Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Pain Never Goes Away

“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

~ Rose Kennedy

We just learned that a woman with whom Anita works, a friend, suffered the loss of her teenaged stepson a few days ago. He died, according to a terse Facebook message, as the result of a “tragic accident.”

For some reason this has hit Anita hard. It’s not because she knew the young man. She didn’t. It’s probably because my partner is extremely sensitive and empathetic and she knows exactly how awful and life-changing it feels to lose someone you love.

Anita and her daddy
Anita’s beloved father was killed by bladder cancer. He died on a Saturday morning at the start of Labor Day weekend in 2007. It was a beautiful day – the sun was warm and bright and the sky was a vivid blue – and yet it remains to her the darkest day ever. She’s still brought to tears by the memory of that day seven years ago.

Anita loved her daddy. He was her hero, her first and best protector, the strong and honest and hard-working man against whom all other men in her life are measured. (We all fall short.) She told me that right after he died, she’d wake up and think, “Is this real? Is he really gone?” She was forced to relive the trauma of his death over and over again during those first days and weeks.

Here’s the thing: the death of someone close to you is at first a nightmare. You’re forced to convince yourself that it’s really happened, again and again, at the start of every day, after every shower and every meal, every oil change and trip to the grocery store, until the part of you that accepts bad news finally lets this in. And if there’s guilt – “I should have done more” or “I should have seen this coming” or “I should have demanded a second opinion” or “I should have been better” – it takes even longer to restart your own life.

(I’ve written about death and loss before. Click here to read, “Happy Birthday, Charles McGlashan,” July 15, 2011; here to read, “Sometimes Saturdays Suck,” July 25, 2011; and especially here to read, “Fragility,” August 30, 2011.)

The incessant drip, drip, drip of horrible news these days that young children and black males and innocent bystanders have fallen victim to gun violence at the hands of the police and the mentally ill and those who’re supposed to love and protect them, not hurt them, guarantees that the empathetic among us find ourselves thinking about death a lot more than we’d like.

The dark, cold, scary fact that it’s inevitable for all of us sooner or later doesn’t make it any easier to accept, in my opinion.

Anita pointed out over lunch one day that you never get over the death of a loved one. You learn to live with the loss and the pain and if you’re lucky, you’re buoyed by love and support from friends and family who try to help you move on. Not to get over it but to move on. Because that’s all we can do.

I hope Anita’s friend can move on at some point.

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