A Letter to My Friends in Times of Loss
My dear friends,
I’m writing you this because many of you are grieving. Lost parents, lovers, friends, mentors, children, homelands, senses of self and assumed safety. You have lost, and now you are feeling some sort of response to that loss. This is my love letter to you. This is my way of saying I see you. Let this be the letter you keep under your pillow to keep nightmares at bay, or the one you carry with you for strength. Let the words sink into your grief and reduce you to tears. Let it outrage you and make you want to throw things because how dare I presume to write to a large group about something as particular as grief. However it works, let it work on you, because the thing about love letters is that they are true, even if that truth is a hard one to bear. Love is not easy nor is it always fun. It’s powerful though, and that power can be enough to propel you over mountains. I love you, and it pains me to know that I cannot personally comfort you all. We might not have reached that level of friendship, or we might live far from each other. Maybe you just prefer to spend those fresh, raw moments alone. Maybe you only want company when you’re at your best. Whatever the reason, I love you. I love you despite those reasons. In some cases, I love you because of those reasons. I love you, and I’m thinking of you as you adjust to your “new normal.”
You will never be the same person you were before, but like a river cutting through a canyon this wound will carve you anew, revealing sides of yourself that you never knew were there. You might redefine your sense of self. You might reach a new depth in your strength. Hell, you might even decide to shirk your current life path to pursue that passion you abandoned or reduced to a hobby because your grief is teaching you that life is short. Indeed, life is short. We are given small amounts of time on this planet to love a lot of people. It might seem like there isn’t enough time, but I hope that doesn’t stop you from continuing to love. I hope it lights a fire within you to love more fiercely because you see that every life is a death waiting to happen. That each moment we have together is precious. If anything, I hope you continue to love because life will be harder after this. You might need that love to get you through to the next day.
It won’t matter how long it’s been. It won’t matter whether you were a child or an adult when you first experienced loss. The pain of loss stings for as long as life continues. It doesn’t get better in the way we think of things getting “better.” The pain is there, waiting for something to bring it to the fore. Maybe the air catches a scent just right, bringing you back to the presence of your lost love. Maybe you stumble across a cache of old pictures you couldn’t bring yourself to sort. Maybe it’s the way a stranger smiles, or rides her bike, or parts his hair, or whistles that sends you reeling through your best and worst memories with your loved one. Whatever it is, it’s there, and it’s not to be ignored. That pain is a part of you, and it will play a role in the formation of your worldview going forward. Days will carry weight. Entire seasons might feel askew. Passing birthdays cause a heaviness of heart. What was once a simple July day is no longer that once marred by grief’s bite. Your gravity will shift and you will have to relearn how to walk. I can’t say that it gets better, but I can say that it gets easier to live with the sting. This will take as long as it takes. It’s a process that is particular to who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming. It cannot be rushed. Don’t let anyone try to rush you through it. I say it gets easier, but only after it gets harder, and it may only get easier for some. I don’t know.
The truth is, friends, that I am writing this from my experiences of loss, so I can’t claim any kind of expertise. Though I write from my experience, I want to be clear that this is about you. If there’s one thing I can claim to know, it’s this: grief is hard. You don’t need me to tell you that. However, I want to make sure you know that I see that you’re having a hard time. I know what it’s like to suffer silently and I know what it’s like to feel so alone that you can’t speak your experience. I’ve felt the words form lumps in my throat. I’ve been weary to trust people with my fragile heart. I understand. I see you and I love you. After reading this, if you find that it’s completely useless, throw it out. Rip it up. Delete it from your browser. I don’t care. But please, find your way. Grief is hard, but it’s not impossible. It can be overwhelming, and support is essential when it is. You are strong. You are resilient. I believe in you. I trust your process.
As I write this, the sun is setting. It will set here, leaving Cambridge dark for a while, but as the sun sets here, it rises somewhere else. You are the sun, my friends, simultaneously setting in one place and rising in another. Leaving one part of your life dark only to shine light on another piece as it comes into view. You are also the earth. Lean into that darkness for a while, but let your sun rise again. You are just as beautiful shrouded in darkness as you are fully illuminated, but one balances the other. I see you. I trust you. I will not push the subject. However, I will reach out to let you know that if you need someone to sit with you, I’m here. Even if we aren’t the best of friends, or if you’re far away, I’m here. If you feel like you just want to be left alone, I see you and I’m here, though at a distance. I hope you are surrounded by the love that you so deserve. I hope you’re being kind to yourself.
Thinking of you,