2019 was supposed to be the best year yet. At least that’s what I told myself when it started. So far, I have experienced more loss in my life than any year I’ve lived before. I lost my aunt to brain cancer a week after being diagnosed. I lost both my oldest and youngest dogs—13 years old, and two and a half years old—a week apart from each other.
You may not think dogs mean that much, but for someone who will never have children, they are my kids. I lost my horse, who for years was the rock that I clung to, that listened, that never faltered. On top of all the loss, I’ve witnessed engagements, pregnancy announcements, weddings, and even births. Life goes on for us, even though it ceased for those we loved so dearly. Grief never truly goes away.
It creeps up on you in the middle of breakfast, when you’re so happy and awake and loving your scrambled eggs and bacon. One second, if you’re me, you’re chewing your delicious food, dancing, because that’s what you should do when your food tastes good, and the next second, your heart drops in your chest like an airplane from the sky, and your vision becomes watery with the tears welling in them, and suddenly you can’t swallow your food. Those eggs that tasted so good taste rotten in your mouth, as you remember that eggs were her favorite for breakfast, too. Or that he loved bacon more than anyone else you knew. It will happen when you’re driving your car, and their favorite song comes on.
It happened to me, years after my grandfather passed. I heard a song that made me think of him. As soon as I started singing along, I was overwhelmed with the smell of his chewing tobacco, and I cried the rest of the way home. It is so hard grieving one who is not here, who you know does not want you to be sad over them. It’s the biggest and most feared part of life: the ending.
The unknown of what happens when our heart stops beating. Maybe that’s a part of what grief is. It’s your fears leaving your body. What else are you supposed to do when you’re chest feels like a hollow cavern inside you, and every time they cross your mind, your stomach constricts and threatens to expel its contents everywhere? When you can’t get the haunting picture of them laying in the hospital bed out of your mind, the smell of death permeating around the room as you watch them take their last, ragged breaths of life?
How does it disappear so quickly, the flame inside us? Snuffed out as easily as it was lit? Do not stop the waterfall trying to come from your eyes when it threatens. Because it will. Welcome it.
Say, “Hello, Grief. You may let yourself be heard. But not for too long. You must let me live as well.” If you don’t, it will suck you in, depression wrapping you tightly in its grip. Every little thing will threaten your eyes to leak.
But it’s not always time to let it happen. Maybe you don’t cry. Maybe you’re angry. At the world, at your God, at life, for stealing them from you. For ridding them of the experience of life that had not yet been endured. It is hard to be the one left behind. But you must embrace it.
Apply for that job you’ve been dreaming of. Take that trip that you’re trying to convince yourself not to. Love the life you are given, and never take for granted the breaths you take. You never know when you’ll take your last.