They say when you lose someone that it creates a hole in your heart, but I think it is more like a splintering in your soul. Prior to the first time you lose a loved one, your soul is a smooth path. There are twists and turns, ups and downs. You carry on in that vulnerable optimism that we associate with youth. The world is full of opportunity. Then a fracture occurs.
Sometimes you lose someone quickly. There is no reason for this type of loss. A life cut short. It is impossible to make sense of this type of thing. No one around you knows what to say or do. Awkward silences surround you and fill the air with a heaviness that makes it difficult to think or even breathe. Everyone questions why and how such a thing could have happened. I think back to the death of my uncle. A slippery road, no seat belt, an ejection from the vehicle. I remember the shock when we got the call at church. I watch my grandmother as she lays a son to rest. It is not the first child she has lost. Her youngest was a man I never got to meet. A child on a bicycle. I cannot comprehend how she has carried on with the heaviness of that type of loss.
Sometimes you lose someone slowly. This type of loss can only be described as a constant weight followed with an abrupt, guilt-filled release. The heaviness comes from the days, weeks, months, and even years of watching someone full of life slowly lose themselves. They no longer experience the wide range of emotions that make us fully human. They are shells of the people they once were and we must be the witnesses to it all. We must experience the grief for so long that we almost become immune to it. Almost. Then they pass and for a moment we find relief. Relief from watching a vibrant being suffer in the monotony of sickness. Relief from the constant worry and pain. Overwhelming guilt for feeling the relief. My grandfather had been sick for a long time. He was a woodworker, a father, a follower of Christ. He enjoyed spending time with family and building things for the people he loved. We watched him slowly deteriorate. In the end, he no longer looked himself. He was vulnerable instead of strong and I know this upset him. His passing was an act of mercy.
Fast or slow, loss splinters the soul. It takes the smooth path of life and fractures a being off into a totally new direction. You can never go back to the person you were before. Grief changes you. It hardens your heart. It has to or we would all be unable to cope with the pain that never truly leaves us. We learn how to take the heartache and make it become a part of the person we are, a new path our soul is on. We push past the bad memories and try to look back on the good, but they are still twisted. Never fully whole, because we are not fully whole anymore. We tell ourselves that there is a purpose, a reason for loss, but this is not what helps us carry on. We only continue when we embrace the new person that has been created as a result of the loss. We appreciate how our loved ones impacted our lives and know that this new being wouldn’t exist without them, or the emptiness they have created in our hearts. It is this magical balance of good and bad, dark and light, that makes life worthwhile. I know that I want to experience all of it. For there cannot be pure joy without debilitating sadness, true love without anger fueled hate, full life without devastating death.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR---------
Sam Gates is an instructional coach located in Virginia. A teacher by day, and a writer by night, she enjoys writing as a way to process those life experiences that seem to change us the most. For her, the power of writing is the way in which it can connect all people by appealing to our most important traits, our humanity.