What do you tell a dear friend who just lost a family member? A dear friend who just lost one of their friends. Or a dear friend who just lost a child.
Grief is one of the most challenging things to navigate. Ever.
We are taught mathematics and sciences, biology and anatomy, how to be polite, how to dress for an interview, how to write a cover letter, how to impress someone on a first date, when to text your crush back, yet we are never taught anything on grief. Not one thing.
Why is that?
Vulnerability is uncomfortable. Grief is messy. Yet people in our circles lose loved ones all the time and then we, on the outside are left feeling useless and ill-prepared on what to do in these ever so fragile situations. I bet every single person reading this post has lost someone close to them. Or been close to someone who has experienced loss. We have all been affected by death and grief in some way.
So shouldn’t we be coming together as opposed to hiding our pain and dealing with these things behind closed doors? Pushing the hurt so far into the back of our brain and into the back of our hearts that even when death, loss, and grief all come knocking once again in our lives, we are still left feeling completely unprepared for shock and the hurt. Even as time passes we are still feeling more alone than ever.
When I lost my brother all I wanted was for someone to say the right thing. I prayed and prayed to somehow feel better. Yet every time someone said anything to me I felt anger, resentment, and annoyance with words that seemed so dull and flat. “How is everyone saying the wrong thing... how is it possible that nobody understands what I’m feeling...” Unfortunately most words that were spoken felt in-genuine to me. Like they were just saying something because they had to. They were taught to be polite and to say the right thing in these impossible situations. Contrarily, if my friends weren’t saying anything to me about Connor, it meant that they didn’t care or had already forgotten. They were too caught up in their own lives to help pull me up from my own. Can’t they see I’m drowning? These people, close friends, relatives, acquaintances, seemed to move on after a seemingly minuscule amount of time and that just wasn’t fair. Of course, that was never (usually) the case and I know that my best friends in my closest circle are just often at a loss for words or are fearful to bring up Connor. It’s not that they don’t care. I know that deep down.
But I wanted to scream. I wanted to get mad at everyone around me. Tell them to stop moving on with their lives because for me, moving on with life meant leaving my brother behind. They were smiling, laughing, and living their lives while I was screaming into a pillow and crying myself to sleep. Waking up with salty cheeks not remembering when and how sleep eventually took me. Finding myself broken on the floor not strong enough to pick myself up at that moment. The most intense and painful heartache you could ever imagine. Heartache infiltrating your bones and every inch of your being. Your chest is so restricted you’re sure it will collapse. You can't breathe. The ultimate broken heart. It's a broken soul.
It’s why I was so hesitant to get engaged to my now husband. Any big event in my life seemed to reflect time passing; that I was moving on. It meant that I was leaving Connor behind. And it meant that more time would pass since we had been together. For years after our loss, I felt guilty laughing and guilty when I found myself enjoying something. As if sitting in the pain would stop me moving forward. And somehow then be closer to Connor. At my wedding I wanted to honour my brother but that would cause my family and close friends to get upset. “It’s not about him, Kyla. It’s about celebrating you and Rudy.” Grief is a messy, uncomfortable situation for all involved and all that are around. And unfortunately, that won’t go away now that our wedding has come to pass. There are so many other momentous life events we will go through without Connor. So many birthdays, Christmases, summer vacations, volleyball games, births, celebrations, funerals, and family gatherings that he won’t get to be a part of. The monumental and minuscule - they will all leave me breathless now and in the future.
Losing my two best girlfriends in high school, my high school assistant coach and father to a teammate, my first love, and then my brother. My plate is already full.
Then to walk along side my best friend losing her mother. My own mother losing her university teammate. My father losing his brother. Friends losing their babies. And now another best friend losing her brother just the other week.
The stories were so different yet so similar. I was automatically taken back to the moment I received the phone call from my mom that Connor had been in an accident. Now it was my friend’s turn. I could remember traveling the impossible trek back to Vancouver where a couple of friends and my mom picked me up from the airport and drove me to the hospital where my little brother would be. Now it was my friend’s turn. I was taken back to the moments beside Connor’s bedside - an older sister protecting her younger brother - holding his hand, just being in his presence for another day. A few more hours. Just a few more minutes. Now it was my friend’s turn. I can feel those first initial heartbreaks and pains with the sudden realization that my little brother wouldn’t be waking up. Now it was my friend’s turn. And I remember leaving the hospital with my family around me, wondering how in the hell we were going to survive this new life we had been given. Nobody is strong enough for that. Now it was my friend’s turn. Returning to the first couple of weeks after the hospital, organizing newspapers, obituaries, pictures, slideshows, finances, funeral costs, and how stressful and cruel it all seemed to be. Now it was my friend’s turn. I still wake up in the morning and before I know where I am or what this life holds for me, I have a moment of blissful unknowing. An “un-remembering”… until I do. Until I remember. Getting through each day is bravery at it’s finest. Now it was my friend’s turn.
I’ve walked this path of grief. Many, many times. Yet I am finding myself speechless. I am no expert. Because what words can I say when none will suffice? No words will fill this hole in your heart my dear friend, now or in five years. Maybe because I know that, I am hesitant to speak and offer advice. Because there is none.
I have nothing to give.
Nothing in this word can fill the void that has just aggressively infiltrated your world.
So we aren’t taught how to deal with grief. With living after loss. We aren’t taught how to handle it ourselves or how to help others along through it all. And that's nobody's fault. But I am done hiding. I am done hiding this pain from the world. And my dear friend, I so wish I was there to sit with you. To sit with you on the bathroom floor and cry and cry and cry. For both of us to be raw, unmasked, unhidden, holding our grief in our hands for the other to see. To ask all the questions, to wonder all of the things, and to maybe receive no answer; I wish I could be doing that beside you.
I guess all I can say is that I will walk this lonely road with you, hand in hand. And when the storm settles after weeks or months and people seem to move on and forget... know that I didn’t. I didn’t forget. I feel your pain on day one, on day thirty, on day eight hundred and until the end. I will walk alongside you on this lonely, impossible difficult journey, because I myself am still walking it.
Written for my wondrously beautiful, supportive, courageous, inspiring friend Tiffany. It is both a blessing and a curse to be walking this path with you.
You have been such a rock for me over the years and I hope I can be a fraction of the support system to you, as you continue to be for me.
Take heart my dear friend. You are not alone.
If you wish to donate to Tiffany's brother's funeral expenses please click here. Thank you friends.