There aren’t any easy solutions for these moments; just let love find its own path.
We prepare ourselves for practically everything in this life. We go to the best universities to get the most prestigious degrees, and yet we don’t prepare ourselves for the one thing that we will all definitely experience: death. Neither for our own death, nor for that of a loved one. But is there really any way to prepare yourself for death?
In my opinion, yes and no. Yes, when we live oriented towards eternity; that is to say, with our eyes fixed on eternal life, in heaven. Meeting God someday, face to face, is the most beautiful hope we can carry through our lives.
So then, how can we prepare ourselves to lose a loved one? The same way: by living with profound detachment, knowing that everyone we love is merely lent to us, and by saying goodbye with gratitude for the time we’ve shared. Of course, we understand this concept with our heads, but not with our hearts. That’s why it hurts so much to say goodbye.
What is clear to me is that mourning is experienced very differently when we live it from the perspective of gratitude and love, as compared to living it with fear and regret. In any case, death will always have an impact on us, surprise us and sadden us, as much as if our heart had been cut out. Then, time passes and we realize that healthy mourning helps to purify and transform our hearts.
But, what is it that makes us sad? Is it just the absence of our loved ones? That frightening sensation of a knife going through your soul is very real. Only someone who has suffered profound losses can express it in words, and above all, understand it. It is painful to have to say “goodbye” (even if those of us who believe in eternal life know that it is a “goodbye” full of hope).
The lack of their presence grieves us. We miss their personal scent. We miss their words and their tone of voice. Hearing their favorite song transports us to special moments, and we wish we could turn back the clock and stop it there just to look at them, so that with silent words we could tell them just one more time how much we loved them… But how could we know that they would leave so soon…?
We are sorrowed by memories, and words left unsaid; by things we left up in the air, and problems we never solved; by hugs never given, caresses never received, and kisses never stolen; by forgiveness never granted, and attempts at reconciliation, rejected.
We mourn love that wasn’t accepted, calls that went unreturned, and messages that were never answered. We are saddened by their presence no longer present; by our impotence before their absence… Wanting to hug them and not being able to, consoling ourselves with the memory of the last squeeze of the hand we received from them.
We want to be wrapped in their protecting arms, and all we can do is hold tight to a pillow, soaked with our sorrow. We want to hear their voice, we need their advice, and we only hear their memory in the distance, because there is no one to answer, no one to respond to so much suffering.
It hurts that the world has forgotten them, and that the mark of love that they once left, is erased. The suffering of loss blinds us so much that day turns into night; we wake up in the morning without wanting to wake up, because we know that another day of tears awaits us, a day of that pain in our chest that doesn’t let us breath. Our weeping drowns us; we live without living. We simply think, “Now, how am I going to live without you? I want to go with you, but I can’t… I am still here, but I can’t go on… I live without living…”
And what comes next? Learning to live in a different way, accepting the sorrow, making it our own so that we can live with it. Then, it is transformed; the suffering changes, and it all takes on a different meaning.
The experts say that there are 5 or 6 stages of grief… Those stages of mourning were a model created by E. Kubler-Ross while working with terminal cancer patients. That is to say, the 5 stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are the process experienced by a person who is going to die, but which today is applied to every process of grieving without distinction.
But when we are grieving, what good does it do to know what stage we are in? I want them to tell me in which of those stages I am going to stop missing you; in which I will cease to suffer your loss, in which I will stop weeping when your memory overpowers my soul, and I want to cry out your name with the impotence of an orphaned child who complains to the heavens, “Why did you go away? Why did you leave me?” In which stage do we cease to mourn the loss of a child or a brother or sister who didn’t deserve to die that way?
While we begin to live that process, we hear people of good will saying things that sound absurd: “She’s in a better place now,” and inside we think, “No! I want her with me.” And how about that saying, that “you have another little angel in heaven watching over you?” Really? No! I don’t want another little angel, I already have one. I want her, here at my side, taking care of me here, hugging me here.
Or that phrase that makes my hair stand on end: “Cheer up!” Cheer up? How does one do that? I pull my spirits up by their suspenders, or what? Really, how can I cheer up, if I feel like I want to die together with the person who is gone? That is the sensation: living death. This is why we need to learn to let each person live their grief as they can, and simply accompany them, in silence. In those moments, the only true consolation is God, if we have faith.
Grief is as personal and unique as the stars in the firmament. Every loss is unique and worthy of being lived in accordance with our own personal capabilities. Here, the only thing that matters is to live our process of mourning as deeply as we can, always holding God’s hand.
They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t really agree with that so much. Time teaches us to live with loss, but we can’t speak of healing when the sorrow we feel stems from profound love. Besides, you can only heal what is sick, and love isn’t a disease. Grief born of love doesn’t need to be cured, but lived. In addition, if healing means that I am going to stop missing you and thinking about you, I’d rather not be healed, because you will live as long as your memory lives in me.
Why are we so foolish, not fully enjoying the presence of our loved ones as if today were their last day?
From my heart to yours, L.I.
If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.
Here are some numbers:
- 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
- Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
- Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
- Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
- Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
- We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)
As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.
Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!