“I don’t understand how it’s possible that feeling this much pain is part of everyone’s life.”
I found myself saying this to a grief counselor last week. And it’s true- at some point or another, we will all lose someone. Probably multiple someones. I know that everyone dies. I’ve seen the aftermath in movies, in real life. But I never lost someone truly close to me until one month ago, when my world shattered, my heart broke. I had no idea this sort of pain existed.
Nobody had ever told me what to do in this situation. Not even the movies show what happens in the minutes after you find out that your dad, your best friend, the one who could always fix it, has suddenly left you. Nobody taught me how to take care of myself, what to say, and is it okay to listen to music because that’s what we shared? Or will it make me fall apart even more? Is that possible?
After three weeks of being at home with family I returned to school, where my roommate was having a mid-college crisis. When she asked for my thoughts, I searched for something to say. “Some people are lucky enough to always know what they want to do,” I said, “and the rest of us are lucky enough to go on adventures.”
Adventures. That’s what I told my dad I needed. I told him I couldn’t go back to school, because I wasn’t done adventuring. He supported me. Then I went back to school. He supported me. (“I’m doing so well,” he said. “I want you to be happy too.”) Later I decided I had to leave. “That takes courage,” he said. “I’m proud of you.” Up until a month ago, this decision had been possibly the hardest thing in my life.
Most of what I’ve done since coming back to school to wrap things up has involved watching television and movies (surprising, I know). I watched Up, which is all about letting go and moving on. I watched Saving Mr. Banks, which is all about having faith in people, and how we remember those we love once they’re gone. I’ve watched a ton of How I Met Your Mother, which is all about adventure, the highs and the lows. Think about it: at the end of season one, Ted has finally gotten together with Robin, the girl whom he loved from the very beginning, and Marshall has broken up with Lily, the girl to whom he was engaged. By the end of season two, Lily and Marshall are married, and Ted and Robin have broken up. Life has so many parts that suck, but those lows are all part of the adventure.
Like I said in the beginning, I can’t understand why losing the ones we love is part of life. It feels unfair, like a caveat to every happy moment at best, like it could literally tear you apart at worst. But if people didn’t die, we also wouldn’t live. Dying is part of our journey; if we somehow got to surpass that heartbreaking low, my guess is that we would also be giving up the highs that make everything feel worthwhile. Sometimes it hurts so much that I can’t breathe when I think about how my dad sat me on his lap while he played guitar, or how he took me to my first day of kindergarten, how he went with me on my college visits and drove with me across the country and read Harry Potter with me on the phone. But those were the highs. Living a dynamic, full, forward-moving life means eventually coming to an end. That end hurts the rest of us, but it does not mean that it should diminish the highs, the marks of a life well-lived.
Life is full of good and bad, and it does come to an end. That end hurts. But it’s like Olaf says in Frozen: “Some people are worth melting for.” The ones whose loss hits you hardest are probably the ones who touched you the most, maybe the ones who lived the greatest adventures, and it’s worth feeling that pain to have experienced all the good parts. I certainly wouldn’t give up a single moment I had with my dad to lessen the hurting I feel now. Maybe the bigger the pain, the bigger the love, the fuller the life. At least I hope so.
I think that part of my heart has gone. I worry that I’ll never be the same. I miss my dad. But life is an adventure, and his adventure was a beautiful one. As for me, I hold on to the hope that one day I can look back at this time in my life and use it as proof that it’s always darkest before dawn. This is a part of my journey, an event that will define my life, but this pain is not going to overcome me.
I still have adventuring left to do.