“Life has to end, love doesn’t.” ~Mitch Albom
Before we dive into the dark subject of death, let me assure you, this is a happy read. It is not about how losing a loved one is a blessing but how it can be a catalyst to you unlocking big lessons in your life.
Or maybe it is—you decide.
To me, this is just about a perspective, a coping mechanism, and a process that I am personally employing to get over the loss of a loved one.
My dad and I were best buds till I became a teenager. Then my hormones and “cool life” became a barrier between our relationship. I became busy and distant, and so did he. It continued until recently.
My dad’s health went downhill fast in a couple of months.
I could see him waning away, losing himself, losing this incessant war against so many diseases all alone. We (my family and friends) were there for him, trying to support him with whatever means possible.
But maybe it was his time
The last time I saw my father he was in a hospital bed, plugged into different machines, unable to breathe, very weak. It felt like I was in a movie—one of the ones with tragic endings. And the ending was indeed tragic.
I clearly remember every single detail of the day my dad passed away. I remember how he looked, what the doctor said, who was around me, how my family was, and how fast it all happened.
It shattered me. Losing a parent is something you can never prepare yourself for, ever.
I was broken. I had people around holding me together, but I could only feel either of the two feelings: anger or sadness.
Where did he go? How fragile are we humans? Did he want to say something to me that day? Was he in pain? Was there something I could have done for him? Why is death so bizarre? Why do people we love die and leave this huge vacuum in our lives?
It’s been four months since he passed away. And now, I think I see why.
I have come to the realization—due to the support of my therapist, my family, my partner, and my friends—that death is meaningless until you give it a meaning.
Let me explain that.
Usually, after experiencing the loss of a loved one, we go through a phase of grief. How we deal with death and experience grief is a very personal and subjective experience.
I cannot outline tips for all; maybe your therapist or a mental health professional can guide you better on this.
But, in my experience, grieving and dealing with death come with a bag full of opportunities. I don’t mean to give death a happy twist. To set the record straight, I believe death sucks.
Losing a loved one feels like losing a part of yourself. It is a difficult, painful, deeply shaking experience that no one can prepare you for.
However, in my experience, grieving is a process with many paths. A few common paths are:
- I experienced losing a loved one, so I will now respect life even more.
- I experienced losing a loved one, and it was awful, everything is awful, and I wish I was dead too.
- I experienced losing a loved one, and I don’t know how to feel about this yet.
I was on the third path.
I constantly felt the need to be sad, to grieve, to lie in bed and cry all day
But interestingly, there were also days when I felt that I needed to forget what had happened, live my life, and enjoy it as much as I could, because #YOLO (You Only Live Once).
I felt the pressure to behave and act a certain way. Now that my dad was no more, I needed to act serious, mature, responsible. Now that my dad was no more, I needed to stop focusing on going out, partying, and taking trips with friends and instead save money, settle down, and take better care of my family’s health.
I did not know how I was supposed to feel or to grieve.
Then one night, the realization hit me. (Of course, all deep realizations happen during nighttime, you know it.)
Maybe death is meaningless until I provide it a meaning—a meaning that serves me to cope, to grow, and to let go.
After reading several books, sharing this with loved ones, talking to my therapist, and journaling about this realization for several days, I realized another significant thing.
The process of finding meaning in death is like any other endeavor—you try several things until one works out.
So, I laid out all possible meanings that seemed logically or emotionally sound to me.
And here came the third great realization: Our loved ones want nothing but the best for us. Honoring yourself, investing in yourself, making yourself a better version of yourself is the best way to honor your lost loved ones.
No matter how complicated our relationships with them were, people who genuinely loved and cared about us would want us to love and take care of ourselves.
My dad cannot say it to prove me right on this, but I am pretty sure all he wanted was to see his family happy. See me working on myself, getting better at taking care of myself, and growing into a better human being.
So, after this perspective shift, things became simpler.
Now, death is no longer meaningless to me.
My dad’s death brought me the golden realization that it’s time to upgrade myself, make myself better, and maybe implement some of his best values into my value system.
I have reflected upon this for weeks. I have started working on this too.
On a micro level, I am aware and conscious of how sucky death is. I saw it pretty close, but I now grasp the value of life. I am grateful for this newfound respect for life, however cliched that might sound. And on a macro level, I also know that even my death can also serve a purpose to someone’s life; it could help them ponder, reflect, and probably set things right for themselves.
The moral of the story is that death is dark and sad but can also be beautiful. It is just a matter of perspective.
It can be the storm that rocks your boat and makes you drown, but it can also be the light that guides you back to your purpose.
This last section is for people who are grieving right now. I am aware that I cannot fathom what you are going through; losing a loved one is personal and subjective. But I wish to help you out in whatever little capacity I can.
Here’s a quick list of things that are helping me. If you do decide to give these things a try, please share your experience in the comments.
Write everything down—your memories, your frustrations, your feelings.
Every time you think of that person, pull that thought out of your mind and put it onto the paper, even if it is just in one line. When faced with a loss, we often shut down and avoid our feelings instead of acknowledging how the trauma of losing a loved one is affecting us. Putting your feelings onto paper will help you work through them so you’re better prepared to handle the next set of challenges life has in store for you.
Seek professional help in whatever form you can.
Why? Because a professional is much better equipped than your friends and family. You can see a therapist and reach out to your friends for help too.
Do what you feel more than you feel what you do.
There will be times when you feel like doing something unexpected and fun, but once you start doing it, you will feel guilt, shame, and self-judgment. Doing what you feel like doing and not overthinking about how you are feeling while doing it allows you to let go. Read this again to understand it better.
Keep track to remain patient.
Grieving and getting over a loved one’s death requires a long process for many of us. It can get frustrating to constantly and consciously work on it. But if you can maintain a log of your progress— your tiny steps like making an effort to socialize, sitting with your feelings, or writing about your thoughts and sharing this with someone you trust—this can keep you aware, grounded, and patient for the long ride.
Lastly, live your life.
Circling back to the original theme, your loved ones just want you to be happy. So do things that make you happy. This could be as simple as getting an ice cream from the same place you used to visit together and reminiscing on the good times. Or as radical as getting your ducks in a row, showing up for that job interview, taking care of your body, joining the gym, and working on your mental health as well.
At the end of the day (or life), we are all going to be floating in a pool of our memories, so make memories and enjoy life.
And try finding the meaning of death. Ensure that meaning makes you rise one step above and closer to the person your loved ones imagined you to be. #YOLO