Sunday, February 10, 2019

What Grief Has Taught Me This Year

Grief-  noun- deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death.

But that doesn't begin to cover it.  I have witnessed enough grief in the past twelve months to last a lifetime.  February 11, 2019 marks one year without Justin, 365 whole days.  Three hundred and sixty five days that I have watched one of the people closest to my heart trudge through her grief. 

Justin, doing what he loved.
On February 11, 2018, Justin David Cunningham was found unresponsive in his rodeo trailer.  When he failed to show up to the roping arena where he was competing in a roping that weekend, his friends went looking for him, and found him, fighting for his life on the floor of his trailer, a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning.  His generator was too close to his living quarters, and due to the cold air, and lack of wind, it came back into the trailer, and made our friend a statistic.  One of my very best friends was the love of his life.  She was to drive to Loveland, CO to be with him later in the day.  She never got to see him alive again. The original plan was for "A" to be with Justin at his roping that weekend, but at the last minute, she went to a concert with a friend.  Because of this, "A" has struggled with a tremendous amount of survivor's guilt.  All she could say at first, was she should have been with him, while all I can think is, thank God she wasn't.  Miraculously, after intensive veterinary care, their little corgi, Maizy, who was in the trailer with Justin, survived.  One thing is for sure, this world is a little less bright without Justin in it.

Justin was a smart ass.  He loved to argue.  And I mean, LOVED to argue.  He would argue just for the sake of it.  Even if he had the same view as you, he would take the opposing side, just to make sure your reasoning was sound for your beliefs.  He would use big words just to see if he could confuse people.  He was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.  And he loved to pick on A's friends, but would do it in a way where you couldn't tell if he was making fun of you, or actually complimenting you.  And his compliments... oh they couldn't be matched.  One of my favorite memories of him was the time he told me I was actually much more intelligent than I looked.... Thanks Justin.  But he said it with that boyish grin that I imagined charmed his way out of many sticky situations in his life.  As I type this, I am laughing, with tears rolling down my face, and sorrow in my heart. 

Here is what I have learned over watching, and feeling the grief of Justin's passing:  It's not a "process" as they say.  There are no steps to grief.  You simply have to get through each day.  You simply have to breathe.  You may have a day, or even two, where it is easier to function.  Then, it comes in waves.  Like a tsunami, out of nowhere, the waves wash over you, and you can't breath, can't catch your breath.  Then the flood after, where you are drained, trying to get your life back on track from the last emotional setback.  But, the next day comes.  And you may feel like a total trainwreck from being up all night crying, and you may think you don't have it in you to "people" that day, but the world around you doesn't know that.  And bills need paid, and jobs need done, and somehow we have to make it through the day. Grief is also not limited to immediate family, or a close circle of friends.  No one is safe from grief.  Grief has struck me so deeply because of my friendship with Justin, but also because of the immense pain I see A in.  My empathtic side has pulled me in, like the undercurrent of a wave. 

Being an empath, I find it impossible to separate A's grief over her loss of Justin from my own grief.  I feel every tear she sheds with me on the phone.  I feel the gut wrenching blows that she has been dealt since his passing.  She was displaced from her home, and there have been battles over possessions, and suddenly, the separation from his family, which she viewed as her own.  And deep down in the depths of my soul, I have felt all of this with her.  I have cried with her, screamed with her, and struggled with her.  This loss has changed her.  And it has changed me.  For so long now, I have wondered why I have struggled with the loss of Justin so deeply.  I loved him, yes, but he wasn't my the love of my life.  He wasn't a part of my every day life.  He was my best friend's boyfriend, so he was important to me.  He was my bud, we joked, we argued for the sake of arguing, and we joined forces and made fun of A together any time we had the chance.  But he wasn't my boyfriend, he wasn't my family, so why am I still hurting so badly?  And I realized, I'm still grieving.  I miss him. 

My favorite picture of A and Justin. 
His smile couldn't be matched.
Here is what I have learned about my friend:  While I always knew A was a strong person, I look at her in awe now.  She has an amazing family, and an amazing support system, or I don't know how she would have gotten through this past year. Without a doubt, Maizy, and the fact that she survived has given A some light through all of this, but to say her life was turned upside down would be a gross understatement.  No 20-something should ever have to deal with being, basically widowed.  She cried, and broke down, and mourned, still does, but she has also got up and gone to work, and saved peoples' lives in the ICU, having flashbacks of seeing him in the hospital.  She has supported me in my emotional breakdowns that I feel pale in comparison to what she has been dealing with.  And she assures me that her grief doesn't stop her from being there for me through things in my own life.  She has started classes, to pursue dreams she and Justin had discussed.  She is pushing forward.  She cries, but she laughs, and she smiles when she talks about him.  She makes fun of me when she knows he would take the opportunity, and tries to give his intelligent, great advice when needed.  All of this while grieving.  She is carrying on, and honoring him by the way she lives.  And I am so incredibly proud of the way she has lived over the past 12 months.  She is an inspiration in a situation that I hope none of you reading this every have to be inspired to get through.  She has counselled people going through similar losses, and offered support to anyone she feels may be in need.  She is, quite simply, the best person I know.  I know that she will continue to push forward, and continue to amaze all of us close to her.  And I know that she will make him so proud, as he always was of her.  I know that she will also grieve, sometimes in private, and sometimes, surrounded by the people she loves.  What I don't know is when it gets easier.  Because 12 months later, 365 whole days later, it's not easier.  I still miss him terribly, so I can't imagine the depths of her sorrow and emptiness. 

Don't ever let anyone put a timeline on your grief.  Don't listen to the "you should be moving on by now" or "you should be doing certain things by now" advice.  I have grieved many losses in my life, but all differently.  No loss is ever the same for any person.  Every loss hits every person differently, and at different times, in different ways.  You just have to dig deep in yourself, and find whatever motivation you need, and you simply fight.  Fight for that day.  Then fight for the next day.

You can do this. Just fight...  Just breathe....

1 comment:

  1. Very touching post. "A" is very amazing and beautiful, and it is heart breaking the trials she has gone thru in 365 days. God Bless you for being there for her


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