The Reality of Losing Someone You Love

“Losing people you love affects you. It is buried inside of you and becomes this big, deep hole of ache. It doesn’t magically go away, even when you stop officially mourning.” ~ Carrie Jones

I entertained this reality in my mind many times.  When I saw it happen to others, I thought maybe I understood.  However, no matter how much you try to imagine it, or prepare yourself, no amount of mental rehearsal comes close to the reality of losing someone you love.

“Every man dies – Not every man really lives.” ~William Ross Wallace

First off, I’m incredibly lucky.  My dad passed at age 84, after a decade of roller-coaster health and hospital stays.  His old self was an expectation adjusted with each episode.  The first time a doctor truly pronounced him as a mortal, my mind projected forward to the voyage of a life without him. It was hard to watch him deteriorate over the years, but we got to do just that.  Enjoy his company.  His two lung cancer surgeries flipped the egg timer on his mortality.  Sand running from the full end, filling the empty lower half.  That’s when I truly realized his time would eventually run out.  Until then death was a nebulous concept, one that occurred in others’ lives.

My dad isn’t immortal. He’s deceased. Not of this earth. I will never see his face or hear his voice again. I had tons of I Love Yous with my dad.  No regrets.  Nothing unspoken.  He had ZERO doubt of how I felt about him and a MASSIVE vice versa.  I also know he was proud of me, of the man I’d become.  He was proud of all of his kids.  He and our mom turned out honest, kind, decent people; qualities that mean a parent has done a good job.  None of this changes the simple fact.  The loss is still a loss.

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” ~Winston Churchill

He’s just gone.  No matter how hard I try, or where I look.  Gone. I think its human nature to prepare for these things.  I know I played it out in my mind.  Prior to his death, there were times when I’d look at him and sort of erase him from the moment.  Him not saying grace before dinner.  Him not sitting in his spot in the den.  Not strong enough to think about holidays, though.

Life goes on.  There’s a reason for the cliché.  Aside from a handful of people, the world won’t skip a beat when someone dies. Though my dad is irreplaceable to me, there’s no great cavity in humanity.  No streets of wailing citizens.  No candlelight vigils.  Even for some people who knew him, tomorrow was just another day.  They paid their respects in whatever way they wished and moved on.  That doesn’t make them bad people.  It’s just how things are.

“Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over… Death is not anything… death is not… It’s the absence of presence, nothing more… the endless time of never coming back… a gap you can’t see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes not sound… ” ~Tom Stoppard

Yet for some of us, there’s a hole in our lives.  It is different.  My family and I got a lot of extra years with him. There are times when I find myself staring off into space.  Not at anyone.  At nothing.  I’m not thinking about anything in particular.  Just feeling how different things are. How did I react when someone, an acquaintance really, told me that he or she has lost a loved one, especially a parent?  In all honesty, looking back, I see myself as pretty indifferent and oblivious. Maybe that’s harsh.  Maybe the reality hit too close to home and I tried not to think about being in that person’s shoes.

“After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer

The next time someone tells me about their loss, I won’t say, “I know how you feel.”  I’ll never know how anyone feels.  Our realties are different.  Our relationships were different.  However, I will have an understanding.  I’ll ask, and above all, I’ll follow up.  I’ll hope that they appreciated their loved one like I did mine. While I won’t know exactly what they are dealing with, I will know–absolutely know–that their loss is different and much more than they imagined.

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Mike Brennan

Mike Brennan is a Writer/Drifter. He writes to make people smile, think, and maybe shed a tear. To know more about him, visit www.mikebwrites.com

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12 Comments

  • Vickie

    16, September 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you for this message. I just lost my husband of which we had 40 wonderful years together. It is a challenge everyday to not want to go with him.
    My mom has always been my biggest supporter, always positive and upbeat. She is home on hospice with a failing heart. This message is so needed for me right now that I can only say thank you. I am so not wanting to be mad and angry. I will always remember the love and respect these 2 people had for me and life.
    Thank you for this message.

  • Julie

    16, September 2012 at 12:59 am

    My Father has been gone for 22 years. Today quite by accident I stumbled on a video my nephew had made for his Dad. The very beginning included video of my Dad looking straight into the camera- right at me- video of him drinking a beer and talking- and pictures of his baptism ceremony held weeks before he passed away. Not photographs but Dad, walking and sharing and being Dad……its never over. Never.

  • bonnie

    14, September 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Lost my mom 20 years ago.. some times it still feels like this morning.

  • Carolyn

    14, September 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I just hung up the phone from speaking to my brother. he just got a phone call letting him know that a very close friend of his has died, at 55 years old. It was sudden. He told me, several times, that he cannot wrap his mind around the concept that he will never see him again. Loss is so very hard on those who loved the one who died. Life does go on, but it does change from that point. I’m sorry for your loss. I have lost both of my parents, and it’s a chapter of your life that closes completely. Memories are there forever, but everything is different.

  • Still Grieving

    14, September 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Ahh, thank you for this! My mother passed in April, and I STILL find myself tearing up occasionally, even though I’m fairly emotionally stoic about most other things. She and I didn’t have the kind of idyllic relationship you describe in the article. It has been an ongoing challenge to acknowledge that it WASN’T the healthiest, but it WAS her best, and that I love and forgive her regardless. Thanks again.

  • ACP

    14, September 2012 at 2:43 pm

    How does God do it? How does He know what I need to read at just the right time??? I lost my mom 4 years ago to lung cancer and it still feels so surreal that she’s gone. Just last night I was upset thinking maybe she never existed, but I know she did, not just because of memories or pictures, but because I realize of the strong love she gave me and still gives me. That’s why I love that Eskimo Proverb you opened with; I look at the sky nightly and look for 3 stars that she taught me about and wonder if that’s her. I miss her every day, even more when I am going through tough times. But I know she did exist, I know she does love me and I know that whatever peace I need she will help bring it to me. There is nothing I can tell anyone who’s lost someone except I’m sorry…. Like you, I only know how I felt and still feel, and I can’t assume the other person’s pain…. Thank you for this timely article, once again!!

  • Audrey

    14, September 2012 at 1:59 pm

    There is a hole in my life. It is different. And there is regret. Regret for what we didn’t have, what we didn’t do, what we didn’t say. Would it have helped if we could see what else was coming? I think so. So why do we live like we don’t know what else is coming? We know that life is unpredictable with no guarentees. I do know that there is one guarentee and that is this second in time. But my day begins to whirl and I forget. I get to the end of the day exhausted by people and drama. I drink and try to sleep. Morning comes and all is fixed. The sun rises, the birds sing, the air smells fresh, the dew sparkles. Lots of random thoughts here. The reality of losing someone I love is very sad. Very hard. And time doesn’t really make easier. It just changes. My mom died 6 months ago in a tragic car accident
    the other driver crossed the center line. She died before she got to the hospital. Today is her birthday, funny this story should appear today. Happy Birthday Mom. I love you, and miss you. I have this moment and will use it for all it is worth.

  • Ann

    14, September 2012 at 11:20 am

    This article put what is in my head and my heart and placed it into words that I can understand. I have been struggling (a word that hardly begins to describe the effort) with the sudden (again, such a weak word for the shocking loss) of my mother. Second chances? Ha! The permanent loss and the challenge of living with the empty space around me and the inability to resolve things but to have to live with that nonetheless. I’m old enough to do this well, my mother was old enough for me to let go…but I was not consulted in the matter and she is gone. Simply gone. Horrifically gone. Permanently gone. I cannot get my mind around this.

  • David J. Singer

    14, September 2012 at 9:27 am

    Mike, I’m sorry to hear about your loss and appreciate this amazing post. This part is something I have thought a lot about and, like so much in your note, your telling it like it is is very helpful: “Aside from a handful of people, the world won’t skip a beat when someone dies. Though my dad is irreplaceable to me, there’s no great cavity in humanity.  No streets of wailing citizens.  No candlelight vigils.  Even for some people who knew him, tomorrow was just another day.  They paid their respects in whatever way they wished, and moved on.  That doesn’t make them bad people.  It’s just how things are.” I also like what you said about understanding a bit about what others are going through, though not entirely because each oerson’s experience is different.
    Thanks so much.
    Best regards,
    David

  • Fiona L. Hipol-Ramos

    14, September 2012 at 8:27 am

    This part is so true;
    The next time someone tells me about their loss, I won’t say, “I know how you feel.” I’ll never know how anyone feels. Our realties are different. Our relationships were different. However, I will have an understanding. I’ll ask, and above all, I’ll follow up. I’ll hope that they appreciated their loved one like I did mine. While I won’t know exactly what they are dealing with, I will know–absolutely know–that their loss is different, and much more than they imagined.

    Just lost my father 8weeks ago. They tell me to let him go and stop grieving. Sometimes, people can say the most hurtful things and not even realize it…

  • Joy

    14, September 2012 at 4:25 am

    My daughter lost her father at the age of 3 (she is 4 now). Death and grieving have been incredibly difficult for me to understand and deal with every single day, as she asks me questions every day. And you are so right; every persons’ experience with grief is different. Thank you for sharing about this important topic. Peace to all those grieving……it is a daily journey.

  • Laurie

    13, September 2012 at 6:17 pm

    my Dad is in the end stages of lung cancer and this article was necessary for me to read…thank you

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