The past eleven days have been a painful and emotional blur. The only thing that has kept me somewhat grounded is being able to express my jumbled thoughts and feelings in complete sentences (ie: blogging). I've been writing this post in my head for the past few days and it's time for me to actually put it all together.
1. It's gonna hurt. So let it hurt. I know I have a very low tolerance for physical pain. In contrast, I always thought I had a high tolerance for emotional pain, seeing as how I've been through my fair share of disappointments and heartaches, but always seem to recover and move on. Nothing could have prepared me for the combined physical and emotional pain of losing a close friend. It hurt. A lot. It still hurts. There's been a constant dull ache in my chest and throat for the past week. The real hurt comes and goes in debilitating waves of sadness. I never knew the human body could produce so many tears. So, yes. It hurts. It's probably gonna hurt for a while. And I'm okay with that.
2. People want to help you. Let them. I am a fiercely independent person. I prefer to handle things on my own; so, consequently, asking for help is not easy for me. But dealing with the death of a loved one is not a time to be an island. I've had angels helping me at both home and school. I've probably never accepted so much help in my entire life. And I've never been so grateful.
3. Stay busy. I took two days off of work last week in order to help his family and process my own emotions. During the day I was with friends, running errands and doing things. It was only in the evenings, when I finally stopped moving, that I slowly unraveled and crumbled under the weight of sorrow and pain. Going back to work on Wednesday helped. Being with my kids kept my mind distracted from other thoughts. But when I was left alone during my conference period, there were no more distractions. Thankfully, another class full of frustrating (and distracting) teenagers was only 50 minutes away. I've kept myself busy and distracted for a while now. In the past couple of days I've slowed down a bit, which has not been good for my emotional stability. Time to find a meaningful project to dedicate myself to.
4. Find reasons to laugh and smile. One of the saving graces from last week was the ability to remember the good times, the fun times. The ability to laugh at the small things. Work provided many opportunities for grins and giggles. Dear friends and simple pleasures put a smile on my face. Of course it's a sad time. But that doesn't mean that you have to be sad all of the time. It's not what he would want. He would want his family and friends to smile and be happy.
5. Pain is not a contest. At one point last week I was telling myself that I shouldn't be hurting as much as I was, that there were other people from his life that were in even more pain - his mother and step-father, his sisters and brother, his many aunts and uncles and cousins, his friends that had known him for years, his Marine brothers. Then I realized that grief is not a competition. My pain is just as real as someone else's pain. And my pain is mine, personal. Comparing grief is a waste of energy and emotion, especially when that energy and emotion could be used to comfort one another.
6. The Plan of Salvation is everything. Without the Plan, life has no purpose and death has no meaning. Without the Plan, there is no reason to hope and have faith that we will see each other again after this life. Without the Plan, there is no reason to believe that we can live with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and our families for all eternity. Without the Plan, there is no comfort, no peace. With the Plan, there is everything - purpose, meaning, hope, faith, belief, comfort, peace. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the center of this Plan, which provides strength and support to all who are suffering. I have never been more sure of the truthfulness of this doctrine. As a dear friend reminded me, I will see Z again, "healed, whole, and blessed."
7. Not lost, but found. I've thought a lot lately about the phrases we use when someones dies: I lost a friend. I'm sorry for your loss. But did we really lose him? Is he really lost? I experienced a very clear moment last week of being taught Truth by the Spirit in answer to these questions. In our many conversations, Z would often comment that after 6-7 years of not living at home (due to his military service), he wasn't really sure where "home" was. The Spirit told me last week that Z finally found his way home. Not to an earthly home, but to his heavenly home, for "...the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body... are taken home to that God who gave them life" (Alma 40:11). I wish it weren't so far away, but Z found home. He was welcomed there by the open arms of those who love him. He is safe and happy and at peace. He is home.