In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about death, life… and life after death. I’ve learned that it’s real, and I’m not talking about life after death on a spiritual level, I’m not talking about getting down on your knees – I’m talking about raising your children, tending to your household, showing up for work or maybe just showing up in general.
When my mom died last year, at one point, I remember thinking to myself… Is this it? What now? What possibly am I supposed to do now? When grief attacks your very own well-being, you’re left sitting in a cloud with difficult questions about how to handle this new life after death, and I promise, none of these answers will come easily, quickly or steadfast.
If you’re going through this, please don’t feel the need to do anything but survive the next day. Take a moment and sit in the silence, and start to find the beauty in your surroundings once again, be it your children playing, fighting, the dirty dishes overflowing in the sink that shows your home is fed, the birds providing new tunes, the rain hitting your windows or the teenagers smitten for each other, walking hand-in-hand down the road. This is all you have to do, and if you find yourself having to answer the same questions over and over again – don’t.
From someone who has been the sufferer and comforter, I’ve found sometimes the simplest and most instinctual questions are what often makes someone break inside. If you find yourself on the other side of this grief – witnessing it firsthand, go ahead and let your first instincts kick in as a friend and fill their fridge and their home with all the love and support available to give. But please remember at a time when all of life’s plans are far fetched and your friend is now questioning whether the sky is truly blue, avoid these very few and simple lines:
How Are You
- What they’re thinking: I’m heart broken, lost, full of rage, terrified, irritated, sick to my stomach and down right sad. Other than that, I’m fine – thanks. The problem: It’s automatic. It’s robotic. It’s all we ever know when in the presence of someone who is hurting or put in a situation you are unfamiliar with. It’s okay, but it’s also the question that made me crumble inside and want to scream, “LOOK AT ME! How do you think I am!” The answer given over and over is I’m fine, we’re fine, we’re doing the best we can be or sometimes nothing at all. Expressing feelings when the feelings are so intense, new and so raw, is hard to do or express in the aftermath of grief. One of the best things someone asked me during this process is, “How are you today?”
Your Mom/Person would want you to…
- What I’m Thinking: It’s her job to want me to be happy. My mom would want a lot of things for me and one of the biggest things she’s always wanted for me is to be my own person. She wanted me to speak loudly, believe in myself and trust my heart. The Problem: For me, this was another stating the obvious but always knocked me on my feet. Again, we know those around us mean well and the words truly are hard to spit out but someone who is experiencing grief all of the sudden becomes 200% aware of the obvious sights of life. I’ve heard it all from “your mom would want you to be happy” to “your mom would want you to have more children.” When grief comes into play, no one should be allowed to tell others how they should feel, who thinks they should feel something or when they should be feeling something.
They’re in a better place
- What I’m thinking: At this moment, the best place for them to be is standing right by my side. The problem: This is setting the table of their new reality and they likely are not prepared for that or wanting to trust anything of this process in accepting a new way of life – life after death, I like to say. Whether or not pain and suffering were involved in the loss of a loved one, in the shallow pit of grief, it’s extremely hard for anyone to feel any sort of emotion towards the word “better.”
You look great
- What I’m thinking: It took all my might to shower, I’ve become a pro at hiding the bags under my eyes and my clothes and/or pillow cases are constantly drenched in a lovely mixture of snot and tears. The problem: One of the hardest things for me, months later, is to look back at pictures of myself smiling, laughing and seemingly enjoying myself shortly after my mom passed away. It’s unbelievable to know how damaged and confused I was, yet put on a facade each and every time I needed to be present and available to family, friends, coworkers and the such. It’s not our job to play it as everything is great or to diminish the feelings – it’s our time to feel and our time to heal. If you need, then go ahead and show up looking a hot mess, it’s ok to reveal what’s going on from the inside-out.
It’s time to come back to reality
- What I’m thinking: Unfortunately, this is reality. I’m here. The problem: If you say this to someone… I REPEAT, IF YOU SAY THIS TO SOMEONE… I hope you have flowers, candy, a brand new wardrobe and all (I mean all) the apologies hidden up your sleeve. Yet, that still likely will not be enough. A fury of emotions will likely run through someones entire body and soul when these words are spoken to them. This reality is far from what they would ever wish or hope for anyone, even their worst enemy. Please, trust me on this one. Whether you are affected somehow by this person’s loss, experiencing confusion, frustration and trying to find your own reality, please let them adjust and know reality has forever changed for them in terms of how they view life, love, hate and moments spent.
- What I’m thinking: I’m thinking nothing, too.The solution: Keep talking. Keep sharing memories. Keep the words flowing whether it be moments, days, months or years later. Don’t let the celebrations, traditions or favorite memories go left unsaid or unnoticed. We think about our loved one every single day (it’s not just a cliche saying, this too, is real) and we miss them and want to speak their name louder and louder each day. When others around us continue to do the same, it’s a melody to our ears. By continuing to speak and physically show up, it allows your grieving friend to find light and meaning to what life after death really does mean. There’s a beauty in it, they’ll find it – it just takes time.