“When I visit the grave where you lie in eternal peace
I know that death and heaven brought you release;
I try to envision your joy on that shore across the sea,
And, until I join you, that’ll have to be enough for me”.
Three years ago, I wrote about my best friend passing away. I wrote about how broken I felt, how unimaginable the entire situation was and how I was learning that it is OK not to be okay. And yet, here I am one years later, telling you the same thing. I’m not OK, but I’m learning.
Through my unwanted knowledge of the process of grief, I’ve learned you’ll have moments where you feel 100 percent fine. You’ll go about your day feeling a semblance of what normal used to be, and it’ll feel go.
You will have moments where you find yourself entertaining the fact that none of this is real. You will have moments where you wish you could have been the one to go instead of that person, so you don’t have to feel the pain of the loss any longer. You will have moments where you search for some hidden meaning of why this had to happen.
And then, all at once, you’ll go back to those fine moments. If I have learned one thing throughout this entire time , it is that time does not heal all wounds. My wound is still covered by the Band-Aid that’s holding it all together, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. If you don’t let yourself rip off that Band-Aid from time to time to let yourself see the wound or feel the pain, it will just come back to haunt you even heavier later on. Trust me!
Unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of my time this past year keeping that Band-Aid sealed tight. Whenever I feel like it may slip off, I throw my attention to something else, whether it’s doing something productive like going to the gym or writing, or something mindless like watching Netflix or listening to music. I tend to shut my thoughts down. I know it’s not healthy, but I’m working on it.
It’s important to know that grief doesn’t give you a timeline. I was afraid that each milestone would make me feel further and further away from my best friend, but thankfully, it has been the opposite.
And now, on the fourth anniversary of his death, we dedicate that day to doing something we’ve never done before: trying something new, and not being afraid to do so. It’s exactly what he would have done.
Sometimes I feel so incredibly sad wishing you could be here, living the amazing life you lead. I’ll wallow in my pity and waste my days away. But, it’s on those days I need to remember to do right by you.
Lead life the way your loved one would have, whether it’s helping others, having crazy amounts of fun or loving the people around you. Remember that you have something your loved one doesn’t: You’re still here.
But most of all, the seemingly short time that’s passed seems like forever when I compare how different I am today from the person I was the day he died. I was 27then, and now I’m 30, but it feels like the difference would be better measured in decades; maybe epochs. The year after Altaf’s death was the most difficult of my life. There was a lot of sobbing in the car while listening to music he used to love, a lot of sleepless nights replaying every conversation I’d ever had with him, wondering whether I did the right thing in each interaction, however small.
I have learned to live with the deepest regret and sorrow I’ve ever imagined. I feel older, and I look older — there are faint lines on my face that weren’t there before, the occasional errant gray hair. Sometimes I wonder if He would recognize me if he saw me today. But I’m also definitely stronger. Not the way people say a bone is strongest in the place it was once broken. This is not a question of healing. My best friend is gone, and there will never be enough scar tissue to fill that hole. But I’ve learned that I can live with the hole, and that is a kind of strength.
I can also see how fast time has moved when I look at the people who were part of my life in late 2012 and the people who are part of it today. After high school, I drifted away from many of my oldest friends, but since he died, I’ve found my way back to some of the people that I loved in my youth. This is no compensation for what we have lost, but realizing the importance of holding onto people from my past has been another source of solace.
More than anything, losing someone you love makes you think harder about every moment. It makes you feel the weight of things, even something silly like a pop song or a fashion trend, when you know that each one of them makes the world slightly but irrevocably different from the world he knew. It makes you treasure the moments that will never come again, and hope for the ones that will or could. It’s hard to live with the certain knowledge that you are always transforming into someone unfamiliar to both yourself and the people you used to know and love, but the only other alternative is to dig your heels in and refuse to change, ever, and that becomes untenable very quickly. All I can do is try to welcome the future while honoring the past and hope that if he could see me.
It’s been years since I’ve lost my best friend, and I’m not OK. And that is still OK. I am in the midst of creating a new normal, a normal where he is still here with me, just no longer physically. As for the weight I felt as soon as I found out he was gone, it’s still here.
Yet, it doesn’t hold me down as much anymore. The weight is a bit lighter, a bit easier to manage. I like to think that means I am stronger.
—The author is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Government Degree College Handwara. He can be reached at: email@example.com