Some of you know that my family suffered a heart breaking loss not long ago. My seven and a half week old grandson passed away May 4, 2016. To provide comfort, a friend sent me this lovely post, which appeared on Reddit. It was written in response to a query from a person who was in grief, after the loss of a friend. Not only did this eloquent post provide comfort to my entire family, I found the description fits well for loss by death, as well as losses from many other heartbreaking situations such as divorce or infidelity. Hence, I am sharing this post with you today.
To my knowledge, this was written anonymously.
“Here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must feel to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter.” I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. All you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s a physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come ten seconds apart and don’t even give you a chance to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But, in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of coffee… It can be just about anything….but the waves come crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or, 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, a holiday… You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will again, come out on the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming and somehow, you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come, and you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
In my opinion, the crashing waves metaphor perfectly expresses not only the anguish of those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, but also the loss of marriage and family due to divorce, or the loss of the trust in a marriage after a betrayal has been uncovered. Perhaps you discover that it also resonates for the feelings of pain generated by another heartbreak. Please feel free to share those other experiences with me.
Best wishes for a happy summer.