Death is real. It comes without warning. No one escapes it. Soon my body will be a corpse. ~ Buddhist passage
When my brothers, Jim and Dan, died a month apart in 2001, the reality of impermanence hit me hard. I’ve been reading about death and contemplating it ever since. Although I’ve experienced firsthand how it feels to have a loved one die, I still don’t understand death. Most of us don't. We know it happens, but when it happens in our own family, our innocence is shattered and our understanding is reduced to that of a child’s. Where do we come from? Where do we go? How do you lose a person? Below are some of my attempts at putting into words the stages I’ve lived through coping with loss over the last few years.
~ In the first year, you look the same, but you’re different. Someone who was a part of you is gone. You feel as if you’ve been abducted by aliens who have conducted experiments that have changed you. You look around for others who have also been abducted (lost a loved one) to compare notes with. You know those who haven’t lost someone close yet will be abducted someday too. But you can’t tell them much about it, because they won’t believe you.
~ The first couple of years: You know how it is when you’ve lost a tooth, and your tongue keeps going to the spot where the tooth used to be? Your tongue is drawn to feel the remaining sharp edges and to repeatedly examine the huge gapping hole left in the tooth’s place. You realize you’ll have to learn to eat differently. It’s sort of like that, losing someone you love. Your mind is compelled to review every detail of your loved ones life and death. It’s a seductive kind of torture that feels good while it hurts.
~ By the 3rd year after losing a loved one, you’re busy with your life. You don’t cry much. Things seem okay, but then you remember: They’re gone. They’re still really gone. It’s like getting the punch line to a very bad joke, over and over.
Note: This entry was originally appeared on looseleafnotes.com on July 3, 2005. Please see my website for more information on this topic.