A couple of weeks ago, as was mentioned in my last blog, my cousin suddenly, and unexpectedly, passed away. I know many of us at one time or another have suffered with loss, so what I’m about to write about won’t be a surprise to you, but I’m taking this opportunity to put pen to paper (so to speak) to share the process that I’ve been going through. If you’ve been blessed not to have suffered a loss, perhaps this might be helpful to you when you do.
One of the first things I have learned is to take comfort in the fact that there is a time for mourning. During the first couple of days after my cousin passed, I vowed to be “strong” and forced myself to “carry on” like I thought that she would. What a mistake. By the end of the 2nd day, I had given myself a migraine that forced me to stay in bed for 24 hours. Intermittently, I found myself tearing up (ok, full out crying) and/or railing about how unfair it all was instead of just setting aside some time to just mourn. The day after the migraine, I remembered that song by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)”, which of course was derived from a verse in Ecclesiastes in the Bible. A huge burden was lifted off of me when I realized by mourning, I was being strong, not weak. It takes strength to stop everything to ask for help and just give oneself a chance to mourn.
I’ve learned that mourning doesn’t have to rob me of my peace or hope or even joy. Though I will continue to miss my cousin, and the ache of her absence will remain, I know that I will see her again, and this gives me peace and hope. As for happiness, it is fleeting, it’s a temporary feeling, but joy is the mine forever; despite the circumstance; despite my feelings; joy is mine, and no one can take it away. That was evident as my family gathered together to celebrate Kim’s life. We definitely mourned our loss, yet when we’re together it is impossible for joy not to just seep (if not burst) out, it’s just something in our DNA that cannot and will not be squelched. On that day, we definitely weren’t happy, but we sure were joyful.
I’ve learned that in time, the raw, painful, stabbing pain of loss that takes one’s breath away is slowly replaced with the dull ache of acceptance. Every day the light gets stronger and the darkness regresses. I’ve learned that the memories of the ones who have gone remind us of happier times and compel us to continue with our everyday tasks which propel us forward even when we don’t feel like it.
I’ve learned that guilt is a time robber and joy stealer and I will NOT have anything to do with it. My cousin was as sweet as maple syrup jacked-up on saccharin, but she was a little “director” too (a female family trait), and I know for a fact that if she knew that any of us were feeling guilty for enjoying life after her passing, she’d be really mad (and if any of my family members are reading this: you know it’s true!)! So in honor of her, I will enjoy life as much as I enjoy kicking guilt right in its backside!
I don’t have all the answers right now, but I might have a few more as time passes. I don’t know if or how I can help my nephews with the loss of their mother, but I’m going to try. I am at a loss at what life looks like from here on out without that sweet little piece of sunshine, but I will not allow darkness to win. All I know is that I am blessed to have been a part of her life and that I’m going to make that little slice of her that is within me continue to live. Now, more than ever I can be assured that there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the mo(u)rning.
-Tessa L. Charles