Most of us have experienced the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one. For some, it was a parent or close relative, for others it was a friend or acquaintance. Regardless of the title, the reality of having someone forever removed from your life is traumatic. When I was twenty-four, I had the unfortunate task of watching my mother lose her battle with cancer. Over the past nine years, I’ve wondered about the life that could’ve been had my mother’s outcome been different. Struggling to understand why her existence in this world ended at the age of forty-two was at one time my daily frustration. Now, I’ve learned to dwell less on what will never be and instead understand what is.
When loss happens, those closest feel the impact and are changed in ways they never expect. Relationships (romantic, platonic and familial), mindsets, and expectations no longer align with the pre-death version of what they were. There’s a shift in the atmosphere, extending far beyond day one, month one or even year one. In an instant, we are assured that nothing will ever be the same.
For those stumbling over heartfelt sentences when trying to speak peace and healing to a loved one suffering through a loss, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. I’m not referring to the obligatory remarks regarding prayers and thoughts or even the ever-present downturned mouths and solemnly bowed heads. No, I’m providing a real look behind the curtain. Here are some thoughts on what the person may be gaining from their loss.
The Value of Life Changes: Once you’ve witnessed a life ending, you’re acutely aware of your mortality. This is oft times considered strange or morbid to those around you. Culturally, people avoid discussing death or anything close to it as if by the very mention, it will happen. Now that’s strange. What most don’t realize is by gaining an understanding of death and what it means to lose, you find yourself placing greater value on life. You cherish each day because you don’t assume you’ll have tomorrow. While not always possible, you strive to spend less time arguing over the small stuff and instead expend energy on the things/people/experiences that actually matter.
You have a greater willingness to walk away: Be it a negative influence, bad situation or unfortunate circumstance, walking away becomes easier than ever. The phrase ‘life is short’ is your daily mantra and you regard others as disposable characters in a self-produced drama entitled, Life. I had an ex-boyfriend get upset with me because I told him if I can lose the most important person in my life and still find a way to move on, I would surely be okay if our relationship ended. At the time we weren’t on the brink of ending, or even rocky, but apparently my comment caused him to feel less than loved. His loss, my truth. Because you’re acutely aware of your mortality, you don’t want to waste breaths being unhappy or unfulfilled. I didn’t think it strange to walk away from a six-figure salary when I knew my heart was no longer in it. I didn’t believe it weird to relocate to a different city, start a business and live on my terms. The beauty and tragedy in death is seeing yourself on borrowed time and knowing only you can decide how best to use it.
Our deepest fear shifts: – once you’ve lost someone, you’re constantly wondering
if when you’ll lose someone else. Yesterday, I lost an uncle–my mom’s younger brother. On what would’ve been my mom’s 45th birthday, her mother died. It’s been a long road and there is a constant concern of what a new day will bring. From flights and texts to morning kisses and arguments, we never know what will be the last word or memory we share with a person. Unfortunately, because we’re wondering when death may strike again, we cling to people during goodbyes. Our eyes water and our hearts ache as though we’ve already lost them. We speak freely and hold back little. We offer our authentic selves and hope they will reciprocate. Our deepest fear isn’t in our dying–because every loss claims a piece of us–it’s in leaving this world without ensuring our loved ones actually know they’re loved and appreciated. It’s in our final goodbye not giving peace to those we leave behind. It’s an unsettling feeling, an unfortunate truth, and a freeing reminder.
Have you ever experienced a loss? How did you handle it and did these 3 points ring true for you?
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