OPINION – On December 19, 2009, I received a phone call from my mother.
“Are you sitting down?”
In that instant, I knew something terrible had happened. But nothing could prepare me for what she was about to say next.
“Missy has passed away.”
She proceeded to talk, but I only heard sounds slowly fading away as the phone fell through my paralyzed fingertips.
My entire body went into a state of inconceivable misery. I couldn’t manage to utter a single sentence out loud without stumbling over every word. I felt as though I was desperately gasping for air with every breath. My eyes rapidly filled up with tears that relentlessly streamed down my pale cheeks.
My hands were trembling uncontrollably and my legs were suddenly incapable of supporting the rest of my body. Every muscle I had was begging me to somehow grasp what was already out of reach. The only thought running through my harrowing mind was “I am never going to be OK.”
Missy had been my best friend for the last 10 years. She was only 19 years old the day time tragically and unexpectedly took her too far away.
Christmas was in six days. The most wonderful time of the year instantly lost its sparkle. I felt as though I was merely existing in a black and white world.
I became numb. I was either awake or asleep, but couldn’t tell the difference between the two. I lost track of time entirely.
Everyone around me handled the situation differently. Some tried to cheer me up, others tried to offer advice. Many tried to hurry me through my grief, and the rest avoided me altogether. What was I supposed to do?
I googled “how to deal with the death of your best friend.” Surprisingly, several articles popped up that all had 10-step plans. I read every word.
I was desperate. The piercing pain was too much to handle. I needed help, but nothing could help me. I searched for answers but couldn’t find any.
I dreaded waking up on Christmas morning. How could I celebrate life when my best friend died less than a week before? Christmas would undoubtedly be the hardest day yet.
Sure enough, I instinctively greeted the day feeling empty and afraid. Normally, I would allow these emotions to shut me down. I’d go back to bed and try to escape this unfamiliar reality. But today I didn’t want to run away. Today I wanted to fight back with my eyes wide open.
So I unwrapped presents. I talked to extended family members without my voice shaking. I found myself laughing again. For a moment, I felt guilty. I felt as though I should be out of sight, sobbing in my bedroom. But a part of me felt something else for the first time: hope.
Hope that maybe life wouldn’t always be this hard. Hope that I might be able to make it through a day without completely breaking down. Hope that somehow I could in fact, survive the unthinkable.
This Christmas marks the fifth year without brilliant blue-eyed Missy. I can’t say it gets easier; I really just miss her more. However, I have learned how to deal with the pain – without the help of Wikipedia.
My life never went “back to normal,” because without Missy, things would never be the same. But, I learned how to make a new normal. And with every passing day, I got a little more used to that normal. I even learned to love that normal.
There are still days that sting – the kind of days when I wake up and am surprised that the sky is still blue. But, no day has been as painful as the moment I lost her. I have never experienced that combination of unbearable emotions that I once thought I would never be able to survive.
My world doesn’t shine as bright as it once did, but it still shines. And with every glorious sunset, I feel as though heaven isn’t so far away. I just have to remember to look up.
I wish I could provide you with an exemplary 10-step plan for getting over loss, but there isn’t one. A part of my heart broke that day, and it’s never been the same since. And it never will be.
However, I can tell you that broken hearts still beat. You just have to learn how to live with the inevitable ache that comes and goes – but never fully goes away.
I can also tell you that even shattered hearts can still love and be loved. It’s almost as though they were mercifully built to be beautifully broken.
Everything may not be OK today, tomorrow, or five years from now – but one day it will be. I never thought I’d be able to say “I’m okay today.” But I can. And most days, I mean it.
If you woke up missing someone terribly today, do whatever it is you need to do to feel their absence.
Cry. Miss the heck out of them. Remember them. Cry some more. Think of them and smile. Laugh if you can. Scream if you must. Break down. Repeat if necessary.
You’ll likely begin to wonder if you’ll even make it through. But, somehow…you do.
It may never be easy, but once you discover how much your fragile heart can handle – life becomes possible again. Christmas becomes bearable; even though you never stop wishing they were here.
Keep old traditions. Make new ones.
Turn on their favorite Christmas song and listen to hear them sing it slightly out of tune. Pour a glass of egg nog for them and then remember how much they hated egg nog and really loved hot chocolate. And then go make the best hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.
Celebrate them by celebrating today.
We got this.
- Relationship Connection: I am alone on Christmas day
- Mother’s Day: A grief gentling into strength
- Relationship Connection: Understanding grief and loss
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