3 Lessons Learned From The Death of a Loved One
The only certainty in life is death, but it doesn’t matter whether you have had time to prepare for it or not. When that moment finally happens, the wind is knocked out of your sails. Everyone is touched by death: the death of a parent, death of a child, death of a sibling, death of a relative, death of a close friend, or death of a pet. We all grieve in different ways and our sadness may linger longer than others, but the common connection is the love we held for the ones we lost.
Experiencing the death of someone you love
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a friend of mine recently lost her dad and she was unable to be there for the final farewell. It was devastating, and I can empathize with her pain. Her loss reminded me of the loss of my own father almost 24 years ago. His passing shattered my world. I felt only raw pain and had no desire to see or speak to anyone except the ones in my closest circle; these are ones I drew strength from.
Often, people want to tell you how to grieve or tell you how you should feel. Honestly, I didn’t want to hear any of it, not then. Grief comes from a place of love. If you didn’t love that person, I believe that you would not feel the same immense and debilitating loss. Through this passage of loss, I learned a few things that I share with others who have experienced a similar loss.
Lesson 1: Cry your heart out
Cry your heart out! Feel the pain and emotions because holding it in will not do any good. Ignore the ones who tell you, “Don’t cry, this will get better.” While these words are well-meaning, these are simply not the words you want to hear at that moment. It is true that as time passes and the pain will lessen, but there will be vulnerable moments. In those times, the tears will still flow; but the raw pain will no longer be there.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” Washington Irving
Lesson 2: Talk about your loved one
Talk about your loved ones whenever there is an opportunity. Remember the things they did or said and share their story. Listen to the stories their friends have to share about your loved ones. There will come a time when you can smile at a fond memory or laugh at something quirky they used to do. The day you stop talking about them, is the day they stop existing in your world. The spirits of our loved ones exist in our memories of them. My grandfather once wrote:
Whatever is of dust
Let it be said
Of unremembered clay,
A thousand years, a day,
‘Tis to be dead.
Excerpt from the poem “Let It Be Said” by Clytus A. Thomasos from his 1939 collection entitled POEMS.
Lesson 3: Treasure the moments with loved ones
How many times a loved one passes away and we look back at the last time we spent with them? Was it a good memory or a bad memory? Were there hurtful words or words of shared love? Every day we hear or read somewhere that life is precious, and we should treasure the moments we spend with them. These are words many of us take for granted because, in our minds, there is always tomorrow. Life has repeatedly shown us differently. The moments we spend with our loved ones are gifts and will one day become memories, so why not make every effort to make them great ones.
In life and death, there are lessons learned. We love, we lose, our hearts break, but in the end, we come through it. Anne Lamott said it best,
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”Anne Lamott