I hate death. I mean, I feel like everyone feels the same way about it (well, other than psychotic serial killers I suppose), but throughout my life, it was something I often feared. I know people have fears of dying, but my fears had to do with the people I love dying. I would find myself having intrusive thoughts about loved ones, especially my boyfriend, dying in horrific accidents. Or sometimes I’d just be thinking about getting those terrifying phone calls from police or a family member. I found myself dreading seeing family names pop up on caller ID, and it was because I always thought there was bad news on the other end of that line.
I can remember the first death that had a large impact on me, and that was my maternal grandfather dying when I was seven years old. It was a tragic accident and due to the severity of the head/facial injury, my family thought it was best that I did not see him in the hospital while he was fighting for his life. I do not blame them at all for this, in fact I am grateful that I remember him as he was, and also he did happen to look very much like himself in the casket. I remember continuously crying at that funeral…the grief and sadness felt heavy on my small body.
Fast-forward to age twelve, when I come home to find out that my 16-year old cousin had passed in a tragic accident. This one hurt like hell, because although we didn’t see each other often, when we did, he was one of my favorite people. He was so authentic and didn’t care what anyone thought, and he was hilarious as f*ck! I remember constantly laughing and just having a great time when we were together. Going to that memorial service was really rough for me, and seeing everyone else, knowing we all felt that pain but with different levels of severity…it all felt so heavy again.
Jump a couple years ahead and one of the neighbors at the apartments I was growing up in also suddenly passed. She had been the one who hosted annual Luau each year, as well as the Halloween and Christmas parties. She was always so fun to be around and her nephew was a good friend of mine as he also was my neighbor. Her death was hard to deal with, but for me, I was older and had dealt with death before, but for some of my friends/neighbors, they hadn’t dealt with anything like this before. I saw how hard it was for a few of them, and it hurt knowing too that there was nothing I could do to make that pain go away.
At age 20, I found out that one of my best friends from middle school and freshman year had unfortunately taken her life. This death really shook me and made me feel guilty for numerous reasons. We had never really had a falling out, we just slowly grew apart as our interests and lives changed, but of course I felt guilty that I hadn’t been there for her and that we hadn’t talked in so long. It is easy to spiral and get into the “what ifs,” but after obsessing and ruminating for too long, I realized all of that was pointless. It was hard to let go, especially with the lack of closure and the questions that still were running through many peoples’ minds, but I had to move on with my life.
Less than two years ago, someone else who I had known and recently seen had also suddenly passed. Although some people on the outside who didn’t really know her feel that they would have seen this coming, this was shocking to her close friends who were still in touch with her. I am closer with her best friend, but seeing her go through this loss and hearing about all of the questions still unanswered and all of the uncertainty, it started bringing me back to when my friend had passed. I realized that I would become physically ill whenever we would talk about the recent death of her friend, and I had to take a step back even though I felt like a terrible friend for doing so. I am blessed that she understood and was not upset, and still had other friends who she could lean on for support.
Today I went to a memorial service for a family friend. A couple of the neighbors I grew up with recently lost their uncle. Growing up with them, I also knew their cousins as well (the ones who just lost their father), and my parents and I went to pay our respects. I was reluctant to go at first, because I hate death. I know that the energy is heavy, and it is easy for me to feel those emotions and put myself in their shoes, but that is also why I had to go. I wanted to be there to support my childhood friends and their family, and I also know how hard it is to deal with loss. People need to be around those who love and care about them during these times.
Unfortunately, death is an inevitable part of life; but that love that we have for people during the time we have alive…that is what makes the grief so rough. So when thinking about it that way, grief truly is a powerful form of love. The fact that you have so much adoration and love for another person, and that fact that you physically ache and feel something detach when they leave shows how truly connected we are. For me, instead of fearing death and grief, I want it to serve as a reminder to love now, and be present. It’s important to appreciate what we have right now in this moment, because life is too short, and we never know how short it is.
Death brings a form of heartache that can be hard to describe, but at the same time, if that person was here for one more day, you know you would spend every moment with them. Loving them, breathing in their scent, admiring their features…you wouldn’t shy away and distance yourself in hopes to make the pain easier, you would embrace all of the love that is present and appreciate it, even if that makes it harder when its time to let go. And when the inevitable happens, and the pain is at its worst, you can still lean into that love. Lean into the positive memories. Lean into supportive family and friends. Lean into that power of love that has brought so much joy into your life. Feel that grief move through you; cry it out and don’t feel guilty about it. Sending love to all who need it, and make sure you tell your loved ones how important they are to you.