My grandfather’s death in March 2015 was the zenith of a season of loss that began in 2010, where I experienced the deaths of several friends in rapid succession. While one was due to a terminal illness, the rest were a series of unexpected, excruciating blows caused by unfortunate accidents, aneurysms (my grandfather being one) and, most painfully, suicide.
For those six years, I felt as if I were gasping for air. Just when I was finally recovering from one loss, another came out of nowhere, knocking me right back into the bottom of my grief where I had to once again confront that initial of shock that cannot fathom that someone I once held dear is no longer living. The underlying thread in my process was the feeling of being robbed. The chances of having one more conversation, one more hug, one more “I love you” was mercilessly hijacked by a force that does not discriminate and arrives whenever it pleases, not giving a single damn given about those it leaves behind.
In the midst of my grief, I was often told that time would “heal” everything. I have found that this “healing” is less about the absence of the grief and more about learning how to manage it. Instead of the tsunami caused by the initial news of each loss, the feelings come in smaller, more manageable waves that I am able to ride with more certainty. Thankfully, these waves are warmer, wrapped in the pleasant impressions the deceased left behind upon my life: inside jokes, favorite songs, a piece of advice that rings true, the sound of their laughter passing through my imagination. In those moments, I am able to hold them close again, just for a moment, before I have to release them into the reality of their absence.
The Kubler-Ross Model of grief states that “acceptance” is the final step of the grieving process. I respectfully disagree. There will never be a day that I accept the fact that these loved ones of mine are gone. However, I have learned to adjust by remembering them at their best, appreciating the space they took up in my life, and applying the lessons they taught me while they were here. Their physical presence would be preferred-but that cannot be.
Their memories will have to do.
For Jon, Jerome, Tommy, Chris, Ben, David, and Grandpop.