There are many lessons that you learn after losing a loved one. I was 19 when I lost my Brother and at that age I was still naive to the realities of the world. He had died in an accident which was sudden and completely unexpected. I learned (and a, still learning) a lot about myself and life through this experience.
You may look at these lessons and think ‘oh, I have already learned these‘ or ‘I have heard these many times.‘ I am sure you have heard them millions of times but you don’t truly understand a concept until you live through it.
Take running a marathon as an example. We know that running a marathon is not easy. You have to train and train hard to complete more than 26 miles in one shot. People will never understand how hard or how intense running a marathon really is until they actually run one. We all think we know how hard it is and understand what it takes but you will never truly understand until you have completed one.
The difference between those who have learned these lessons through the experience of grief first hand and those who have just heard them is that true understanding. There is an intensity. The gravity of the lessons hits you in a different way. It makes them a real part of your life and philosophy.
These are the five most mindset altering and I’ll even go as far as to say life changing lessons I have learned from loss.
1. no one knows how to deal with grief
The people grieving their loss have no idea what to do. The people trying to help those grieving have no idea what to do. There is no script or guidelines to follow when dealing with grief. People will say they are ‘sorry for your loss’ but after that point we all get confused.
I had no idea how to deal with the millions of complex emotions I was experiencing. At 19, I had never had to cope with such intense feelings before. I tried to talk to people about it but I knew they had no idea what to do or what to say. Even researching on the internet gave me nothing.
Even after experiencing grief myself, I have no idea how to help someone dealing with grief. There have been times people would asking me for advice and I would have no idea what to tell them. I have had girls cry in front of me over a loss and I was at a loss. Even if you have been through the same thing they are going through, people are different.
Everyone deals with grief differently. Even the 5 stages of grief you have heard about, we all experience it differently.
No one knows but it is okay not to know.
2. The world does not care and will not wait for you
When you lose someone you love, you feel like the world should stop. The world is supposed to be angry, be sad, and drowning in grief. The world is supposed to feel the way you do. But the world just keeps going like nothing happened, like your life wasn’t just changed forever.
It was a harsh lesson to learn at a young age, or at any age. All I wanted to do was breakdown but the world kept telling me to move on. To add to my sadness, I realized that no one cared about my loss as much as the people who knew my Brother. Those who knew him were the only ones who would feel the pain. I want everyone to know what the world had lost that day but it would just be a small group of us.
Other than to that small group, it was just another sad story.
3. Life does not go according to plan
You are not supposed to lose your older Brother when you are 19. I never imagined a life without him there to support me. He was supposed to be my partner in crime. There are life events that are going to happen that I know I will need him there for, but he won’t be.
I had lived such a fairy tale life up until that point. It was a rude awakening for me to realize that life is never going to go the way you want it to. No matter how much you plan, organize, and go through the steps, something can still happen to ruin it.
After I learned this lesson, I realized that I didn’t need to have or stick to a concrete plan. Having a strict plan and high expectations only leads to disappointment. I learned that you just need to live life to the fullest right now and hope for the best because you never know what will happen.
4. People are constantly dying
After I lost my Brother I started to notice death more. Or maybe not so much notice it, but I became infinitely more aware and conscious of it. From the stories on the news to a story I overheard or a friend’s loss, it seems like it’s now everywhere. The faces and names I heard became real people. They were instantly more humanized. I knew exactly how the family of that person felt. It’s not just older people dying who have lived a long full life but young people were dying too.
About a year after my Brother died, one of my friends in college passed away in an accident. Then fast forward two more years and one of my co-workers died after surgery. I never realized until my brother passed away that this really did happen to people. They weren’t just stories you hear, or something that happens to other people. It could happen to anyone. It can happen to you. I have learned to appreciate everyone I have in my life infinitely more.
5. YOU CAN DIE TOMORROW
This was the moment in my life where I learned that life is short. Life is too short to spend it doing things that you do not want to do. Life is too short to care about petty things or hold a grudge.
You have a limited amount of time on this earth. Even if you make it to 100, that’s only a hundred years. Time flies by and before you know it you didn’t do all of the things that you wanted to.
I think this is the most important lesson that my Brother’s death taught me. You hear that question all of the time ‘if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today’ or ‘how would you live differently?’
It could honestly happen at any moment. So, why are we all living so safely instead of living life to the fullest?
I hope some of you who have experienced grief can relate to some of these lessons. Or I hope some of you walked away learning something new.
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