Recommended listening: Hear You Me by Jimmy Eat World
Two months from yesterday one of my classmates passed away. Two months ago I remember the last night of summer spent at his wake. Although Alen and I were never very close, my friends and peers knew him well. And everyone loved him. Not a single person who knew him would disagree.
The wake still haunts me. Seeing his family and friends so broken and lost is an image my mind just cannot let go. Yesterday was his little sister's birthday. I cannot help but wonder how Alen's family manages to reconcile the loss of one child while still celebrating the life of his beautiful little sister.
Since Alen's death the incomprehensible process of grief has characterized the lives of many. His Facebook wall is utilized by friends as a way to connect and let him know he is never forgotten. People visit his family and the cemetery in efforts to cope and connect. And the newspaper staff of our school paper, The Torch, was given the opportunity to touch base with his family and shed light on the incredible person Alen was.
Not a day goes by where grieving isn't on my mind. And now, in my twelfth grade English class, we are finishing up The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. To me, the most poignant part of the novel has been when the Price family's youngest child, Ruth May, dies. Because the book is divided into sections narrated by various family members, as a reader I am able to experience everyone's individual reaction to the loss of Ruth May.
One line that really struck me was when the oldest daughter, Rachel, explains what it would be like when she told her mother that Ruth May was gone. "The whole world would change then, and nothing would ever be all right again. Not for our family. All the other people in the whole wide world might go on about their business, but for us it would never be normal again," (366).
This thought is echoed and felt by many grieving. In one moment, everything changes. The eeriest part is that, despite all the pain you as an individual are laboring through, the world spins on and people continue to go about their business. How do people manage to reintegrate themselves into the bigger picture of the world once their own world is shattered?
This question led me to search through a wealth of blogs and articles written by grieving families and grief counselors. But, despite all my reading, a definitive answer is difficult to find. For those still struggling, I did find numerous resources that are heart-warming and helpful.*
What I've gained through my reading and personal experiences is this: death leaves a permanent impact on one's life and identity. Time heals in some ways, erases in others, allowing the shaping of identity to travel the same road as grief. Loss of a loved one is painful beyond our capacity to feel, confusing beyond our ability to comprehend, and life-altering beyond our ability to resist. However, we must not let death be all that defines those we've lost, for their lives are what is worth remember.
*Brilliant blogs I'm now following:
The Newborn Identity: This blog details a father's journey as he copes the loss of one baby girl while simultaneously beginning to raise his new one.
Attack of the Redneck Mommy: This blog, which The Newborn Identity linked to, is enticing and humorous despite the immense family struggles that Redneck Mommy goes through. Her blog documents her efforts to love her children fully while still grappling with the loss of a son.
Grief Companion: This blog is written by a grief counselor and offers insight, advice, anecdotes, and optimism for those who are grieving.
Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
RIP Alen Khoma (8.2.92-8.22.10) You will always be loved, missed, and remembered.