I’ve been through the loss of countless souls I’ve adored and poured my all into, over the last few years. Whether it’s my immediate family, or otherwise.
But every time you lose someone, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve dealt with the soul-crushing, stone-cold, numb pain of death prior t0o that, because it just hits you in different ways but with the same force time and again.
The people in your life, in all their love and concern, will console you in their own ways. Most commonly some or the other variation of the following:
- they’re in a better place
- there’s no more suffering and they’re finally at peace
- they’ll join [insert names of other people close to you who have passed] and they’ll all be happy together
- they’re looking down on us, they’re our guardian angel
- they’ve gone where we are all going to go
- time will heal the wounds of grief, so just feel the pain for now and try to be patient
Somehow, although I love my people, I’ve never really found any of that very helpful or comforting.
There are a few thoughts and quotes, however, that have helped me at different times. It’s important to know that no two people are the same, so what helps me may or may not help somebody else.
There’s another important thing to remember too: no two deaths will ever hit you the same.
So what may not help now, might help you later. Or vice-versa.
Thoughts That May Help You Move on from Grief
“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass
This quote hit me so hard the first time I read it.
From the second we’re born – from the very first breath we take – we begin the process of death and dying. As morose as that sounds, it’s a fact of life.
Death and life are eternally locked in an inextricable embrace. You can not have one without the other. And just because that thought makes me sad, it does not make it any less of a fact.
We’re all born to die. That’s it. It’s just not in our hands, it’s not in our control to always be able to save the ones we love. We aren’t magicians.
We are only human. And we can only do the most human thing of all – love each other while we have the time.
Such a cliche, I know.
But really, the only thing in our hands is to accompany them in their journey through mortality, and equally importantly, let them accompany us in ours.
If you accept death being the destination of life, you begin to see the magic of the limited time you are given to brighten up somebody else’s existence. Do what you can – walk with others and let them walk with you to our common destination.
This may not seem like much when you’re in the middle of that kind of pain, but slowly, you begin to see the limitlessness that exists within something that is inherently limited.
Shift the perspective
We naturally look at life through our own lens.
Even when we look at a situation from somebody else’s perspective, we must first step out of our own.
To some of us, having empathy is a lot easier than for some others.
But it is still something we must consciously do. It is a distinct step – an action – we must take in order to get out of our own minds to attempt to empathise.
Yet, to think of life and death from the eyes of the departed often helps in dealing with the burden of the pain. Think of the departed as the protagonist. Think of it as their story, and as though you were merely a supporting character.
In the wake of a painful death (especially if it is of one who is younger to us or one who we felt responsible for in some way), we carry the burden of many unanswered, rhetorical questions.
Could I have done more?
Should I have done this instead of that?
Could I have been a better mom/friend/daughter/brother/dad/teacher/whatever?
You played the role of the supporting character as best you could. It’s as simple as that. It is, and always was, the protagonist’s story.
You were simply the character who was assigned a role. But the story itself was never yours.
You have your own story in which everybody else, including the departed, plays a supporting role.
In every person’s story, the only one going from the very first page to the very last sentence, will be the protagonist. No, the supporting character, try as they might, can not save the day. Otherwise, the story would be about them.
Always remember, the story is truly only about the protagonist – the good times they have, the relationships they build, the time they spend with themselves and others, and importantly, the struggles they must go through and the odds they must beat – often with the timely help of the supporting characters – yet the struggle itself remains their own.
Even other questions which, on the surface, appear to be rooted from the perspective of the departed, often are not.
Why did this happen to someone like her?
Why did he have to suffer so much?
How could she die so young?
We ask ourselves these questions on the basis of our own assumptions of how much we think someone has suffered or not. We believe [insert age] is far too young to die.
It’s all…very societally ingrained – the concept of suffering, the concept of when we are to die.
We count time by measuring it in years, instead of moments. It isn’t really our individual fault, it’s how we’ve been socially programmed since we were born.
No one can or ever should take it for granted that we’re all going to live till the ripe old age of 97.
Nature does not work this way.
Again, just because this makes me sad, does not make it any less of a fact.
Remember the first point? We’re all just walking each other home. For some of us, the destination is closer than for others.
Always remember, the story is truly only about the protagonist.
You do not get to decide that the amount of suffering they went through is a lot.
You do not get to decide what is the expected age to die. Nobody does.
They have to go through their struggles and we have to play the supporting character for as long as we can. And that’s the only thing we can do.
Intention is everything
I quite strongly disagree with the widely-quoted and almost universally believed-notion that time heals all wounds.
By experience, I know for a fact that it hasn’t in my case.
Time hasn’t healed shit.
What has, is the intention. When I intend to come out of my pain, when I truly think it is time I healed and moved forward, I do.
Of course, it’s not like I tell myself I need to heal and the next minute I’m fine. It takes months or often, years.
But, you see, this is where time comes in. Time helps, but Time does not heal.
Time can only work in conjunction with Intention.
Ask yourself this: What do you truly want?
Do you want to be free of the burden of pain, guilt and loss? Then Intention is as simple as telling yourself that you want to move on. Take baby steps. Start simply by saying these words out loud to yourself every day or every now and then.
I want to be happy again. I want to feel joy. I want to feel free like I once did.
You can then expect time to help you, but it can’t do the dirty work for you while you sit around in your sweats, moping all the time.
Of course, a period of grief is absolutely necessary and don’t you let anyone take that away from you.
But draw the line between grief and the vortex of self-pity. It’s a line in the sand, but make sure you stand up when it’s time.
And when you do stand up and you’re ready to take baby steps, start with telling yourself those words and then start doing small things that encourage self-love and self-care.
It always starts with the Self.
Healing takes a lot of effort and a whole lot of self-love. This process is born out of intention, so always remind yourself of that.
But with the most recent loss I have suffered, I’ve taken a conscious decision not to heal. And I don’t let people’s opinions of what is right and wrong sway me. No one gets to judge you if you feel like you don’t want to move on from your pain right now.
It’s your life and there is no one way to live it.
What I do think is important is:
never let yourself become unproductive,
never lose yourself in the ugly quicksand of self-pity and,
to always play a constructive role in the world, in society, in your community.
The pain I feel right now is something I’ve been able to turn into productivity. It drives me and my ambition.
It makes sense for me that I don’t want to get over this because my pain isn’t guilt and my pain isn’t pity.
It’s just pain.
And that’s alright, for now.
Because sometimes the best way to be able to feel moments of peace and joy again is to allow yourself to be exactly what you want to be, without the expectation of ever healing in the first place.