The end of an era, a year, a decade… it makes you reflect. Reflecting for me at the end of this year and decade looks a little different.
If my 22 year old sister had been told at the beginning of the decade that she wouldn’t make it out of this one, would she have believed you? How could she? She wasn’t even 32 years old yet. Good people, loving people, young people… aren’t supposed to die. Since my sister passed away, I have heard of 4 or 5 other people who have also died too young. And they were all 31 years old when it happened. Why is it that numbers show up in patterns in our lives? Why were they ALL 31? What does that mean?
Life is fragile. I tell people that my views on life feel completely different. I say that today could literally be my last day. This could be my last week, month, or year. Even though it is true, it feels like I am being super dramatic when I say it. But a few months ago, I really didn’t get it. Watching my young sister die so quickly changed this. She was fine the month before. She started out 2019 completely healthy. She was just like me. It’s scary.
What is it that we truly do not grasp about the fact our life could end at any moment? Is it too hard to face so we just ignore it? Is it our own vanity that we believe it won’t actually happen to us or someone we love? Is death our biggest fear?
I can’t say that every moment of every day I am aware of life’s fragility. But I am reminded of it at least once a day now. It makes me want to hold onto my son more tightly, to rock him to bed, to give him all the kisses I can. It makes me want to put my phone down and study my partner’s face… to see how it has changed over the past 15 years of knowing each other. It makes me want to see my friends and family more often, and to actually be present when we are together. It’s those times that I want so badly to call my sister on the phone, to hear her voice one more time, to hug her and hear her laugh that I remember this the most. It also makes me want to crawl under my covers and hide. And I would give up having these reminder moments in a heartbeat if she could just be here right now. I really miss the bliss of not always being aware of how quickly things can go from good to bad.
And something I want to share with people who have not experienced grief or the death of a loved one but who truly want to comfort and be there for someone who has…
I am personally finding it is best to have my feelings validated. I have felt the most encouraged when people have just let me feel my pain without judgment… when they agree with me about how badly it sucks.
The worst things I have heard or the times I have felt most shamed for how sad I am, are the times when someone has tried to put a positive spin on it. When they try to wrap it up, or come up with some grand “why”. Listening to that, all I hear is that it is not okay to feel how I am feeling. That for some reason, this awful thing had to happen to cause us to grow. Which is extremely hurtful and not at all accurate.
And If I personally choose to find meaning from this, it is not because my sister had to die for that to happen. It seems obvious, but no lesson or growth will ever be worth what she went through or not having her here. Losing a loved one is not an ideal way to find meaning.
It also really sucks when someone you love never brings it up. It makes you feel like they expect you to be okay when you just aren’t. It’s not like you have to talk about it extensively every time you are together, but it hurts when you thought someone cared about you and they never ask or acknowledge the hardest thing that you’ve ever faced.
Shy away from sharing your own advice or resolution to what grieving people are going through and just be there. Listen, support, ask, and help them on a daily basis do simple things that are difficult to them now. Realize that bad things don’t have to happen for any good reason. Sometimes they just do.