Beloved people come and go in our lives as we each travel our own individual paths and it is simply, perhaps begrudgingly, called life. The reasons they come and go are infinite in number and each is as equally difficult as the last to endure. Sometimes they move away or you move away and you learn that the bond you shared, while it was important at the time, fades into the past. Sometimes those we are close to pass away and forever after only exist in our memories. At other times, for one reason or another, we make the conscious decision to break from a person held dear or we are the recipient of such a decision. Whatever the scenario, when an important person leaves my life, it is an earth-shattering experience that leaves behind a resounding echo of loss. This echo magnifies the loneliness of being left behind or striking out alone, no matter if I made the conscious decision to make this break or if the change is beyond my control. And though caring people say that things will get easier with time, there is little comfort to be found in those words. The echo never ebbs completely and each time, I find that I have to learn to live with it, or endure this brokenness forever.
I have made the decision to turn away from people a handful of times in my life and each time it has been something I have thought deeply about. I mulled it over in my head countless times and tried to envision a reality in which a beloved person is no longer there. I consider every other option until I am satisfied that ending my connection with someone is the only possibility available.
Some people would say that I hold grudges and that I am unforgiving because I do this. But I don’t agree. When I decide to turn away from someone, I know that I do it because it is right for me, even if it is not something that I want to do. My reasons for making such a drastic decision usually involve the need to protect myself either from being walked all over or from some deep emotional pain. Even though my reasons are sound, choosing a path that leads me away from someone I hold dear does not lessen the painfulness of loss; and recovery remains a misnomer. I think I just grow accustomed to their absence.
When I lose someone because of their death, I am inconsolable. I wonder at how the earth can keep on turning and I envision myself staying still as the world around me changes and the sun continues to rise. I can see myself falling off the edge of the world and sliding into the black vice of space where I would be damned to float for an eternity with my sorrows folded around me in a bitter cocoon. I felt this way when my grandmother died. And even though she passed away almost eleven years ago this month, sometimes I still talk to her and I am comforted. In my mind, I can hear how she pronounced my name and the characteristic lilts in her voice when she spoke. Flowers make me think of her, especially birds of paradise. The ocean too; for one of my best memories was snorkeling with her on a family trip. Though she is no longer in the world, pieces of her exist in it and they find me when I least expect it.
When someone is newly lost, I find that I am constantly reminded of them. The universe calls attention to them in a variety of creative ways. Sometimes, when things are quiet and still at night, I lay in my bed and my mind is flooded with memories, both joyful and sad, of times spent together and experiences had. Almost daily, things will happen that bring them to mind. I will come across an intriguing article or I will learn something that I wish I could discuss or share with the person who is no longer there. I will come across things that were favorites of this person throughout the day and the memories will consume me.
When I am enduring the loss of someone who is simply on a different path in life and has not passed away, I am often tempted to make a list of the things I wish to share with them in the event that this individual will one day come back into my life. The urge is strong, but I know I must refuse because I cannot drift in the past. And yet, while I was strong enough to walk away or am learning to stand alone, I also know that I am not able to completely let go. Thus, I tend to keep these occurrences in my conscious memory so that they are there to share, should life see fit for us to meet again; or, until I come to accept the reality of their continued absence.
Through all the torture that the world and my brain administer in the wake of the loss of a person I have cherished, I know it simply means that I miss them. I miss the time I got to spend with someone who is dear to me. I miss the activities and adventures. I miss the way their presence made me feel. And eventually, I grow accustomed to their absence, though I am loathe to do so, and the pain caused by their missed presence reduces to a dull ache that I carry like a knot in my chest. The earth begins to turn and I feel like a functional member of society once again. The world acts unchanged and as things “get easier,” I look at myself and find that I am irreparably altered. The people I have lost have made an impression on me, they affected who I was when they were in my life because they mattered to me. And now that I am without them, I am me, but different. I am me, but a me who laments, who misses and remembers.
Lately I have been thinking about who I am and who I used to be; who and what I have lost both recently and in the past: family, friends, pets—and trying to make sense of it all. Why is it just called “life”? Why is it this way and not another? I ponder these questions regularly. Though, as of yet, I have no answers.