Death has always been a tough subject, and we all fear 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 died in a car crash the night before. I was devastated, but through this experience, I was able to learn some very important life lessons. These lessons, though difficult, helped shape me into the person that I am today.
1) The five stages of grief are very, very real.
Everyone talks about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It gets talked about so much that it seems more like a myth than fact. I’m here to tell you, though, that they are all very, very real, and very unpredictable.
I didn’t think that the five stages of grief were real until I got that heartbreaking call. It wasn’t until then that I learned that not only was it was it a thing that happens; they last an incredibly long time the further down 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 lay on my bed and tell me that it was just a big hoax. Once I realized that no, this wasn’t a sick joke, I shifted between bargaining and anger for three weeks, then through depression for months. Then more anger. Depression. For almost an entire year until I finally accepted that no matter how down or angry I got, he wasn’t coming back. I was going to have to figure out how to deal with this one way or another.
2) You become closer with family than you thought possible.
It was my best friend’s mom that called me. We cried together over the phone for hours, begging God (or some higher power) for it not to be true. At the funeral, I cried with so many people. Some I knew, some I didn’t. I thought that after the funeral we would all drift apart, living our own lives and occasionally passing through Facebook, but not really talking.
The complete opposite happened. His mom and I are closer than we have ever been. It’s the same with his siblings and even some of his friends. We’re all friends on Facebook, and most of us talk about what’s going on in our lives at least once a month. I became a bigger part of the family than ever before. Though we have moved on and are living independent lives, the bond that we formed over this loss is never going to break.
3) You still think about them, even years later.
Living without your loved one does get a little easier over time, but no matter how long it’s been you’ll always think about 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 had to go 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 I asked her what was wrong she always said the same thing, “I’m thinking of my daddy.” She would have dreams about him and wake up thinking he was still alive. The same went with my dad when both of my grandparents died. The same with me and my best friend. Every now and then when we gather up, we talk about everyone. Dad shares memories of when he was a teenager and my mom always tells me about the story of driving a tractor with her dad when she was five. Now that I’m old enough, I tell them about the late nights I used to sneak out of the house to go on adventures (mostly to Sonic).
Even when a loved one is gone, they never really go away. You still have the memories you made together. Though it may be hard at first to reminisce, eventually it’s going to bring you comfort.
4) Support networks are everywhere.
As I was going through the five stages of grief, especially anger and depression, it 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… he was gone. It wasn’t until months later that I discovered a number of websites and businesses specifically suited to deal with grieving.
Of course, you can always go to your religious building of choice. Some people find comfort in religion, but I wasn’t one of those people. So, I searched “How to deal with loss” on the internet, and so many things popped up. From articles on how to handle grief to phone numbers and websites specifically talking about how to cope with loss. There are so many different options out there to help, all you need to do is search for it. Personally, I chose to go with a sharing group for a while, as well as personal therapy and about a dozen forums. Letting my emotions out not only made me feel better, listening to other people let me know I wasn’t alone.
Loss is a huge part of growing up, whether it’s a parent, a close relative, or a friend. Eventually, we are going to lose somebody before we expect it. You are not alone and good coping habits are the best way to handle it. Seeking guidance or counseling is also a very helpful tool. No matter what you do, though, remember the memories and smile.