When someone you love dies is when being non-religious gets tough. How can you possibly comfort yourself in the face of overwhelming grief without the certainty that the person you cared about your entire life isn’t sitting on a cloud somewhere smiling down? How can you drag yourself out of a trench of sadness when the alluring possibility of seeing the person you cherished someday when your breath escapes you does not exist? What is the sense of this accursed consciousness if it just stops someday as unceremoniously as an unwound watch? How can life just be tragically, finitely over.
When someone you love dies is when you make spiritual concessions. Although you have never been an adherent to any religion, or even given religion, god, the afterlife, heaven or the soul too much thought at all, you find your mind tweaking your previous convictions (or lack thereof). You begin to believe that if the person you valued believed themselves in a wonderful afterlife, then that must be where they have ended up. If you believe in something enough, who is to say that what you stand behind isn’t also true, at least to you? You begin talking to the sky, wishing the clouds good morning and hoping that they are soft under the gentle feet of the one you love.
When someone you love dies is when you realize that you are not immortal. You will age, your time on this planet will fade and one day, you will be gone just like everyone before and everyone after. You are the center of your own universe, but you do not possess that gift of eternal life. You are not the exception, you are the rule. And the rule dictates that no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much you bargain with your own mind, you will never be able to change this fact. The only thing you can do is be the best daughter, wife, mother, sister, son, husband, father, brother, relative or friend you can be. When you show people how much you love them when you’re alive, they will never allow your memory to die.
When someone you love dies is when you discover the depths of your own sorrow. The worst heartache, betrayal, injustice or pain cannot possibly compare to the loss of someone you truly love. When you were dumped by your boyfriend, you thought you knew heartbreak. Now you know that true heartbreak has nothing to do with teenage romance and everything to do with true love. Not romantic love, but true love—the kind that is absolutely irreplaceable and leaves a jagged personalized hole in your heart when it’s gone forever. Nothing and no one could ever fill that shape. That is sorrow. The good news about sorrow, however, is that it’s simply too arduous to maintain forever. It will ease, scar-tissue will fill the hole and your heart will stop leaking eventually.
When someone you love dies is when you can change for the better. You can take those regrets and turn them into change. All those times you wished you had just spoken to her for just a few more minutes, despite 30 years of love and memories, can be transformed into quality time with the ones you love who are still around. All those lost moments when you could have been telling her “I love you so much”, can be turned into “I love you”’s still. “I love you”’s are transferable, bottomless and no one ever tires of receiving them. You can turn your love for someone who is gone into yet more love for those who are still by your side. Don’t let that love dissipate.
When someone you love dies is when you realize how resilient you can be. You feared that you would die yourself of sadness, but look, you’re still here. Someday—maybe not today, tomorrow or even next year—you will be OK again. You will smile genuinely again. You will laugh heartily again. You will love life again. You will feel their love without sorrow. You will honour them without tragedy. Laugh lines will take the place of tears at the corners of your eyes. Your heart will be light again. Which is exactly what they would have wanted.