I remember sitting in the trailer Justin and I were staying in at my mom and dad’s and reading this little story from an old man right after Aria died. It has stuck with me since, and I have found it to be so true. I wanted to share it, and there wasn’t a really nice way I could besides like this. This response was someone’s response to a question on Reddit, “My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.” It has gone viral so you might have read it before, but just in case you haven’t, here you go.
“I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not.
I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents...
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.
Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.
As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too.
If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
I really love this description of grief. It shows that over time the waves can get a little bit smaller, and a little further apart, but it’s still there. And in a reality, you don’t really want it to go completely away. I want to remember my daughter and remember the pain I’ve suffered. I want to remember that I have loved and I have lost. And I’m still here. I want to cherish those memories and those scars, and face life full of joy and hope for the future, because even with adversity and pain, you still can get up after the wave hits you.
The triggers that come even later on really take you by surprise. There are times I’m doing just fine, and then something will happen, or I will read a certain text, or I will see a certain color, whatever it is, and then I’m a sobbing mess. Right now in my life I embrace those, because they are so far and few between in my life. It’s a reminder to me that I can still feel the pain and it feels good. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it’s the nature of it I guess.
In between those waves, when they get less often and less frequent, we have the opportunity to feel joy, peace, contentment again if we let ourselves. And I have learned, that if we numb the pain, we also numb the joy. We cannot be joyful and hopeful again, if when those waves hit we don’t work through those emotions and the pain. In this life we feel joy and pain, and to have loved so deeply we now feel great pain because we have lost. And I would not give up loving my daughter, to give up the pain I have gone through.
I hope this old man’s story resonated as much with you as it did with me. I have never forgotten it, and I think these little analogies can help us learn and understand more about what we are going through.