By Harriet Condron
Growing up, I never had to deal with a huge loss in my family. Nobody was ever seriously ill and everyone seemed happy; I was lucky. But never suffering a loss meant that I was stuck waiting for it to happen. When friends would come back to school after a week off and run out of class crying uncontrollably, I was puzzled. What could be that bad? Although this was certainly not a frequent event, most people had experienced the passing of family members, except me. And so I waited. It didn’t feel like I was waiting at the time; I was living my life. The thing nobody tells you is that you can never really live until you experience grief. But this new sense of life that death brings can only be experienced once you accept your loved one has gone forever.
When you lose someone you love, it can seem unreal. You often expect them to be in their favourite chair as you enter the living room or to just be a phone call away. And when you call that person and they don’t pick up the first time, you try again. After the fifth call, it hits you and the small lump sitting on your chest seems to expand. They’re not here anymore. People will tell you, “Of course they’re still here, they’re watching you and they are so proud.” But you don’t believe them. How could you believe that the person you love is watching your heart break and is doing nothing about it?
You ask that person in the sky, “Why? What did they ever do?” But you are never answered, and you learn to accept that the person in the sky probably isn’t real and you are just talking to yourself. There is no reason why your grandma or dad died. It just happens. It happens every day. It happened to your friends and it will happen to people you have never met. There is no reason your parent was chosen over another. And, although this might be the worst thing to admit, it gives you comfort. They didn’t die because they ran a red light that one time, or they got too drunk to remember falling over. They weren’t targeted because they were too kind or too loving. They died because their lives came to an end. And that is the fact you might eventually come to acknowledge. Or you might tell yourself some other comforting thing, something that makes sense to you. Something that will help you through this pain you’re experiencing.
It takes time to recover from loss, if recovery is even a possibility. The dull ache you carry around in your chest will ease over time. It might not ever disappear, but you might not want it to go because it reminds you of the person you lost. That special person might not be watching you, or might be, but the memories you make without your loved one will become even more special, because you’ll be thinking of them when you make them. They will help shape your future, just like they helped shape your past.
Death is a funny thing; it leaves gaps where someone once stood. It is hard to imagine life with those gaps. Your grandma won’t be sitting in that armchair anymore. Your dad won’t be at the other end of the phone. But those gaps will slowly fill. You might feel guilty for moving on, but this is a part of life and you begin to accept it.
You will start to feel normal again, and this is good. This is life.
Harriet is a third year English student, currently trying to figure out what to do with her degree. While she is doing that, you may find her tucked away in a corner reading one of the many books on her to-read list.