Surviving the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult things in life we have to learn to navigate. We must learn to live a new normal when someone we love dies. It is a long journey. Losing someone we love opens us up in places that we did not even know we had places. It is raw. It cuts deep. It hurts more than we thought anything could. It is a long journey adjusting to the new normal, a life without them in it. I remember feeling that I couldn’t understand how the world kept revolving when my life felt like it had stopped and was forever frozen in time in some, horrible alternate universe.
In the beginning, there was a lot of journaling. God used this time and space to speak to me. I needed that. No one else could help. It was just too deep of a pain. I am also an introvert. I tend to go inward and upward when something is bothering me. It has been over 22 years now, and I wanted to share where I am now in case others at the beginning of this journey might not see a light at the end of the tunnel. If you have lost someone, I just want you to know there is one, however dim or non-existent it might seem right now…there is one. Take your time. Find the way that works best for you. We all take different paths to get there. We will have a scar, but it will not always be the raw, open wound every second of the day that it is now. We will always bear the scar, but we will go on.
A friend from school recently saw a picture of my brother and me when I was a little girl. She asked if it was Jimmy. I told her it was. Another childhood friend chimed in and asked if he had met him when we were younger. I described my brother to him. More specifically, I described his heart and his soul.
“He was an amazing person. He was a kind and caring man. He was funny, and he was always happy. He was deep and thoughtful, and he loved God with his whole heart.”
When you met him, you knew that you were in the presence of someone special.
I looked at the picture and thought of how much I missed him, but I realized it is in a different way than it was when he first died. I miss his physical presence, but now I feel he is still with me, which is something I could not feel through the grief. That is a hard thing to explain. He’s not a ghost. But what I did not realize after my brother died is that love is eternal. It never dies. I just could not feel it through the grief. Love is eternal, so we are always connected to each other. While his body may not be here, the rest of him did not cease to exist. The body was just a vessel to carry him while he was here. The Bible says, when we are believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. He still very much exists. And so does our love. Love is eternal. Love never dies. I’m not mourning anymore. I just miss his physical presence. He still exists. The love still exists. He is just not with me right now.
I am not sure if mourning is even the right word for us to be using. We don’t mourn the caterpillar when it turns into a butterfly. We miss someone when we do not see them for a long time, but we would not mourn them. But yet missing them does not seem to capture the depth of the loss, the empty void that we have after someone dies.
He left an immeasurable void in my life. At times, it seemed we were the only one each other could talk to that anything made sense. We connected on a deep level that rarely happens with another. I miss him, all the conversations we would be having now, the times we would have shared being together. All the things I can do that he never got a chance to do. I miss those for him, too.
It reminds me of when my friend Amy was doing one of the obstacle course races. She said something that moved me. She said she was doing this for all the people who couldn’t. I thought about that for a minute. She had friends who had died. She has friends who are not well. She ran this for them, the ones who were not here. She ran this for the ones who could not run it for health reasons. She did not know the health struggles I was having. But she ran this for me, too, and probably many others she was not aware of the struggles they were having. It made me feel that I should be doing the things I can do for all the ones who cannot do them, not wasting one thing that I can still use. And maybe it will encourage those people to do something they can do for others who cannot, all of us using all the talents we were given, and bringing others along with us in spirit. This came to my mind when I thought of my brother. We run the race for ourselves…and for those who cannot. Take not one moment, one blessing for granted and run this race with everything you have.
This is a far cry from where I started out after his death. You know how everyone talks about remembering the good times and how we are supposed to let them make us feel better? The memories of those good times broke my heart into a million pieces. It was too raw after he died. These memories were only a reminder of all that I had lost, all the new memories we would never get to make.
It was a year later, in my journaling, when God revealed in my heart the blessing it was to have had him in the first place, the gift of him, the gift of everything he was. Instead of focusing on God taking him, God showed me how blessed I was to have ever had him for a brother and best friend. He was one of a kind. When you think of the odds of that kind of thing, it is pretty amazing. We beat a lot of odds to be in the same family. Some were lucky to know him at all. I got to have him as a brother, a hero, and a best friend. He was a gift. But ultimately, he belonged to God. God was good enough to share him with us for a while. I will be forever grateful.
It was still a while before I got to where I am now. It takes time. It’s a journey.
I still miss his physical presence in this world. Always will. But our love…has not changed. It never died. It is eternal. And as a Christian, a follower of Jesus, I know I will see him again one day. We will have an eternity to spend together in Heaven with Jesus.
He’s just not here right now.
And I believe, if he could tell me one more thing, it would be this…but most of all, love God. That is what he would tell each and everyone of us. He knew this world was not his home. He put his faith in Jesus Christ for his redemption. More than anything, he just wanted to share that faith with others, so they could know God. So this is me running the race for both of us, doing for him what he would be doing if he were here, and that would be telling everyone…
But most of all, love God.
8 Things to Help You Heal When a Loved One Dies
- Journal. Just write what comes to your head. This journal is yours and yours alone. It will help you process in ways that other people cannot always do. Plus it won’t say any of those insanely horrible things people say to others after someone dies.
- But always reach out if you need someone. Do not be afraid to ask or tell people what you need.
- Do what you need to do for yourself to grieve and move to the next step. If that means crying, do it. If that means tucking it away on a shelf until it’s not so raw, then do it. Some might argue against that, but when you are an HSP (highly sensitive person), sometimes doing this is just survival. We will get to it, but maybe not while it’s still so raw.
- Do normal things when you can. I homeschooled the boys and started school back with the them as soon as possible. Sometimes we just need to show up, and the rest of us will catch up when it can. I knew the longer I waited, the more I would get lost in the grief, and it would get harder to do anything.
- Be grateful for the gift of the person while they were here. Of all the people in the world, you were one of a few who knew the person the way you did. That is a gift when you think of the odds of meeting someone or being born into the same family.
- Breathe. Sometimes it is just about remembering to breathe.
- Know this…while it will always be hard, it won’t always be so raw every second of every day.
- Remember…love is eternal. It will never die.
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