I'm usually pretty open about losing people in my life, but after the death of someone who was recently introduced to me, I thought about writing this capitalizing on some things regarding our life here on Earth and how we process death.
Life is so long and so short at the same time. A 90-year-old can learn multiple life lessons and experience so much of the world even if they lived in one tiny corner of the Earth for those 90 years, but people can live that long and not learn anything at all. Sometimes living that long gives more opportunity for heartache and pain, and they do more damage to others than they ever intended. But all of these aspects are important, and let me tell you why.
Pain gives you a unique perspective on struggle. When you fall into a hole and climb out of it, you have become more experienced to deal with the situation again. Then, one day when somebody else falls in too, you can give them what you've learned to get out of their own hole.
Pain is the gift of reality. When you experience pain, you break the flow of time and realize that you've been drifting in your life all along. You never realize where you are in life until the pain reappears to gives you clarity to stop and look around at where you are standing now.
Sometimes, the damage you cause is meant to give pain to others to teach them something valuable about life. Just because you bring pain to another person does not mean that you forfeit the right to live, because, in reality, we are meant to hurt one another. It is a selfish thing to say that part of our intended purpose on this Earth is to hurt people, but it is true. The pain you feel in life doesn't always give you the power to not cause it to others.
You have learned from the pain to manage yourself better next time. However, you never learn how others process pain and what will cause them grief, which eventually will cause someone to feel terrible. But, we grow as individuals when we hurt people and when we do something wrong.
Our relationships with people are changing every day, no matter how slowly. The purpose of life isn't to hurt people. It is to grow as individuals and unknowingly help others grow as well through your actions. We are part of something bigger than ourselves, and admitting that is the first step to realizing that what our pain does to us.
With some perspective to my own life, my mother died of cancer and my father, purposefully or not, drank himself to death all before the age of 12. I note these two deaths not because they are my parents and the most meaningful, but because each death offered a perspective to my own life to help me move on with myself.
My mother lived her life to the fullest, and I was sure of that when she died. My mother realized three years before dying that the rest of her life was not about her, it was about my sister and me. She called those three years "making memories." Instead of choosing how to best live out the rest of her days for herself, she chose to concentrate her remaining years focusing on being a mother and giving my sister and I every moment we deserved from a maternal figure. She knew that she caused pain while doing it because, for three years, I saw her die. But she also selflessly transformed as a person using her own pain; deciding to ignore her body being butchered and becoming toxic to give us the time we would never get back. Sometimes, a person will pretend to be fine so that they can give you themselves just a little while longer.
My father was depressed, and did anything to make himself feel like the life he was living had meaning beyond his pain. He took care of my sister and me, despite having a dead wife and being a single parent. He gave up his job as a police officer for us and was often bullied by forces greater than his willpower. I know it is wrong to not give the dead the chance to speak for themselves, but I feel that it is important to note that despite my father fighting severe depression to take care of his kids, he was also a selfish person.
He was selfish to believe that his life was meaningless, he was selfish to choose alcohol over his wellbeing, and he was selfish for knowing he had a disease and choosing to fight the little battles instead of the big one. But I understand why he was selfish. Sometimes, the pain we experience can't be used to make ourselves better. Sometimes the people who have gotten out of 1,000 holes can't help themselves get out of one more. Sometimes, the pain is just greater than ourselves.
I have learned through my encounters with death that the pain you get is what you make of it. I have learned that no matter how old you are, you may have never gotten to understand life. I have learned that everyone is meant to feel pain so that you can learn how to live with it, and transform the way you're affected by it.
So, a note to the people who are going through a death right now: a person's life, regardless of not having been fully lived or not, was a successful life. It was successful because they got to exist and affect the way we have changed as people because at one point they have been in it. They got to know a moment of happiness, a month of pain, the fear of having their life end, and the pain of having it took away. They got to know it the same as you did. And that is life. Life is the selfishness to live it and the experience to deal with it, even if it is only for a quarter of what it could have been lived. No amount of time was lived without purpose, and our life isn't either.
We have been touched by them. In some way, we have formed a slightly or majorly different identity because of them, and we feel that pain of their death because we project their pain onto ourselves, imagining what they felt like having their life taken out from under them or by them.
But now that they have given us that pain, how do we plan to use it for the rest of our lives?
You must utilize the person's death for the ability to move on with your own. Death is part of life, and young death reminds us of the vulnerability we have to fall to our suffering, pain, or the feeling of your life stopping, both in death and in the aftermath of one. We hurt because it didn't happen to us, and we have the imagination to put ourselves into their shoes to comprehend death.
So instead of making yourself suffer against the wishes of the deceased, take what you have learned from these people who are no longer with us, and grow yourself from that pain. They did not die to hurt you or strike a moment of fear into your life. They died because their life was too big to contain. None of us can ever forget a person's death, but feeling pain for them does not serve their memory. We are still in the middle of our successful, painful, amazing, and hurtful lives, and although that person is not able to go through it with you, just know they have gotten the chance to let you grow because of them.
That I believe, is the best gift you can give someone. Live because of them, not despite them being unable to live it with you.