Lessons Learned as we Lose Loved Ones on The Right Side of 50Feb 05, 2022
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine who was only 48 years old, woke with a blood clot in her leg. She died two weeks later.
She was young, vibrant, active and seemingly healthy.
She and I haven't been lifelong friends - I met her about 10 years ago because our husbands are good friends. But there was an instant connection the first time we met.
We lived in different parts of the country and have only seen each other a handful of times. But, throughout my time knowing her, she's been a person I've gone to. We've randomly reached out and touched base with each other. When I've been anxious at different times, she would tell me to "flip my hair and go do it!" I have and will continue to use that same phrase when talking to friends and women in this community.
I'm so sad and so shocked by this loss. Naturally, it got me reflecting and I wanted to share my takeaways.
We Need to Be Self Aware
This has been a time for me to look back and reflect on my experiences around death and dying throughout my entire life.
We lost my grandmother when I was a young adult. In an effort to shield me from the pain, my father discouraged me from attending any of the services. At the time I was happy to oblige, citing my busy schedule as an excuse. I have always regretted this decision. I loved my grandmother and we were very close. To this day, I feel guilt for not attending. More importantly, I never really had closure. I never said goodbye.
When I was 24 years old and the mom of two small children, my husband was killed in a car crash. I look back at how I handled all of that with great pride. I was very straightforward with my then 4 year old son and was always available to answer questions. I cried in front of my children so they would know that it's okay to cry. I planned a funeral. I leaned on friends and family. I went to counseling. And, I made sure to say goodbye.
9 months later my mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer as a young woman in her 50s. I'm pretty sure the death of her son was more than she could bear. And who could blame her.
My boys were very close to their grandmother and when she died they were 5 and 3. Against the wishes of my mother, I brought them to the funeral. She said they'd bother everyone and interrupt the service. That they would have no idea what was going on and that they'd already experienced a horrible horrible loss. But, I felt they needed to be there. They needed the closure. Besides which, my mother-in-law would have wanted them there. And my father-in-law was happy they were there.
The recent death of my friend got me reflecting. It blindsided me. Throughout my life I've experienced a number of deaths - a few blindsided and some were expected. And, what I realized is that, as with many things from my childhood, I took those experiences and reacted very differently from the way that I was raised to.
As I reflect, here's what I've gleaned:
- I hate losing people;
- But, it's a part of life;
- And it has served me well to lean into the grief, feel the feelings, and talk about it. As with my anxiety, being open takes away the power of the grief. It helps me to move forward.
I know this is not for everyone. But, at a minimum, it's helpful to reflect on your experiences and feelings around death and dying. Which leads me to my next thought:
We Need to Face The Cold Hard Truth
We are getting older and so are the people in our lives. The more people we meet and friends we make, the more of them we are going to lose as we continue to age.
This loss has come on the cusp of my 60th birthday. And, in reflecting, I realize that this is something that's going to be happening much more than it did in my younger years. It's a hard pill to swallow, but it's the cold, hard truth.
And At the Risk of Sounding Cliche
My final takeaway from this loss is that life is precious and life is short. We don't ever know when it could end. So, we have to live each day to its fullest!
And that means something different for each of us.
Today could be my final day or I could have another 35 years to go. Either way, I WILL be spending each day doing the things that bring me joy, passion, and purpose.
I WILL move through each day flipping my hair.