Mourning a Loss

About a year ago, I lost a very good friend of mine, Dante, to cancer at the tender age of 22. It was a devastating heartbreak that I had never felt before. I knew healing would not be easy.

Although my mom’s heart broke for me, it was hard for her to relate. She never had a friend pass so young due to disease, so this was foreign to her. However, an e-mail from my grandma gave me an odd sense of security. She wrote:

“Hi again, Casey,

There are no easy answers as to who dies or why. Each of the various religions of the world has a description to fit their beliefs. This is true of the myths of present and past cultures as well.

To me, it is most likely that this is just how life happens. We all do the best we can, but we each have different experiences, some are easier than others. Regardless of the beliefs, when faced with the loss of a friend we all do look for answers.

When I lose someone, I try to think about the amazing universe that we are part of. We all came from the stardust formed in the first minutes of the universe and will all ultimately become stardust again. It is pretty marvelous actually! I keep Hubble Telescope Space photos on my phone, to remind me of the wonder of it all.”

My advice – don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that there is a timestamp on how long you should mourn a loss – take your time.

You never stop mourning the loss of someone you love. You simply slowly come to a place of acceptance. There will be things that will trigger sadness, like holidays, birthdays, a favorite song, and specific places spent together, but it won’t trigger the initial reaction of hearing about the loss.

There’s no right way to mourn. Spend some time by yourself to be in your thoughts, sleeping, anything – as long as it’s not hurting you or those around you.

Don’t allow yourself to think mourning gives you the green light to act a fool. My sister and mom had to pry me off the sidewalk after I tried to drown my sorrow in alcohol. After this misadventure, I decided it was time to get help from anyone willing to give it – friends, family, or maybe even a professional. Someone needed to help me understand how I was feeling and how to cope with it. Don’t be afraid to get help.

A family friend put my mom and me in touch with a counselor to discuss grieving. Seeing a counselor was a hard decision but well worth it. I’m an insanely prideful and independent individual, and it was hard not knowing what to expect. The counselor was surprisingly personable, witty, funny, and relatable. Speaking with her seemed effortless.

I will never have the answers as to who was chosen to go and why. But I know the universe placed these individuals in my life for a reason: to teach and inspire me, and others around them. I am happy that I was able to enjoy their presence for the time they were here.

If you need to take some time off from work, school, or other social engagements, do so until you feel that you’re ready and in a healthy state of mind.

Remember losing someone is an emotional roller coaster. You will have highs full of laughter and appreciation and lows of sadness. However, the ride will always stabilize, and that’s called healing.

I feel that mourning should be handled whichever way the griever feels comfortable, whether it be crying or talking about it to friends and loved ones.

Sometimes you need an outside perspective to sort out the chaos you feel inside. Seeking help doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It simply means you’re as confused as the rest of us, just strong enough to recognize that you need help.

Talk to your friends about your loss. Although it is better to talk it out, sometimes you may not be ready, and that’s okay. Give yourself some time to realize what happened. Maybe just give your friends a brief insight about how you’re feeling.

For my friends who either didn’t know my friend who passed or weren’t as close to him, it was difficult for them to understand why I didn’t want to discuss the loss. They would constantly ask me how I was doing. I would give them the carbon copy response: “It hurts, but I’m okay.” I was still raw at the time. My pride wouldn’t allow them in. To put it simply, I felt that they couldn’t, and wouldn’t be able to sympathize.

After encouragement from my counselor, I decided to work up the courage tell my best friend exactly what I had been feeling. Surprisingly, my friend’s response was, “I will never know what you’re going through, but if you need an ear, I will always be here for you.”

My personal struggle with losing my friend was that I was harboring guilt that, although we were the same age, I was the one still healthy and standing. Dante was a blessing and a lesson. I am blessed, gratified, and humbled that I was fortunate enough to have him in my life.

I learned that physical health is, above all, the highest blessing anyone can receive. Dante’s death motivated me to take chances, travel the world, step out of my comfort zone, and hunger for success. I realized time is short, and there is no promise of more time to come.

About the Author | Casey Garner

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