Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hear You Me

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.


  1. Jamie,

    That book sounds amazing! People who go through such tragic events astound me with the strength and love they still manage to have for the world. I looked at The Newborn Identity and it was beautiful. He writes at the end, "It’s that the feeling of love I have for Maddie, the feeling I felt when I was with her, when I kissed and comforted her, when she looked into my eyes and smiled. That feeling is just as strong as it ever was." I have to admit, I cried when I read his post, but that part truly warmed my heart. Knowing he still has that memory to go back to even in the worst of situations, gives me so much hope for the world.

  2. So I'm not really sure how to comment on a blog, but I figured I should, being as I am a religious follower of your blog :)

    I've dealt with a lot of death/mourning in my life, and I couldn't think of a more accurate way to put the concept into words than you did. No matter how many times one loses a loved one, the reaction to the tragedy is unique, a surreal and out of body experience.

    Also, I loved The Bean Trees by Kingsolver and now am really interested in reading the book you discussed. I haven't read all that many books about death, and I loved Kingsolver's writing style so I think I would enjoy it.

    Hope this was a satisfactory blog post comment :)

  3. The way you express the mourning/grieving period from the experiance in my life is poignant and accurate. A couple years ago, a friend I was never very close with but was best friends of a very close family friend passed away. Paying the shiva call was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To see his father trying to tell himself that is was ok was a heart shattering thing to me. People still write on his wall whenever they are reminded of him so he can know that we miss him. Your book has it correct when the world will never be the same. Because to me the loss of one person changes everything. You are truly right in saying that you cannot let death define those we've lost because its the happy memories we have that make them live on forever.
    - Dustin

  4. Jamie,
    I really enjoyed this week’s post. I completely agree when you say that we cannot let death define those who we’ve lost. Although it is important to mourn over our lost loved ones, it is also necessary to remember the good their lives brought to the world.

    By writing about these fragile topics, especially this week's, it's become apparent how strong of a person you are. Your posts are extremely though provoking and have allowed me to realize how valuable life is.

    Overall, I LOVE YOUR BLOG! :)

  5. Thanks for taking the time to read my family's story (and Heather and Mike's, they are good friends of mine) and try and understand what exactly we grieving families feel.

    Grief is a heavy cloak a parent will always wear when they lose a child. Some days we are able to take that cloak off and just wrap it around our waists but most days it sits heavy on our shoulders, clinging to our souls. It's just, well, suck-tastic to be honest.

    But it becomes a little less heavy and sucktastic when people like you take time to realize our pain is real and we feel less alone. So thank YOU.

  6. Jamie-
    I thought that this post was really well written and I enjoyed reading it despite the somber theme. I also wrote my blog post about death and grieving and it's true that there is no easy or clear answer on how to deal with the loss of a loved one. The last sentence of your blog really stood out to me and I agree with you that it is an extremely important thing to remember. Great job!

  7. You do a great job capturing the absolute devastation loss of a loved one creates. Having seen a very close friend lose a sister, I have seen the impact that loss has on people. And not just the family, but the friends, and not just close friends, but more people than someone could ever imagine could be affected.

    The blogs you linked to are great. They do an excellent job illustrating how the feeling of loss never goes away, even for a second. Sometimes when I look at my friend, laughing and joking with us as though nothing was wrong, I really think hard about what she must be feeling on the inside. There must be triggers everywhere that make her think of her sister, and I wonder how much strength it must take to maintain her bubbly facade.

    It hurts me to see my friend, and it hurts when I think about her sister, a girl whom I knew. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be an immediate family member.

    Anyway, great post. Very tasteful & bringing up great points.