We don’t really get over the death of a loved one.
We have ways of coping and we get reassurances from others that life will go on, but it never really does. How can you honestly forget about losing someone who has been close to you?
We understand the psychology about loss and the proper, healthy way to continue forward. We trudge through each day, inching forward and waiting for the day when everything will be all better. We can smile about it when it happens, but then the pain of loss hits us again.
What do we do?
Intellectually, the ideal is to change the way we think about death. I use the word intellectually because it needs to start there if we ever hope to internalize it. We can learn a lot about ourselves from studying death. It can teach us that our bodies may physically rot in the ground, but we continue onward. It can teach us about what really matters in our own lives and forces us to take a hard look at ourselves.
It can change relationships and bring people together who have been apart for extended periods of time. Consequently, it can cause us to seek relationships and to stay close to those who we may have distanced ourselves from for whatever reason.
More importantly, if we take death seriously, it can teach us to love others around us with everything we have, while we still can. It pushes us beyond the lip service of staying close to loved ones and taking action to do so.
The secrets of death are numerous, but the brokenness it can leave us with overshadows two important ways to move forward:
Learn to grieve, then learn to love.
Death always has a way of coming out at the seams.
Naturally, I’m an extrovert and will make friends with anybody, at any place, at any time. My comfort zone is to be around people and I’m that person who makes friends with all the neighbours. After the deaths I’ve dealt with recently, I unknowingly retreated from society and became a reserved person. I made no effort to meet new people or even connect with those who I knew.
It was never an issue talking with others and being cordial, but I had no willingness to go beyond that point. I wasn’t even consciously doing it, but it took a support group I unknowingly joined to help me see what happened.
The many people I’ve had the joy of coming across in my life all show those telltale signs of not being able to move on. Certain behaviours cannot be let go because to do so would feel like betraying that person’s memory. Even having to let go of objects that person owned seems like something that cannot be done out of fear of feeling like it’s the only lifeline left to their memory.
Perhaps behind it all is the fear that losing someone so close to you, who has been a big part of your life, means having to face a part of yourself you aren’t willing to see. It’s the part that is completely vulnerable and it feels impossible to show that to anyone else.
Yes, we must be strong and move on knowing that death is an inevitable part of life. We must march forward knowing that we’re still suffering from our loss and are unwilling to share that hurt with other people. We must continue day after day with the knowledge that no one can really understand how much that person has meant to you.
But we’re all doing it, even unconsciously.