*Dear elephant reader: if you’re single & looking for mindful dating or conscious love, try out our lovely partner, MeetMindful.
Everything I say to you now is for later, because there is no fix for now.
You’re going to feel things you’ve never felt before. You’re going to lose some of your favorite sensations.
Shock is real, but invisible.
It can be paralyzing. It can turn you into an auto-piloted version of yourself. When a piece of you is missing, even if you haven’t fully accepted it yet, you may try to fill the empty space with anything within reach—loveable or not. Rational, or not. Safe, or not.
I ask you to be careful. I know right now you cannot hear me.
I know that, now, careful isn’t important. Is there a point to caring about anything anymore? Do you have anything left to care about? What could happen to you, that is worse than what’s already happened?
“Nothing can top this loss,” you may be thinking.
You may be correct.
“Nothing will ever be able to hurt me again.”
You are wrong.
This pain, when it comes, will carry a weight and a transparency that is specific to you. It will crash over you like waves, and it will do so predictably on your worst days, and unpredictably on the days when you feel you are soaring your highest.
When you aren’t drowning in it, you will be wading in the waters—remembering everything, including the fact that it exists. That it probably always will.
Your loss will haunt you when it hits you, forever.
Being told the pain eventually goes away is only true in the sense that it can transform itself into a tamer thing—something more peaceful.
Over time, you may find that the aches in your chest that you feel when remembering your loss, will be less stabbing, less crippling. They become more…butterflies. Grateful tears may replace the ones of sorrow—when memories stir up.
I am not going to say that there is anywhere you can find your perfect peace. I know that the worst part of this loss is knowing that there is nothing that can be done about it. The world around you moves on—without you, without your lost love, and there is nowhere real to place the pain.
You may take it out on yourself for a while. You may take it out on others.
You may begin to experience feelings of resentment toward everyone—the rest of the world—those that aren’t feeling the pain you’re feeling. They couldn’t possibly. Knowing this truth can lead to feeling alone.
Our parents were being honest when they said life isn’t fair. They may have forgotten to mention the unfairness of death.
You have experienced something life-altering. You are altered because of it. You see things in a whole new light. You see time as a bastard, as a precious lover. You wonder why everyone doesn’t spend their waking life simply loving one another. You wonder why everyone even exists in the first place.
You realize, steadily, when you snap back into the world, that you are going to have to handle this sh*t yourself. This one’s on you.
Here is something disappointing and true: No one wants to hear about the loss you’re grieving, especially when your grief extends the time-limit they’ve unknowingly placed on it.
Most people expect you to be over it when they think they would have been over it.
Friends will want you to be happy, will want to comfort you, will wish they knew the words to say, will wish you would shut up about it. Strangers will hope you won’t bring it up. It’s death. It’s a fact. It’s uncomfortable. You will find that people who were once your friends now walk on eggshells around you, avoiding eye-contact, when they would have once greeted you with a smile.
Sometimes we forget that death fits into life just as much as sex. That it isn’t something we need to ignore. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of bringing up death in the daylight. We should be free to feel melancholy and heartbroken, and missing from ourselves, even when we’re wearing bright colors. Even when we aren’t dolled-up for a funeral, or for a wake.
Most of the time, survivors of the dead do not waken, until far later—when their hearts are ready.
You loved—so hard and so much.
Even if you were terrible at showing it, if you worry the person you lost couldn’t see it, and even if the whole world doesn’t know how much you loved, you hold the proof in your heart—in the place where the pain now lives side by side with the love.
It will feel like a hole at first—a missing piece—maybe it will always feel that way.
Over time, you will find yourself filling its with things—other things that you love, that you know are real, that you know love you back.
Maybe in searching for what might fill it you will find yourself. It’s okay to look outside of yourself for yourself, too. There is nothing to be ashamed of here. You are dealing with the one thing that is impossible to “deal with.” You are coping with a loss, and learning to accept it—somehow.
There is no rush. You will not be waking up from this.
You are alone in the pain you are personally experiencing. You are not alone in that this is a part of the human experience. It isn’t a new thing to be overcome with grief over a loved one.
Ancient stories, shrines, caskets, and poems prove this. We aren’t even the only species to mourn. Go find an elephant, and ask it why its heart hurts. Those sad creatures are said to remember everything.
Maybe everything would be easier if we could simply choose to forget.
This isn’t going to be easy. It is going to be okay.
Then it isn’t. The cycle will repeat itself, in a spiral.
As long as you are alive, you will know this story—you’ve told it to yourself a thousand times so far. You will cling to these memories as if they are sacred. I will never tell you that they aren’t. I know that, in a way, these memories are all that you have.
You may contemplate killing yourself. You may do so more than once. It may become a part of your routine, the consideration of taking your own life. I am so proud of you every time you decide not to, and I truly understand every time you come close.
What are we supposed to do with grief? A wise friend told me, “Get rid of it”.
What’s the point? The same friend said there isn’t one.
We are all going to die. Most of us will live to see people we cherish die. It is a law of life that there will be death. It’s hard not to look for a reason for the things that hurt us. It is a comforting thought that both life and death have purpose.
Some things happen for a reason. Other things just happen.
When you get back into the swing of things, I hope you come out head-first.
I hope you know that you are a survivor. I hope the songs that made you cry make you smile, someday. That day won’t seem real to you for a while. I know that.
You’ll be told so many things by strangers and friends. Few will understand. You’ll want to scream. It isn’t their place to understand, just as it isn’t yours to understand their hurt.
There will be times when you want to stay in the heartache.
You will want to let it linger.
You will be the only one capable of pulling yourself out of it, when this happens. Sometimes the pain is all we feel we have left of our lost ones.
You revisit your memories—your favorite ones and least-favorite ones, especially. Sometimes, just to know that they are real.
You will start to wonder what is real. When you find the answer, it will leave a bittersweet taste in your mouth. You may be tempted to cave in on yourself. Resist. When you can.
You are loved. I don’t have to tell you that. That doesn’t fix a single f*cking thing. Nothing does. I know that.
Why don’t you just go out into the middle of a forest and scream as loudly as you possibly can, until there is no voice left in your throat and you feel emptier than before.
You should still try it. I encourage you to try it, once.
Don’t take anything you say to yourself personally right now. Wait until later, until some of the dust on your heart, on their headstone, has settled.
I know that it hurts when you notice they aren’t brought up in conversations anymore. Sometimes, wouldn’t it just feel nice to hear their name from someone other than yourself? Wouldn’t it be nice to be reminded of a very real part of you and your life?
“Don’t give up.”
“Hang in there.”
“Keep your chin up.”
“They are in a better place.”
These words mean less than nothing to you right now. They don’t even entirely make sense.
My advice—genuine and insignificant—is to pour yourself, as soon as you are ready, into anything that makes you feel driven.
Death can be inspiring—this sounds scary, but it’s true.
It doesn’t have to be a giant project. It doesn’t have to be altruistic, or artistic, or even something that you are generally passionate about.
It only needs to be something that keeps you moving. Something that pulls you out of wading in the water, and onto somewhere, working—on shore.
This is so that, over time, the waves of grief that crash over you may soak your feet, may take you a moment to shake off, but won’t leave you gasping for air.
We may have holes in our hearts, but they will not always define us.
“Kick the sh*t out of option B.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg on how to deal with bereavement, grief, & healing from loss.
Author: Krissay Crenshaw
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Images: Courtesy of the author