy to lash out and blame. But it doesn’t resolve anything. It doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t change what happened.
Don’t be a righteous person. Let me remind you: you are without a doubt, wholeheartedly, not perfect. There are times you’ve felt shame, regret, embarrassment. Let those be opportunities to learn, to gain perspective, to be humble (and to truly learn what being humble means). That being said, you can be upset with someone, not understand their decisions or their behavior. But at the end of the day, you can still feel all your feelings and let them know you love them. Don’t let their hard times be a chance for you to be pious. Never let them question your love for them. Simple as that.
There is no right way to grieve. Grief is awkward because everyone is going through the same thing but everyone reacts differently. There is no true how-to guide or handbook. Don’t let others make you feel like you aren’t grieving appropriately or that you are grieving for too long. Grief is a guilt-free zone. You can unabashedly grieve however you want, for however long you want because putting on a fake face only hinders your path to eventually being ok.
Be involved. I know this sounds silly, but as I’ve gotten older and been able to take on more when it comes to planning a loved one’s prayer service or funeral, I have found that being involved in the planning helps. Find what you are good at and offer your help that way. Make picture posters. Pick out songs she would like. Writing is my thing so I jumped in head-first at the opportunity to write her obituary and eulogy. I didn’t want to do it. Nobody should have to do that for their 30 year old friend. But I knew it was how I could help…and it was my final way of hopefully making her proud. Doing these things, not only help keep your mind busy, but they also give you the opportunity to reminisce about better days. About good times. About favorite memories.
And finally, Hold your people close. I truly could not have gotten through these last few weeks without my close friends who were going through the same thing I was. We all leaned on each other and were empathetic with each other because we got it. We all got it. We all grew up together. We all got in trouble together. We all made mistakes together. We were all awkward individual pieces of pizza that, when put together, magically formed the most perfect whole pizza. And now we all have to go through this horrible event together. As life goes, and how irony is, this event in which we lost one of our “pieces”, now makes the rest of us appreciate and love one another so much more than we ever thought possible. And that, in itself, is a gift.
So hold on to your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Send them a hello. Give them a hug. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Don’t be an asshole and assume that you can “tomorrow” or “when you have time”. I promise you’ll never walk away thinking it was a waste of time. I promise.
Until next time…