A friend of a friend recently lost her husband. The grief seems insurmountable. “I know everyone is worried about me,” she wrote. “They always ask if I’m feeling better. It’s hard for them to understand that as long as I live I will never feel better. I have lost so much.”
Writer, editor and best-selling author Dave Eggers lost both of his parents to cancer when he was just twenty-one years old. He later dropped out of college to become the legal guardian of his 8-year-old brother. Eggers would eventually write a memoir about his parents’ death and the impact it had on his life. The book is titled, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
"On the one hand you are so completely bewildered that something so surreal and incomprehensible could happen. At the same time, suddenly the limitations or hesitations that you might have imposed on yourself fall away. There's a weird, optimistic recklessness . . . . You see that there is a beginning and an end and that you have only a certain amount of time to act. And you want to get started." (The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Kellor, March 12, 2008)
Life after the death of a loved one can be, and is, so very difficult. Much like walking with lead weights strapped to your ankles. Everyday activities that were effortless before, now seem so difficult. Every day becomes another mountain to climb. All the while, you feel so alone. People sympathize, but they don’t really understand – can’t really understand. The funeral is over; sympathy cards are reduced to a trickle. Phone calls become less frequent. Friends and family return to their lives, as they must. But how do those left behind return to their lives.
There is life after death, but it will take time. Don’t rush it, and don’t let anyone tell you how you “should” feel. It is your process, not theirs. There are no rules.
The following poem was sent to me in an email. It was reportedly written by a woman who was killed in an automobile accident. Her co-workers discovered it in an email when they returned to the office after the funeral.
If Tomorrow Starts Without Me
If tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things,
We didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too
But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name,
And took me by the hand
And said my place was ready,
In heaven far above,
And that I'd have to leave behind
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away,
A tear fell from my eye,
For all my life, I'd always thought,
I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for,
So much left yet to do,
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
The good ones and the bad,
I thought of all that we shared,
And all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday,
Just even for a while,
I'd say good-bye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized,
That this could never be,
For emptiness and memories,
Would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things,
I might miss some tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did,
My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven's gates,
I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me,
From His great golden throne
He said, "This is eternity,
And all I've promised you.
Today your life on earth is past,
But here life starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last,
And since each day is the same way,
There's no longing for the past.
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I'm right here, in your heart.
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
~ Isaiah 41:10