One of the strangest and yet normal things in life is the experience of death. Life’s single most certainty has the capacity to so drastically and irreparably change a person and their lives, oftentimes leaving the grieving shattered and hopeless. Here are some thoughts that helped me through my grief and tears the first time I lost someone I loved.
Throughout this ordeal we are under a subtle pressure to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. To put things into perspective and understand what needed to be so that we are at peace with what happened.
There is no need for this. It is better to accept that we will never ‘get over’ our loss in a simple way. We will never forget, or naively ‘recover’, nor do we have to. That is the price we pay for having loved. One day, years from now, the memory of what happened will still have the capability to strike us at full devastating loss, making us feel the pain of it as though it’s new. We may never be able to put it behind us conclusively and we shouldn’t have to. The death of a loved one is something we may never overcome and in this sense, their love is eternal. Mourning is not an endpoint. The only thing we should be at peace with is the realisation that this loss may never leave us.
I always wonder what they would think if they could see us mourning. They would be moved by the sheer amount and frequency of the tears shed in their absence. They would be saddened by our sadness. They would probably want us to miss them, but at the same time, they would want that their memory be more than just a source of pain. They would want us to remember that behind, and prior to, the pain was joy, laughter, loyalty, tenderness, insight and immense amounts of fun. They would want us to endure.
We can feel an immense pressure to speak well of the dead. Now that they’re gone, we want above all to love and respect them in their absence. However, it’s okay to admit that the dead were no different from the living: beautifully flawed and fascinatingly complicated. Our relationship with them had complex sides, as with any human relationship. There were disappointments, frustrations, misunderstands that couldn’t be put right and hopes that were never fulfilled. Our relationship with them was like this because that is the essence of all human love. To acknowledge this without guilt does not mean a denial of love. Love reaches out to encompass the whole of someones being and the whole of it is indescribably complex.
Looking back, we may feel we didn’t love them the way we wish we could’ve. Things we didn’t do or things we wish we didn’t do, things we wish we could change if only we had the chance.
This is not something we should worry about. We treated them as human beings, which is what they would have ultimately wanted and expected of us. Most of what we wanted to say made its way to them indirectly. We didn’t have to put it explicitly into words at a pivotal moment. They knew or guessed. They didn’t say everything either. This is how human relations function; we do not have to spell everything out. They knew enough that we cared and why, at points, there were difficulties. They understood that there was sufficient love; it’s why we’re thinking of them now.
One does not die when their body is lowered into a grave, but rather, when the last person whose life was touched by theirs is gone. By this standard, they have so long still left to live. They will be with us through many things that have not yet happened, through so many dilemmas, joys and sorrows to come. We will take them into our confidences. We will hear their voice completely clearly – and they will advise and console us. Death cannot rob us of this. They will continue to survive within us.
Growing up, I always perceived the act of missing to mean one should return to that point. If I missed a person I should go back to them, if I missed a city I should revisit it. Death takes this privilege away from you.
In some languages, ‘I miss you’ is said in a way that can literally be translated to ‘you are missing from me’. A more fitting way to see this is the Urdu translation, ‘I am remembering you’. Missing should not make you feel decreased; instead, it means you are a fuller person with a bigger life. It means you loved. The knowledge that they are at peace can help us through this; they are not angry with us, they don’t need us and they are properly at peace now. Although it may be frightening to die, it is not frightening to be dead. It is now our duty to live on and be faithful to everything they meant for us. Love wants what’s best for the other and them being gone doesn’t mean that they are not with us. They will follow us through the rest of our lives. Our lives are not less now that they’re not here; they have been made fuller with the knowledge that they were and always will be a part of it.
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