If you are reading this, it is most likely because you are in the process of grieving over the death of a loved one. Maybe this is your first time encountering loss, or maybe life has been putting you down for a while and this is an unfortunate second, third, fourth time, whatever. The point is that you are suffering in ways you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy and for those of us who know death in our lives, pure torture does not even begin to cover the scope of its misery.
When we are grieving, it is as much of an individual effort to cope as much as it is communal. We’ve all heard people say things like:
It gets better.
It gets easier.
Hang in there.
To their friends and family members so broken-hearted that it is a miracle if they even get out of bed and show up to work or school in the morning. As someone fighting the battle of grief at this very moment, allow me to tell you that all of those cliché things are absolute lies.
It does not get better.
It does not get easier.
It is not a matter of hanging in there.
It is a matter of learning.
You simply have to learn to live with a gaping hole in your heart, in your life, for the rest of time. You have to accept that if you call your loved one's phone number, they will never answer. You have to accept that if you walk through their door, there is no hug hello. There is not a single holiday, milestone, moment where that person will not be missed. Quite frankly, for someone who is grieving, “there in spirit” just doesn’t cut it. There is nothing on earth, above, or below that can possibly fill the void that you have been left with.
The most devastating thing about death is that it gives those left behind a new life. It is one of the most destructive, violent, soul- crushing rebirths that exists within mankind. As a mourner, you are basically forced to re-learn how to do everything in your life without that person, even the things your loved one had nothing to do with when they were around. Losing someone important to you affects your mental health, academic performance, drive at work, and relationships with every other person that you care about. It affects everything. You feel displaced and disconnected. You do not even recognize yourself. How can you even be you without them?
I hate to break it to you, but you will never be “you” again.
So, say hello to the new you.
The new grief-stricken, shattered, you.
The "you" you're going to be for the rest of your life. At least, until the next bout of mortality strikes your social circle, that is.
The old you is dead and gone.
It sounds harsh, but it is, unfortunately, true. A thought I have had every day since I lost my grandfather a few months ago is how much duller, how much bleaker my life has become without him. I feel like I am enveloped in a black cloud, and on the other side through this smoke, this smog, I can see every person and thing that makes me happy. I try to reach out my hand from the cloud, and I can touch nothing. I grab onto empty air. In the moment, it seems like there is no way out.
Nothing brings you joy like it once had if anything can even bring you joy at all. You have to train yourself to enjoy the same things and people in different ways. You have to learn to enjoy in spite of. In spite of emptiness, in spite of feeling lost, in spite of sometimes feeling nothing at all. Some things you will just never enjoy again. It happens, or so I'm learning.
And that just doesn’t sound like you, does it?
At first, you will look in the mirror and detest what you see. You will be revolted and repelled by bloodshot eyes and a permanent grimace. Eventually, the external will fade and become forever internalized. Somewhere inside of you, your eyes will always be bloodshot and you will always be frowning. Something inside of you will urge you to forge forward, regardless of whether or not you want to. You will wake up and you will cry all day until you gag on your own spit. Or maybe you will wake up, not let a single word fall from your lips, and go to sleep in the same fashion. This could go on for months, it could go on for days. Everyone deals with loss in different ways. But you will learn to smile and laugh and see the world through your new set of post-loss eyes. The grief- stricken shattered you will, I’m hoping, become a whole new “different kind of happy” you that can look at the world and not harbor resentment towards it.
Someone I spoke to last week told me that instead of talking about my life going forward as if it were a light bulb dimmed by death, perhaps refer to it as a wholly different light bulb that is now glowing in place of my former life. It still gives off light, it is still bright, but just a new type of bright.
A different type of bright to go along with a different type of life and a different type of you.
Maybe it is an entirely different light fixture, bulb included. Your life was once a chandelier, and now it is a bedside table lamp. In my opinion, I guess that’s okay. I guess it’s something I can live with. I guess it’s something I can tolerate.
For a while, your life is going to be about tolerating. Accepting. Coming to terms with. Understanding. Learning. And that’s okay. A new you takes time. Changing the light bulb sounds easy, but adjusting to the new lighting won’t be easy on the eyes.
And that’s okay too.
One day, you’ll shine again. It’s just a matter of learning how.