"There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don't seem to help." Fred Rogers
Living with loss is a devastating way to live. I wake up every single morning and say my mom's name aloud. Adjoa. Just for me. I roll over and look at her picture and smile. I still feel the last time she held my hand, and every time she did. If I cry to the point that I panic I hold my own hand and imagine it's her holding my hand. It's constantly reliving that truth that she had to go, that she had to leave. How could she ever leave me? The way I feel, and by that I mean specifically how I do my process of feeling, has changed in profound ways. I am a radically different person and how that's not apparent to the world is a mystery to me. It's just beneath the surface. It's always there. I am marked by loss. My spirit is dimmer. It just hurts so much. There's so much pain. There's so much emptiness. There's so much quiet. It's always so quiet. To balance the necessity of having to continue on with the debilitating sadness of not wanting to is cruel.
There are so many times where I just want to go. I want to go too. How could this person I love more than life itself have been made to leave? Why can't I leave to. Why am I still here? How am I supposed to go on? What is the purpose of going on? Everything is different now. The entire trajectory of my life has been altered. Every experience from then on is without her. Without her. Without. Her. How? The person I would want to talk to most about all of these feelings is no longer here. How do you process loss when the person you loss was the base of your process? There's so much sadness. It hurts like nothing else I have ever felt. Like the air in my lungs can never be enough, like the light in my heart cannot be bright enough, like the feeling in my body will never be complete again. I have to live incomplete. I have to live broken. I have to live without my mom. How? Why? For how long? Thinking about how much life there is left for me to live is overwhelming because I cannot foresee any portion of my life without her. How can any of it happen? All the milestones and all the minutiae.
I have slowly found the things that bring my comfort in those moments of despair. I just cry, wherever I am. I will not forget having to sit on the ground in the snack food aisle of a grocery store because I saw Fig Newtons. I just sat there and cried until I could no longer. I stood up, and kept going. That's what it is. Feel, and take deep breathes, and then go. And then go again. There's days where I just disappear. I can't do anything. I watch Hallmark movies or listen to Lionel Richie and Diana Ross "Endless Love" on a loop. I don't talk to anyone. I don't respond. I don't want to be needed. I just want to be. So I let myself be. Then I reemerge.
Other times it's talking about her both with fondness, joy, and laughter, as much as it is orating the trauma of seeing her eyes fluttering with light, singing to her while she fought to breathe, and the moment we had to say I love you, goodbye, and leave the ICU. Even when the mask mandates started I panicked so much because the sensation and sound of my own breath was identical to being there right before she had to go. I couldn't breathe. I was traumatized. I am so traumatized. I think to my few friends who explicitly ask me about her and wade into the depths of despair with me. The ones who give hugs, sit on the phone in silence with me, and never forget. Sometimes I just speak out loud wherever I am alone, under my breath, or big when nobody else is around to her. It's always hi mommy, and her vivacious responses - hi baby boy, hi Beej, hi boyfriend, hi son, hi Baby Joseph. It's her voicemails and the benevolence in her voice. It's her prayer and the grace she cared for me with. It's her love that surpasses all understanding that I feel even without her here.
Death is antithetical to life. It is contradictory to the human experience. It breaks our brains. It doesn't make sense. We cannot compute it. It's too hard. Yet still death has been part of our life experiences for all of history. It's normalcy doesn't make it any more normal. It does't make it easier. It's so hard. Life can be so terrible. I think about how much I appreciate when people just let that be. Life can be awful. Toxic positivity - people don't always need light especially when it's being used to diminish the gravity of their truth. There's not always silver-linings, bright-sides, or blessings in disguise. Somethings are just awful, traumatic, and painful let them be. The heavy stuff is just as much a part of the human experience as the light stuff. Not all things can be fixed. Sometimes people are broken beyond repair. But we don't need repair we need repurposing. We can function in the different ways that we need to after our shattering. That seems more hopeful than a return to a version of ourselves that no longer exists. With loss comes our own personal departures from who were used to be. We 're different now. We have to be. We were forced to be. We had no choice. That's not okay, and it has to be okay because what other option is there?
Everything is different now. Everything is different because after the funeral, after the collective mourning, after the communalism is just you left to trudge on. I think back to that day and how I trudged on because I didn't know what else to do, I was too shocked, I was too too numb to process. I went to class. I went to dinner with classmates. I went to our social event. I was unprepared for departure. Loss is a departure point unlike any other. It bifurcates our life into a before and an after. It's a reset. It's a world-changing
seismic, no cosmic, no ethereal shift.
It makes experiencing loss, even from afar, even for strangers, even in fiction that much more devastating. I feel the weight of it all. I feel the heaviness. I feel the heartache. I feel for, and I feel with others in a distinct way. How do I separate my own feelings from that others when seeking to empathize, be present, and show up for them? It's about me, and it's about us - it always is; and simultaneously it's not. It's honoring the truth of those around us empowering the agency to make their processes their own. That's all we can, and it's the most important thing we can do - be with. Be there. Be in body. Be in emotion. Be. We have to reduce the distance, physically, emotionally, mentally, with others. We cannot let them go there by themselves. We cannot keep them an arm's length away. We can't say "that must be hard" or "I can only imagine" or "I'll never know" - it's isolating. We have to make space to listen, to embrace, and to lift up in truth. What if our departure point did not mean a solo journey? X