The world refers to them as “The Strong.” They are admired for their ability to come out unscathed, while others around them seem to crumble. They live life alone and unhurt because of it. When they are separated from loved ones, they can move on.
There are those few, though, that seem to “take it the hardest.” Grief hits them unexpectedly, and they fall apart. Over and over, they fall apart.
You may find yourself here, as well, unable to move past the loss of a loved one. So did one sweet girl who sought solace on the online forum community, Reddit.
“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”
Devastated that she would never be able to hug her dear friend again, she sought advice on how to heal. She wanted the gaping hole in her heart to go away and the waves of grief to subside. Many responded to her plea and attempted to console her with promises that things would get better and that her wounds would heal.
But one sincere old man’s reply to the woman’s grief held the most truth and the most hope.
“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.”
“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter.’ I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.”
“Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.”
“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.”
“In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out.
But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.”
“Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself.
And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.”
“Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
In our society, you are not free to grieve at any given moment because others will think you weak. You are not allowed to be vulnerable or…scarred.
The world, you see, is mistaken. Those whose hearts have been scarred have the greatest capacity to love. They have risked it all and loved without holding back. They are rare. They are few. They stand as a testimony for the rest of us that love is worth it.
While this old man’s reply to the woman’s grief was spoken to a girl struggling with the loss of her friend, their truth is relevant to all who have suffered loss. The loss of any relationship can be devastating. Especially the loss of a relationship where the love you poured out was simply not returned.
While you may be able to see the person on earth, sometimes, they are just not the same person you once knew. You must grieve that loss, as well.
This man gave hope to a grieving young woman that, yes, pain would come, but you will survive. Let that pain remind you of the abundant love that still remains in your heart.
Choose to keep your heart open. Open to possibility. Open to hope. Open to love. The scars within your heart may not heal, but they will stand as a testimony of your great love for others. Wear those scars proudly as a testimony that you are one of “The Strong.”
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