I’m not an expert on grieving. The only deaths I’ve had to deal with are my great great grandma (I was like 4 maybe & didn’t remember her), my great grandma (who I seem to miss more as my illness grows stronger), a friend I knew in high school (I had one class and did a play with her), and numerous animals.
My great grandma’s death was really the most rough. The worst parts about that was really seeing her in the nursing home beforehand with her unable to speak (they broke her vocal cords during intubation after a stroke brought on by MS) and then the open casket at the funeral. There was the lifeless body of one of my favorite people in the world. My little sister and I couldn’t stand to look at the casket.
My high school friend threw me for a loop because had I not run an errand at lunch instead of after school I could have been with her. It was the first real taste of mortality for me and it sparked my investigation of religions and beliefs that turned into a bachelor’s degree eight years later.
Not that death ever comes at a great time for anyone, but Laura’s death struck at an awkward time in my life. At 24, this is my first semester not being in school as my illness worsening has forced me to choose between schooling and work. I’m still dealing with ongoing depression that I hide from a lot of people, especially those who physically see me. The last two weeks, especially, has been odd for me.
Every so often I go into what I lovingly refer to as my existential crisis mode. I start thinking about death, what happens when we die, and the ramifications of trying to mash together logic and the things I very much hope are real. I have panic attacks because of it. It especially got worse over the weekend when that emotional pain rendered itself physical thanks to my fibro. I even talked with Laura about how badly my back was doing in the last tweets between us (of course now I’m mad at myself for complaining to her).
On Monday, my stepdad had open heart surgery – a 6 way bypass surgery. Mind you there are only 6 tubes running into the heart. They effectively stop your heart and run you on a machine while they take veins from your leg and use them for the bypass. He has horrible diabetes which has resulted in numerous toe amputations and surgeries. Between the actual surgery itself and his poor broken body trying to heal, I’ve understandably been worried. I wanted to go see him today, but I’m guessing he doesn’t need exposure to my cold right now.
So understandably I thought my worries were due to his condition and surgery. I was very anxious all day Monday checking my phone at work. Suddenly I had a calm rush over me and I immediately thought something went wrong in surgery, but he came through fine and I attributed it to caffeine or my crazy body or whatnot.
Tuesday morning, I found out Laura had died the day before and I just lost it. I have lost a few acquaintances in the rheum community understandably but never someone so close, never my sweet friend. I stayed home from work and just cried off and on all day. I ended up being the informer, telling our online friends about what was going on and trying to use my connections and friendships to learn more about the circumstances surrounding her death. It’s been tough to be that person and yet also rewarding. I took it upon myself to take up that role. I needed to have others grieving with me because otherwise I just don’t know how I could handle it.
I never met her in person but I imagine Laura to have been that kind of person that lit up a room when she entered it, because she certainly did it online. She was always personable, caring, sweet and funny. I think everyone who had the great opportunity to call her their friend knows what a special relationship we each had with her. Anyone like that would be hard to lose from your life, but to notice that she and I have the same illness and how much that played a factor into her death… it can be scary. I don’t think of it that way as much because she had such a big personality that even if you didn’t share her illness or a deep friendship you have to be grieving.
Thursday at work I was about to lose it thinking about Laura and suddenly that same calm feeling rushed over me and it hit me that she was trying to comfort me.
I don’t know what I believe about what happens when we die or any of that, but I know that for me I need that to not be the end. I need to believe that Laura and my great grandma are around me and helping get through things. It doesn’t make me any less afraid to die knowing they’re around somehow – I’m horribly frightened of it. Dealing with your mortality as a person with a chronic illness I think dictates a fear or a worsening condition and of losing the battle – especially with a partner that you don’t want to be without. But I know that even though it is hard right now I have them around to guide me a little bit. Maybe that’s enough.
I searched the interwebs for some quotes dealing with grieving and thought I’d just post some below.
You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.
Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away to the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, That, we still are. Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you. For an interval. Somewhere. Very near. Just around the corner. All is well.
-Henry Scott Holland
Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you Until we meet again!
– Author Unknown
Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.
– Author Unknown
May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
– Irish Blessing
I am not gone I remain here beside you Just in a different form Look for me in your heart And there you will find me in our love which forever lives on In those moments when you feel alone Look for me in your thoughts And there you will find me in sweet memories that burn strong Every time a tear Forms in your beautiful eyes Look up to the heavens And there you will see me Smiling down from God’s glorious skies