Grief is a funny thing. Over time it twists and turns inside you contorting into unimaginable shapes and sizes. Eventually, it evolves into a whole different kind of animal, but it never truly goes away. Once you’ve been touched by loss, grief is a part of you forever. Yes, it may recede into the recesses of your mind and heart allowing you the courtesy to continue living and to even be happy. But it lies in wait for the random trigger – a song playing on the radio, a scent wafting through the air or a photograph sitting on your nightstand – that will reawaken those feelings of love and loss. However, if you’re lucky, eventually feelings of gratitude and joy will accompany those of grief.
About three years ago, I lost one of my best friends. For over four years, our lives and hearts had intertwined in a messy combination of friendship, love and harsh reality. We walked hand in hand through the fires of hell, which in our case meant constant visits to the hospital and failed attempts at managing the pain he endured daily. At just twenty years old, I was faced with making life and death decisions in the ICU, and tasked with the responsibility of caring for an injured soldier to whom I had given my heart. So after four years of playing nurse to my injured soldier and nursing my own depression, it was no surprise when our relationship ended. Even so, he continued to be one of my most loyal friends.
We had our differences from time to time, but he was the one I always wanted to talk to when I needed advice on life, love and pretty much everything. He pointed out which of my new love interests were worthy. He encouraged me when I was struggling through my final semester of college. And he taught me what it meant to be loved unconditionally and without expectation.
My friend was taken from this world so quickly and unexpectedly that I never had a chance to say goodbye. There were so many things I never got to share with him. And so many words left unspoken. His was not the first death to mark my life, nor would it be the last. But his was one of the most painful losses that I have endured.
For months, the grief came and went as unexpectedly as his death. It would wash over me in an instant flooding my eyes with tears and my heart with longing. Every time I looked at my fur babies, whom we had once shared, I saw his face. My heart was broken.
Poor Troy did all he could to make things easier on me. He held me when I cried, comforted me when I needed it and listened. But, ultimately, grief is a road you walk alone. Others may try to walk beside you and support you, but you have to make your own journey through grief. You wake each morning to the fresh realization of your loss and just try to get through the day. Until one day, you actually smile and laugh. One day your mind isn’t muddled with constant thoughts of them. And one day you’re even able to look back with a sense of gratitude for having had them in your life. You will always miss them. You will always remember them. But, you learn to cherish life and try to create one that they would be proud of.
Have you lost someone close to you? How did you deal with your grief?