The Fragility of Life (Part I)

Editor’s Note: The following is the first part in a series of posts taken from the OSF Home Care Messages of Hope booklet, “The Fragility of Life.”

The fragility of life is easy to forget, isn’t it? We go about our days stressing over the small things, such as the dishes in the sink, our over­whelming workload or the oil change for the car. All of these things tend to consume us.

In the whirlwind of our day-to-day life, we lose track of the preciousness of life until we are confronted with the loss of someone dear to us. Suddenly, we are struck with something we all try to forget, our mortality. Faced with just how fragile life is, it changes us forever.

My Dog, Joe

As a child, I remember losing my dog, Joe. As a six-year-old girl, I had experienced a significant loss. He was my first friend and partner in crime. Oh, the adventures we experienced together. I clearly recall my father sitting me down and explaining to me that Joe had died.

Muddy Golden Retriever“He is in a better place now,” he assured me. “A better place?” I questioned. “Well, what better place than here by my side?” As tears rolled down my face, my dad tried so desperately to heal my pain and helplessly exclaimed, “We will get you a new one dear. Don’t cry,” he continued, “It will be okay.”

What just happened right in that moment? In my dad’s sincere and desperate attempt to heal my pain, he tried to instantly replace my loss and unintentionally encourage me to hide my feelings. Wow! Our foundation of how to handle losing someone or something dear to us is deeply rooted in our experiences, isn’t it? When did you first experi­ence a loss? What ways were you conditioned to get over it?

It even seems logical. I lost my dog and now I need a new one. Well, that loss wasn’t easy to replace and I have to say I despised that new little puppy. He wasn’t Joe. Even more difficult than my childhood experience of Joe’s death is the loss of a friend. They can never be replaced.

You may be asking yourself, “How long does this intense pain, this hor­rible sense of loss last?” Well, grief will take as long as it needs. It could take months or several years, but I can assure you that sting, that indescribable emptiness, will lessen. “In time” is what we often hear. “In time, we will heal,” right?

Yes, but it is more than just time; it is time actively grieving the death of your loved one. Time spent just “try­ing to move on,” losing yourself in the whirlwind of day-to-day living, suppressing your feelings (“Don’t cry, it will be okay!”) and grieving in isolation are ways we may have been conditioned to grieve, but they do not allow us to properly heal. Eventually, it will catch up with you.

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