I have dealt with my fair share of loss in this life, from people and pets to a marriage and my voice.
We aren’t taught how to grieve in our society. Or how to support those who are grieving, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
After my dad died in 2012, my mother-in-law sent me these booklets on grieving. They were specific to the three-, six-, nine-, and twelve-month markers after losing a loved one.
I don’t remember much of what they said now, but I remember being very thankful for them through the process. One thing that has had a lasting impact was in the twelve-month booklet. It talked about having a ceremony to honor the person’s life.
February 15, 2013, exactly one year after my dad died, I stood in my living room, lost. My heart was broken, and all I wanted was to have my dad back. I didn’t know what to do to ease my pain or to commemorate him. I stood in the corner of the living room, petting our cat, Max, and crying.
My husband, Judah, asked if I wanted to light a candle and share memories of my dad.
But was that an honest answer? Or my protective answer?
I was paralyzed with grief. I shrugged and said I was open to it if Judah got the candle and lighter.
He grabbed a small tea candle, and we sat on the couch. He lit the candle, and we shared memories of my dad. Even though it was painful, it felt good to talk about him. We even laughed some.
And then I looked at the candle. The wick was getting shorter. Soon the candle would burn out. Just like my dad’s life.
Pain squeezed my heart like a boa constrictor. I could barely breathe. Hot tears streamed down my face.
Judah and I held hands as we watched the candlelight go out. My heart still hurt but also felt somewhat lighter. It was by walking through the pain that its grip loosened. I had to choose to push through the discomfort, thankful Judah was there to lead me.
Just over eight years later, we lost our sweet cat, Max. I find that each new loss somehow touches the nerve of a previous loss.
Three days after Max died, Judah and I sat in the same place on the couch where we sat a year after my dad died. We lit a bigger candle this time. We looked at photos and watched videos of Max. We recalled stories and laughed as we detailed Max’s quirks. Even though it was painful, it felt good to talk about him.
When we were done, we had to blow out the candle. This brought up a different pain. We were choosing to end the memorial. But that didn’t mean we were closing the door on talking about or remembering Max.
When it’s time to sit down and face my pain, I want to do anything but that. I want to avoid it, put it off, pretend it doesn’t exist. In my experience, with the deepest grief, it feels like there is a brick sitting on my chest. It can’t be ignored.
Each time I have taken a deep breath, journeyed through, felt the feelings, told the stories, and shared my hurt, I have felt the weight lift ever-so-slightly from my chest.
The people, pets, and things we love matter greatly. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t hurt so intensely. I think they deserve the time and space to be remembered.
And we deserve the time and space to remember.