It’s been a tough month. About a month ago, a friend of mine lost their son unexpectedly. Though we rarely talk due to being far away, it is a dear friend whom I’ve known nearly my entire life and our families are still very close. His son was just 24 years old. Clearly taken from us far too soon.
Then last week, another friend lost their daughter unexpectedly. She was just 33 years old. Married with two young children.
Finally, this past weekend, there was the senseless tragedy here in Pittsburgh. My wife and I kept waiting for the names of those lost to be released to see if it was anyone we knew. Turns out we were just a degree of separation from three of those departed. My heart goes out to those lost and to the entire Jewish community. A horrific event to say the least.
Given the ups and downs of emotions that have run over these past few weeks, I feel compelled to write a few thoughts on dealing with loss. And since I work with a lot of retirees, I’ve had the unfortunate privilege of helping widows after the passing of their spouse and best friend. In no way can I relate to the loss of a child or spouse as I’ve never been there before. But I’ve been an active participant in the waves of emotion that immediately follow such a terrible event and hope that this helps someone somewhere.
Dealing with Loss
Death is a part of life, but we never expect it to come like a thief in the night regardless of age.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a manual that teaches us how to deal with the grief that comes after losing someone we love. There is only our time with them and our time without them once they’re gone.
There is no way to dull the pain.
There are no words that will make the emptiness go away.
There is nothing that can be done to take our minds off the person that we’ve lost.
They say that time heals all wounds. I’m not sure that I agree. Time will never let us forget or heal. We just learn how to live with our open wounds. Occasionally, the wounds will get ripped open over and over again.
The pain never truly subsides; it just gets temporarily buried. It’s an unfillable void. And no matter how many times we ask the question, “Why?”, the answer never comes. We just have to take it day by day, one foot in front of the other picking up the pieces of our heart.
We let our minds return time and time again to all the pleasant memories that we’ve made together. Any shortcomings they may have had are long forgotten.
Before we experience real loss, we tend to live each day almost as if we expect to live forever unabashedly wasting moments that could become precious memories. We waste time doing things that don’t really matter. Watching television, social media or whatever.
Perhaps the (only) good that comes from losing someone we love is that it encourages us to hold those still with us a little closer. Hug a little harder. Laugh a little longer. Be a little more present.
Approaching it as a way to honor their life. Remembering their life by evaluating our own. Rarely do we truly consider the time we’ve wasted. Time we could spend with people that we love and care for deeply. Time that could be spent investing our own life in others.
Living our life in the past kicking ourselves for what could have been does a disservice to the lesson there is to be learned. That is, learning to live our lives in the present. Knowing and understanding that life is short can be the best catalyst to cause us to take action in our lives today.
Don’t Wait To Tell People How You Feel
Witnessing the outpouring of love around the two families I mentioned above as well as throughout the Pittsburgh community has been nothing short of remarkable. Tons of amazing stories about their lives and how these people were dearly loved, respected and adored.
When somebody goes out of their way to tell you how much they love you, respect you or adore you, how does it make you feel? It probably makes your day; I know it does mine.
And yet, how often do we tell our friends and family how much we love and care for them? How often do we tell them specifically what we admire about them?
Probably not often enough.
Go tell them. Don’t wait. Tell people how you feel while you still have the chance. People actually want to know that you love them, that you admire them, that you love specific things about them. It never gets old hearing those things. So tell them.
It Comes Down To Time
Take a second and think about how you’re living your life right now. If you found out you only had six months to live, but would live those six months in perfect health, what changes would you make to your life? Really, truly think about this for a few minutes.
What if it were one year? Or ten years? The further out we go, the less likely we are to make any changes at all. Yet, ironically, the longer we have, the more impact we can have. It’s also ironic that thinking about our death can cause us to change how we think about life.
Are you spending it with the ones you love? Are you being present in the lives of your family and friends or letting those opportunities pass you by? Are you investing your life in other people? Are you spending time doing things with a purpose? Being involved with a cause that is near and dear to your heart? As we’ve learned time and time again, life is short.
Let this be your reminder to hug those you love a little more and a little harder. Your reminder to put the phone down and pay more attention. Your reminder to occasionally ignore your schedule and embrace precious moments as they’re happening. Soak it up. One day we’ll turn around and we’ll be ten years older. What will you have to show for it?
I know a few people who never seem to take a moment for granted, but those people appear to be few and far between. Those people are infectious and I admire them dearly. I am not one of those people naturally, but this month has truly made me re-think how I am living my own life and I hope that you will take the time to examine how you are living yours.
Thanks for reading!