“It’s Okay”

David S. Cochran

“It’s going to be okay.” Why is this the only thing us as humans can say to those who are hurting? Are we fools for believing saying these words will actually help those in need? Or are we just as helpless as they are? Why is it whenever we are called upon to be there for someone, we can never find the words to say? Do we actually believe it is going to be okay or are we just saying it because that’s what we want to believe?

Death brings out our most interesting qualities as people. Not only with how we suffer, but how we help those who are suffering. Whether it’s a loved one or a stranger, death leaves an emptiness inside. An emptiness that never seems to be refilled, but rather covered up. So why does it leave an eternal emptiness? Yes, on Earth, death is permanent, but who’s to say it’s eternal? Do any of us actually know what lies next for us when our time on Earth is up? Shouldn’t death be a celebration of a new beginning for that person’s soul? Shouldn’t we feel joy that they have left behind a world of anger and stress and have entered a period of peace and comfort? No more stress of striving to be what society expects them to be, in addition to the endless bills and judgement that comes with it. They are finally free to be who they want to be without any limits.

No, this is not a cry for help, or a statement of my beliefs, but rather a reflection on how we, as humans, support each other in the face of tragedy.

It can be easy to forgo a celebration when a loved one passes. Selfishly, we feel torn up inside that we are no longer in the presence of their joy or beauty. But is it really selfish? It’s almost as if their passing hurts us, who are still breathing, more than the person laying in the casket. It’s easy for us to tell ourselves that those who have passed away from an illness are no longer suffering and that they are in a place of peace now, but how are we supposed to react to sudden, freak accidents that end lives dead in its tracks? It’s never easy hearing about the passing of those involved in motor accidents or shootings, especially those who still had their whole lives ahead of them. How are we supposed to justify their loss? How is any of it fair?

Should we actually believe that “time heals everything?” Just keep pushing forward and live life the way they would want you to live? That may work for some, but grief can present itself in mysterious ways and it doesn’t take much to resurface tragic memories of sorrow. But why is it that we bottle it up and say we will be okay? Is it because we feel its self-pity? Or that living in the past is considered a negative thing? Many of us are told to never “dwell on the past,” but why? Hasn’t the events of our past made us who we are today? Shouldn’t we embrace the hardship and tragedies and view them not as losses, but as hopes of betterment?

I lay here in a dark room, a little past midnight, while sniffles and tears come from the girl beside me. The events of a tragic motor accident, resulting in the passing of an icon, has sparked the memory of a lost relative who suffered the same dreadful fate.  She turns to me and lays her head on my chest while she says, “I can’t imagine how scared they must have been… to be so young and have to face such horrific things.”

While tears continue to roll down her cheeks, I laid there in silence while I gazed up at the rotating fan above. My heart is breaking as I struggle to gather the words I need to say to help her. Should I tell her that they are in a better place or that they are looking down on us from above? Should I say all we can hope for is that their suffering was quick? Does she really want to hear that?

We all process the concept of life and it’s meaning in different ways, but we all react the same when life comes to an end. It’s a scary thought knowing that in the blink of an eye things can change and although I can’t begin to imagine what those poor souls went through in their final seconds, I can imagine what the person in front of me is going through. Because even though we all express it differently, deep down, death affects us all the same. It’s a scary and sad mystery, one second you’re here and breathing and then the next second you’re not. And then what? What am I supposed to say to someone who is facing the emptiness of one of life’s biggest mysteries?

As her tears and sniffles turned to a calm gentle breath, I realized, she didn’t need a perfect cinematic response. She didn’t need a hero to leave an everlasting mark on her life. I wasn’t here to try to justify why horrible things happen to good people, especially those who are still young. No. I was here to help someone facing a dark moment. To let them know that they will never be alone in their sorrow. She just needed someone to be there, to hold her, support her, and remind her that even though the times feel dark in this crazy, scary world, we will all get through it together. Although their loved one has moved on, other loved ones are still present and as long as we are always there for those in need, one day, it truly will be okay.

It’s alright to not know what to say or how to react. Death is a scary thing that us as humans, unfortunately must face every day. Your grief is not something to be sorry about and although we may not always know what to say, it is important to never abandon someone in their darkest time. I may not always be able to help, but if I can be that shoulder to cry on or that hand to hold, then you better believe I’ll never let go.

And for those suffering, it’s important to remember the positives your lost loved ones brought to this world and how they contributed to who you are today. Take the qualities they gave you from their time shared with you and use it to help make those around you feel a little brighter, even when the world is casting a shadow over them. Remind yourself that even though what they went through was tragic and scary, their suffering is over and they are in a place of peace now. So, keep their memories alive not only in your heart, but in your everyday surroundings until the day comes to be reunited with them once more.

Push Forward

David S. Cochran

Why do we push forward? What gives us the will power to keep our chins held high and our hopes even higher? Even when the world seems to constantly be in the opposite corner, ready to knock us down at any given moment, we find a way to keep going.  Just when things begin to look up, life seems to always throw another right hook straight for our jugular. A right hook that comes in so many different forms. Heartbreak, death, finances, tragedy and yet many of us still find the ability to carry on with our lives. We mask our frustration with simple terms such as, “Well that’s just life, I guess,” or “Next time I’ll get it,” but what gives us that courage to say one day we’ll make it? How have we all not fallen into the black hole of depression that seems to always surround our world?

It’s a magnificent sight to see honestly. Take a look around next time you are out. What do you see? It may not look impressive. The sights and sounds of a bunch of ordinary people doing ordinary things, but look beyond that. You are surrounded by people who have been beaten down numerous times in numerous ways and yet still find a way to bring themselves out to move forward with their life. It’s incredible. And for many of us, we don’t know why exactly we carry on, but for some reason we do.

I sit here and write this in the midst of trying to juggle two minimum wage jobs as an effort to desperately stay ahead of the never ending list of financial dues. I spend my days working and my nights studying for exams that are supposed to improve my life. A life that has become a constant uphill battle, but I still push forward. Why? There is no guarantee that the struggles I face today will pay off in the end. Yet, something within me tells me to keep going. To power through the adversities, but why?

I am nothing extraordinary. I don’t have a back story that leaves people teary eyed when it’s finished. I didn’t face the suffocating deficits that some face around the world or even around the corner. I have lived a wonderful life so far, but I didn’t earn that wonderful life, it was given to me by those who have earned it for me. So no, I can’t speak from personal experience, but I can speak for those who have displayed incredible wonders around me.

I think back on my childhood and the memories are nothing short of happiness under the spotlight, but as we grow older, we begin to dissect our life. Dive into the details that brought us to where we are today. When I look back, I realize the life I grew up in may have been beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, the people responsible for my life faced a dark enemy. An enemy that delivered countless financial blows and created torn feelings of anger and despair, but yet they pushed forward. At the expense of their own misery, they unselfishly continued to fight and not succumb to the misfortunes they faced. Why?

Maybe because they wanted me to grow up to say I had a wonderful life, or maybe because they wanted that sense of achieving what they knew they could achieve even against the harsh conditions. Or maybe it was both. Or neither. There doesn’t need to be a rhyme or reason to why they pushed forward, all that matters is that they did. They possessed the idea within that gives us the ability to say tomorrow will be a better day. An indescribable sense of motivation that allows us to find the happiness life has to offer even as it is weighing down on us.

We may not know why exactly we push forward and our intentions to do so may vary from person to person, but regardless of our motivations, it’s a desire shared among all of us. A desire to keep our goals ahead of us and not give in. For me, it’s my parents.  It’s the motivation to not let down those who have worked hard every day in an effort to see me become the person I am meant to be. They showed me that no matter what life has to throw at you, keeping moving forward.

After years of struggles, they both have succeeded to reach a life that they can feel peace and comfort in again. Although, the struggles will continue in different forms, they have worked to achieve happiness. A happiness that only seems to be attained when we push ourselves to rise above the down days and look forward to the good ones.

So when you feel overwhelmed, take a second to breathe. Although life can be dark and scary, it can also be bright and beautiful and it’s important to remember pain may not disappear, but it will fade if you push through it. We all face hardships that present itself in many ways and the only thing keeping our sense of will power alive is the presence of those who surround us. If you are struggling or know someone who is struggling, take a second to talk to each other. Help each other through the tough times so you can celebrate the good times. Keep alive that mysterious ability that lies within all of us to push forward. No one should ever feel alone in the fight against life because rich or poor, sick or healthy, we have all faced a right hook from life and yet we still find ourselves pushing forward.

As I grow older, the darkness of life continues to grow as well, but thanks to the inspiration of many, I know I can overcome any darkness I face. And when I come across someone who seems to have lost their willingness to carry on, I will make an effort to support them so they can find it once more.