The first time I remember feeling the heaviness of losing someone, I was nine years old. My grandpa passed from emphysema. I remember the funeral, the casket, the flag given to my grandmother in honor of his service in the military, and the tears.
But what I remember most are the things that were a part of our visits to my grandparents, the ones that would never happen again. My grandpa sitting on the back porch watching us climb the tree in the backyard, the freezer full of his frozen chocolate chip cookies, and the games we would play.
Since then, like most people, various lives have slipped away. Most have been expected as age slowly wore away the bodies of my remaining grandparents. Others were sudden or the outcome of a long battle with cancer. None of them have been easy to deal with. And the most painful parts of each are tied to the things that will no longer be.
Over the past several months, several friends have had to deal with death. I'm not sure “deal with” is appropriate. They have been thrust into a new paradigm, “normal” has been shattered, and they are left with the heaviness of loss, and an emptiness that seems bottomless.
Grief manifests in different ways for different people but it’s always a weight. In fact, the word comes from grever in middle English which literally means “to burden.”
I recently attended a memorial service, a beautiful celebration of a life gone too soon. When I was driving home, I was taken back to a phone call I had with a woman about writing that led to a myriad of conversations. One of those was on grief. She had lost her son a number of years ago to a car accident. In our conversation, this insightful woman said something that stuck with me.
“The weight of grief is unlike anything I have experienced. It is the only thing I have carried that is too much for my mind, body, and soul.”
When I asked her how she has been able to navigate life with such a heavy burden she replied, “I haven’t—but we have.”
“Yes, we—the many who have walked with my family through the pain just as we will walk with them through theirs when their time comes.”
So much beauty exists in those words. A beauty that comes only from the darkest of pains.