Grieving Young
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Grieving Young

What I wish more people understood when you experience the death of someone at a young age.

Grieving Young
words from the grieving

Grieving Young

What I wish more people understood when you experience the death of someone at a young age.

Tuesday, August 1, 2000, we had cross country practice from 5-7pm. Casie Kerr was an 800 meter school record holder and minutes faster than I was since I was fairly new to the sport; but she had been nursing tendonitis in her knee her entire sophomore year and would run slowly with me as a result. Running can be isolating: the miles you run helped you to think or not to think; however being teeangers we used our runs as therapy sessions to discuss anything and everything that teenagers vented about--and so, that was how we spent our summer of 2000, running while having therapy sessions.. With only twenty minutes of practice time, she handed our coach a letter that read she would have to leave earlier than 7pm to attend a party down by her shore house. As she pleaded with our coach that the letter was legitimate and got into her aqua colored car--my sixth sense felt it: it would be the last time I would see my teammate. The following day, 17 years ago at age 17, Casie was struck broadside and killed as she backed out of her grandparents’ driveway. This tragedy shattered my innocence of believing only the elderly die and reinforced that disaster occurs at any age. What happens when you lose someone at such a young age? I am convinced two things: first, you grow wary of formulating close bonds--thinking they too will leave you, and second, every time you lose someone else, you replay all your losses from the start. I wish more people understood what you feel when you experience the death of someone at a vulnerable age.

  1. Grief is unpredictable.

Grief is gut wrenching and raw; specifically when you experience it at a young age. I never appreciated the quote “Grief comes in waves” because in order for that to occur there has to be a calm in between the wave--and with grief, rarely is there a calm. Sometimes grief looks like uncontrollable crying and in the midst of snots and tears running down your smeared mascara face you start laughing because during your cry you recall a memory. Grief looks like anger and you begin to literally blame the dead--how dare they cause such sadness? I have learned that the grieving process never ends--and it is ok not being ok. However, years later I am able to recognize what grief looks like but when you are young and feel all these intense emotions all at once you begin to think you are on a bipolar roller coaster when in reality you are grieving.

2. Speak their name.

One of my biggest fears after Casie died was “What if everyone forgets her and proceeds with life?” In fact, that is a common fear when we all lose someone. A couple of years after Casie’s death, there was a popular hockey player who attended the same high school and was tragically killed in an automobile accident involving a drunk driver. He left behind two sisters who devoted their life by speaking to local students about the dangers of driving under the influence. In their presentation, they show pictures of D.J. and even a small video clip. His older sister Alison has expressed numerous times that she “Wants to keep him alive by speaking his name.” The concept of “speaking their name” was further illustrated when I went to visit my cousin Grace in North Carolina in 2008. Her older sister, (and my cousin as well) died at 30 years old from a heart attack while six months pregnant. The duration of my trip was spent sharing stories about JoJo and visiting her grave site. When you come face to face with a person who has lost someone dear to them--speak their name. Tell them a story or show them a picture--anything to let them know the person is still remembered --the same way I wanted to see pictures of Casie and I at USA Track and Field Nationals after she passed.

3. Break down walls.

After experiencing my first loss at the tender age of seventeen, I created the Great Wall of China. I discovered what I was bound to learn eventually that age doesn't discriminate and all people die--some unfortunately sooner than others. With that idea rooted, why form close bonds? I did not want to experience such a pain again. Every relationship I had after I managed to sabotage by ignoring phone calls, skipping plans to hang out, and completely isolating myself. When I found myself getting close to a certain group of individuals, I ran (both literally and metaphorically). I transfered college after one semester of finding a core group of friends. I sacrificed my health and self destructed which would eventually lead to my dismissal off a division one college track team so that I can train alone. I was the shady roommate who would throw parties and disappear in my room during them only to leave the other girls cleaning the mess. I was the only one missing from high school reunion photos because I went AWOL.Although it was my decision to disappear, what I really longed for was just one person to break down my wall.

4. Understand Triggers

Yes, triggers are all around us and they appear at the most random times. I lost Casie during Cross Country Running season which ironically happens to be my favorite sport. Three months later, I was running while listening to the Goo Goo Dolls song “Black Balloon” where I physically came to an abrupt stop. Such sadness consumed every inch of me--and it was then I connected the dots that while traveling to North Carolina for the USA Track and Field Nationals we played the Goo Goo Dolls newest released on repeat. I witnessed the triggers of loss several times throughout my life. My late grandfather was an avid gardener and my aunt (his daughter) will often cry while passing a well grown garden. Even the smell of chocolate milk once brought a co worker to tears knowing that her late son used to love drinking it. People do not understand that such triggers can literally cripple someone for eternity.

5. Death will happen again

Years later, I will be having a sublime moment with my children admiring the way the sun sets at the park. I will sadly get a phone call that my current friend unexpectedly passed. Just like that, everyone who has died in my life replays like some horror movie starting from person number one and ending with the present passed person. Each person's face appears in my head and my grief becomes raw again. I wish people understood that at this moment, I am feeling fear of having to experience this sadness once again.

I experienced a death at a young age--and while the vast majority of people will mumble to “Get over it;” I simply cant. In reality, it is not that I mentally can’t get over it; it is more of the fact that I do not want to get over it. I want to keep each person ranging from my seventeen year old friend to my grandparents alive. I want to speak their name and cry and laugh at the same time. Most importantly, I want people to understand it is ok to not be ok sometimes when we think of those who left us.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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