On Death and Grief

In college I took a class called “Death: Myth and Reality.” The course examined death from all angles, from the science of what physically happens after death to how we as humans handle the idea. The variety of ways people cope with death is enormous, even within a single culture or religion. I was raised with the understanding that it was a natural part of life, albeit a very sad one, and never really had difficulty coping with the loss of my grandparents over the years. I consider myself fairly OK with the idea of death. Our foster kittens don’t always make it, which is hard on us, but at least we’re able to provide them warm and loving homes for their abbreviated lives.

A family member, my fiancee’s cousin, passed away unexpectedly this week. He and Chris were very close growing up, and about the same age. We saw him regularly, though not always frequently since he lived a few hours away. It’s been very, very hard for Chris, his family, and myself. And I’m quickly learning that the grief of losing a peer is completely unlike that of losing a grandparent.

When you don’t see someone every day, it takes longer to process what it really means when they’re gone. It’s too abstract to simply know that somewhere, elsewhere, they’ve ceased to be. The first wave of grief was mostly for the other family members, the sadness of knowing people you care about are upset and the grim realization that there’s nothing you can do. I cried because Chris was crying. Chris traveled south to be with his family, and I stayed in New York until we had a better idea of what was happening.

It took a few days to process what was going on. To understand where all the holes were going to be. An empty seat at the “kids” table (who are mostly in their 20s) at family gatherings. A missing guitarist in the ska band we insisted we would form “soon.” An XBox Live ID sitting dormant on our friends list. Each of these revelations came like a fog settling around me. And if this is how I feel about someone I’ve only known since I got together with Chris, the pain his immediate family is in must be unbearable.

I’m grateful for the friends who have buy generic cialis offered support. I’ve learned that the hardest question to answer is “how are you doing?” My reflex is to answer “fine,” because that’s the universally accepted response for the question. But I’m not fine, and it feels incredibly hard to condense how I feel into something that answers what seems like a simple question. I’ve taken to responding with “it’s going.” I’ve also learned that attempting to “be strong” by doing things like going to work instead of going to be with family is unnecessary and unhelpful. There is nothing I do that is so critical it can’t wait until Monday, and simply being around family going through the same thing has made things infinitely more bearable.

When I met up with Chris yesterday he reminded me of a conversation we had with his cousin, whose name is Mike, when we were at the beach this summer. We were watching Pawn Stars, a TV show about a pawn shop. Mike mused that working at a pawn shop would be “a fun job, except for all the ghosts.” We giggled a bit at the idea of haunted pawn shops, and then we realized he was quite serious. This made us laugh a little harder. But Mike seemed pretty certain that people live on after death in the things they own. While I’m not sure that “Ghost Hunter Pawn Stars” will be the next hit reality TV show, I do think people’s possessions can help us keep them alive in memory. And who knows, perhaps if Mike has some free time in the afterlife he will take to haunting a pawn shop.

2 thoughts on “On Death and Grief”

  1. Tim and I watch Pawn Stars almost every Monday after American Pickers on the History channel – this brought a smile to my face. You and Chris are in my thoughts and prayers – please do let me know if there is anything I can do to help in this hard time.

    – Mary

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother two weeks before Christmas, for three months I’ve been on auto pilot. I realize, though you come to terms with the loss, it changes you in some way, as that part of your life is missing and things are never the same. I however covet the bowl we made cookies in 33 years ago, that is what I look at most and smile and what keeps me sane.

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