Grief has to be just about the worst thing I can possibly comprehend. There’s no real way to define it. Do you call it “pain?” Does the word “loss” encompass what we call grief? Here’s your standard dictionary definition:
deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.
“she was overcome with grief”
synonyms: sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, dejection, despair.
Sure. They all fit, I guess. And yet they don’t even begin to come close to defining what someone goes through when faced head-on with true, real, forever loss. It’s absolutely indefinable.
Now here’s the thing. I, just like every skydiver reading this, has had to deal with some version of grief, at some level, in some way. If you’ve been in the sport for any length of time, then you have either lost, or have a close friend who’s lost someone, probably to our lifestyle. That remorse, that pain you feel, even for someone you may not have “known” is all tossed into this big definition of grief, and I fucking hate it, because all the words in the world can’t begin to define “it.”
The last few years in skydiving have taken huge numbers from us both in and out of the sport, and it doesn’t seem a day goes by without a new tribute to someone loved and lost. Some of us find a degree of solace in voicing our grief through social media, and I for one wholeheartedly support any Goddamn thing that can help get you through the day. Some of us internalize it, some of us save our true grief for those moments when we are the only ones to witness the very physical form this specter called grief can take. Then there are those times when it just takes over, all on its own, out of the blue, and takes us wherever the fuck it wants. It’s brutal and heartless and at times unrelenting.
I’ve had two huge losses in my life over the last few months. Both of them have hit me in ways I never would have expected, and have left me forced, quite unwillingly at times, face to face with myself. That’s one of the things people tend to leave out when they talk about the “process” we go through in dealing with grief. They forget to tell you about all the questions you’ll be left with, all the turmoil, and in both of my recent losses, raging fucking anger!
Anger at a longtime, truly beloved brother for fucked-up mistakes I’ll never get to hear him say “I’m sorry” for. Mistakes I believe I’m owed an explanation for, a reason—any reason—for the betrayal I felt, and still fucking feel! They don’t tell you how Goddamn hard it is to be pissed off at someone who’s died. If he were here and alive today, I’d still be so fucking mad at him I’d be shaking with borderline rage, and yet what I wouldn’t give for the chance to be exactly that. What’s harder is that I didn’t lose this brother to a skydive, or to a BASE jump, or to any other thing you could use the garbage statement “died doing what he loved” to try and to make some kind of sense of it. They don’t have a guide for how to navigate between tears and rage. I guess perhaps that will just come with time.
And more anger. Anger at myself. True deep disappointment when I look in the mirror. They don’t tell you how empty the statement “You just have to let go and forgive yourself” is when you mourn the loss of someone who you can’t help but feel deserved so very much more from you than you gave. My second goodbye in as many months is filled with an overwhelming sense of luck, of joy, of privilege that I was allowed, for so long to reside in this beautiful soul’s life, but is filled just as deeply with regrets that only I will ever understand. Filled with questions that will never be answered, and the “I’m so sorry” I can never give. Filled with grief. The most singular sensation I have ever experienced.
Some of you reading this are suffering through the same things I am. Have the same questions I do. Wonder what comes next, and just how much worse this fucked-up “process” just might get. Some of you have yet to walk this path, and no matter how much I would love to, I can’t tell you that you may never have to cope with it, because you most certainly will. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when, and whether it’s one of the closest friends you’ve ever had, a family member or even a pet (creatures with the ability to get closer to you than anyone or anything you can possibly fathom) you will eventually have to deal.
Grief is fucked. Grief is worse than you can possibly imagine, but, no matter what you may think, or how you may feel, you are never alone with it. Someone else is dealing with it too, even if they only grieve for the loss you’re suffering through. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to cope with it, but cope nonetheless. Time doesn’t heal shit, but time allows us each day, just a little more relief, a little more room to breathe. Then out of the blue, you’ll snap again and again, you’ll breathe. It’s the hardest part of life I’ve encountered yet … So breathe. Cope. Lean on anyone or on everyone, or on no one at all. Deal. Fuck the definition, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t exist.
Blue Skies, Black Death.
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