Death has always been a difficult subject, and we all dread that day when we lose a loved one. That day came to me six years ago, when I got the call that my best friend had been killed in a car accident the night before. He was devastated, but through this experience, I was able to learn some very important life lessons. These lessons, although difficult, helped me become the person I am today.
1) The five stages of grievance are very, very real.
Everyone talks about the five stages of grievance: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. There is so much talk about this that it seems more like a myth than a fact. However, I am here to tell you that they are all very, very real and very unpredictable.
I didn’t think the five stages of grievance were real until I got that heartbreaking call. It wasn’t until then that I learned that it wasn’t just something that happens; they last an incredibly long time the lower you go down the list.
When I first heard the news, I was in complete denial. For a few days, I had convinced myself that it was just a cruel joke. That he was going to come into my room and lie on my bed and tell me it was just a big deal. Once I realized that no, this wasn’t a practical joke, I switched between bargaining and anger for three weeks, then through depression for months. Then more anger. Depression. For almost a whole year until I finally accepted that no matter how depressed or angry I was, he was not coming back. She was going to have to figure out how to deal with this one way or another.
2) You become closer to family than you thought possible.
It was my best friend’s mom who called me. We cried together on the phone for hours, praying to God (or some higher power) that it wasn’t true. At the funeral, I cried with so many people. Some I knew, some I didn’t. I thought after the funeral we’d all drift apart, living our own lives and occasionally going through Facebook, but not really talking.
The opposite happened. His mom and I are closer than ever. It’s the same with his brothers and even with some of his friends. We are all friends on Facebook and most of us talk about what is going on in our lives at least once a month. I became a bigger part of the family than ever before. Although we have moved on and are living independent lives, the bond we formed from this loss will never be broken.
3) You still think about them, even years later.
Living without your loved one gets a little easier over time, but no matter how long it’s been, you’ll always think of them. Acceptance doesn’t mean you miss them any less. Don’t worry though, it’s completely normal to do this.
I’ve talked about my best friend and what I went through, but my mom was in a similar situation. Her dad died when she was seventeen, and when I was younger I used to catch her crying. When she asked what was wrong with her, she always said the same thing: “I’m thinking about my dad.” She dreamed of him and woke up thinking that he was still alive. The same thing happened with my dad when both of my grandparents died. Same with me and my best friend. From time to time, when we get together, we talk about everyone. Dad shares memories of when he was a teenager and my mom always tells me the story of driving a tractor with her dad when she was five years old. Now that I’m old enough, I tell them about the nights she used to sneak out of the house to go on adventures (mainly with Sonic).
Even when a loved one is gone, they never really go away. You still have the memories you made together. Although it may be difficult at first to remember, it will eventually bring you comfort.
4) Support networks are everywhere.
As I went through the five stages of grievance, especially anger and depression, I felt like I had no one to talk to. I didn’t know how to talk to my parents at the time, my peers had their own coping mechanisms, and my best friend…well…was gone. It wasn’t until months later that I discovered a number of websites and businesses specifically suited to dealing with grief.
Of course, you can always go to the religious building of your choice. Some people find solace in religion, but I wasn’t one of those people. So, I searched for “How to deal with loss” on the Internet, and a lot of things came up. From articles on how to handle complaints to phone numbers and websites that talk specifically about dealing with a loss. There are so many different options to help, all you need to do is search for it. Personally, I chose to go with an exchange group for a while, as well as personal therapy and a dozen forums. Letting my emotions out not only made me feel better, but listening to other people let me know I wasn’t alone.
Loss is a big part of growing up, whether it’s a parent, close relative, or friend. Eventually, we’re going to lose someone sooner than expected. You are not alone and good coping habits are the best way to handle it. Seeking guidance or advice is also a very useful tool. However, no matter what you do, remember the memories and smile.