5 Years. 4 Loved Ones Gone.
Here’s how I cope.
“I don’t know how you do it”.
Her head collapsed in her hands. I watched as she started to cry. My hand reached for her back and I held my breath. Many people, at this point, would try to say something to her. Maybe an “I’m sorry” or a “You’re gonna get through this”.
But I offered silence and a small physical gesture. This wasn’t my battle to fight for her. And if that sounds rude, I don’t care.
We all need to fight this battle.
I’ve learned to be okay with everything fading
Knowing I could die without achieving success was, at first, a very depressing idea for me. When you see a dead person, you’re forced to remember that you will die. That’s just how this deal goes. Contract non-negotiable.
Knowing this was unavoidable, I made an important mental shift.
The media-driven “die in glory” narrative is really cute and uplifting in the theater, but it’s actually all a bit hollow. I realized it doesn’t matter if my gorgeous figure isn’t made into a statue. I’d rather die knowing I made a difference in other’s lives.
If you think about it, most religions emphasize the importance of being in service to others. Maybe they’re all onto something.
At the same time, my church gave me wine when I was 12. So I’m not sure.
I started being present
You being dead and gone is probably a little ways off. Regardless, if you’re not dead, you’re alive.
This is a beautiful thing.
When I feel stuck in the future or the past I immediately sit down, close my eyes and do a simple meditation. Meditation, for me, is the chance to actually listen to the world around me.
What a strange and powerful idea.
I got re-focused
I allow myself time to grieve. It doesn’t matter where I am or what time of day it is. This is essential.
Once I allow myself to grieve, I re-focus.
Grief can easily take over our thoughts and consume us, but if you can invest your mental energy in other activities, you’ll be a whole lot happier.
If you find these thoughts too sad and terrifying to stop thinking about (seems silly, but it’s not), do something you really love. Grab a fun snack. Put on your favorite show. Watch a comedy. Laugh, call someone, work out, have sex…
Do something fun. You’re allowed to. You still gotta live.
I acknowledged the weird
Death is strange. It’s sad, beautiful, terrifying and weird. When I saw my father laying in a casket I whispered under my breath:
“This is f*cking bizarre”.
That’s a direct quote and it’s true. Death is a strange phenomenon. It’s a natural part of life, but it’s also uncomfortable for a lot of people. I still get the heebie-jeebie’s whenever I look at a dead body.
So you can be honest and call a spade a spade. It’s weird.
And most importantly: I feel. A lot.
You can’t get around this.
We don’t always get better at sadness, but we can get better at dealing with it. I learned how to recognize, accept and manage my emotions over these 5 years. It’s something I don’t even have to think about anymore.
“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt”
— John Greene
It took time. Which is a hard pill to swallow in a world full of hustle and bustle, espresso and 24-hour news cycles. So when I watch someone grieve, I offer a smaller gesture.
Sometimes it’s all we need to win the war.