Friday, January 24, 2014

Everybody Hurts Sometimes

If you're on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
--Peter Buck, Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Michael Mills (performed by R.E.M.)

The other day I was talking to a good friend on the phone and she said she just could not imagine what I was going through. She just wanted to spend some time with me.

Not too long ago, I remember when she was going through a really tough situation where I didn't think I knew how to identify with her and we cried and laughed our way through it. Since I've known her she's said hard goodbyes to parents and siblings and lives every day with the prospect of another heartbreaking loss.

Through the last five short, and yet seemingly endless, weeks, I've realized that most of the people we come into contact with on a day to day basis can feel some version of our pain.

As unique as my grief felt on Dec. 15th, it was like a drop of rain falling into a summer pond at the start of a storm. All around me, I've found there were nearly identical drops of rain falling, other mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters, and different drops from the loss of siblings, spouses and parents. I've realized that there are very different drops from all sorts of losses -- the loss of health, the loss of independence, the loss of divorce, even the loss of a career. There is a storm of loss and grief going on around us while we are focused on our own individual drops of pain.

I've also realized that while the source of our grief is very different, making us think that our situations are so unique and sometimes beyond what anyone else endures, our pain is very similar.

Whatever loss we are grieving, what we are really grieving is the loss of the future.

As humans, we have the unique ability to think about the future. We envision watching our children grow to adulthood. We think about their lives and the spouses they may bring into our families, their future happiness, unborn grandchildren. Even if we don't sit down and daydream about the lives they will lead, our minds make these possible futures seem a part of the reality that we expect to live.

The same is true with any kind of loss. Either consciously or unconsciously, we plan for the future. We plan to grow old with the the person we stand beside and say "I do." We intend to be able to do certain things for ourselves. We plan to have our brothers and sisters to share our lives. We expect to have our parents until some undefined point in our future. We think we'll have our careers to support us until we retire.

Then those futures are gone and we grieve. Yes, some of these griefs are more intense and stay with us. In all likelihood, we will find another job and perhaps another spouse. We may adjust our expectations for our health or the health of those around us so that life goes on and that loss becomes our new normal. We come to accept the time that our parents leave this life, even though we still miss them. The loss of a sibling or friend varies with how close we manage to stay, and eases as life moves on without them.

Everybody grieves and hurts at some time.

Losing a child is a bigger ripple in the peaceful pond of our lives. I realize both from my own limited experience and that of people who have endured their loss years ago, that while the ripples from other grief may subside this pain will never pass.

I think in many ways it is still because we are grieving that future, because with the loss of a child we lose not only their future but our own. We lose a link to a time we will never see.

As mothers, we lose all the potential we created when we grew them inside our bodies for nine months of careful eating, swollen ankles and pain. As parents, we lose the baby we held in our arms and all the unrealized dreams we saw each time we looked at them as they grew.

We never lose the past, however long that was and however many memories we managed to store in our hearts and minds, but we lose the future. We lose knowing the person they would have become in a few more years. We lose having them to love, and to love us, as we grow old. We may lose the children they never had and all those possibilities as well.

There is a bond in grief that those who have not lost a child can retrieve and find some empathy for us, just as when they have loss we can relate with a small part of what we feel.

Everybody hurts. I've come to believe that the difference isn't so much in the intensity of the pain as in the duration.

Everybody hurts and I have come to realize that the pain for a while may seem unbearable, no matter what the loss. It's just that for some of us, it will never entirely go away.

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