Death is hard. Waking up every morning with the knowledge that someone you loved you will never see again is so painful. I lost my basketball coach in 7th grade. We were headed to a tournament when he died of a brain aneurysm. This was my first encounter with death. I remember feeling so frightened that he was there and then completely gone forever in the next blink. Death is sudden and quick. But, the aftermath is nowhere near short.
Around two years later, I lost my dad to blood cancer. It took over six months for me to even begin processing his death.
When people would talk about him in past tense, or when they made funeral plans, I couldn't listen because understanding that I would never see my Dad again seemed more painful than his death. Shortly after, I lost my mom to perivascular issues. Losing Mom completely broke me down. Death makes life so hard to live. These experiences have been by far the most painful times in my life. Since they have all passed, I've learned so much. Here are some things I've come to find out in the aftermath.
1. Time doesn't always heal
As time goes on you do learn to live with the pain. But, living and healing are two different things. Everyone handles the aftermath of a death in different ways. The only consistent thing is that as time passes grief, is not so prominent. It doesn't consume your whole mind.
When someone gets injured the initial pain is extreme. As the wounds heal, it hurts less but is still painful and sore. But if a wound doesn't heal correctly, the injury can sustain the same initial pain. So it's important to grieve however feels correct to you. If you don't, time won't numb any pain.
2. It won't all be OK
No matter what, you will always be thinking about the person you've lost. Even on your best, happiest days, you will be hit with flashbacks that leave you reminiscing on the past. It's so common for people to say that it will all be ok and that's not true. It won't all be OK.
You can never go back to the same life after losing someone. Death will change you and you'll never be the same. It's important to know this because sometimes we wait for the moment where we will feel 100% ok again. Waiting for a moment like that is so toxic. Don't wait for a time that is never coming.
3. People love you
Your family, friends, coaches, and teammates are all in your corner. Dealing with death is nearly impossible to do alone. Don't push people away during this time. Hold on to them more than ever. The feeling of knowing someone is in your corner crying with you is paramount to healing. Being able to rant, cry, scream, or yell with someone is exactly what will help you feel better.
4. Be grateful
Death teaches you that life goes by so fast. No one knows when their time will come. Stay grateful for the people you have in your life now. Be grateful for the life you're given. When you lose someone it's important to remember that other people care and love you. Never take that for granted.
5. Ride the roller coaster
There is no cut and dry way to handle death. You can feel fine one day and be a wreck the next. You could've lost someone years and years ago, and still cry uncontrollably for them. Don't ever feel like you need to be in a certain stage at a certain time. You're right on schedule for you.
Anger. Grief. Sadness. Pain. Depression. You're going to feel it all. Everyone experiences them differently. No one will deal with loss the same. I've learned to welcome the waves of emotions I have. It makes me stronger because I know that I will never forget the people I've loved.
People tend to say clichés that are intended to make you feel better. It seems that society has set a general outline of what grieving should look like and it's not fair. Saying that it will all be ok isn't true. Hearing time will heal all wounds isn't always true. Being confident in how you grieve is so vital. It will make the healing process much easier. It's been three years since I lost my parents. And some days I feel like it was yesterday.
I've learned to lean on my people, ride the wave, be grateful, and know that there is no time frame for handling how I feel.