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.