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  • Writer's pictureBrian Reaves

Grief and the Long Days After

Bear with me, as this is not like anything I've written before. I woke up needing to write this. Hopefully it'll help someone.

One of the hardest things we can deal with is loss. It could be the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job opportunity, or even just the loss of a friendship due to a falling out. Every life is a tapestry, and there are so many beautiful colors that are in it. We never notice the intricacies of that tapestry until a piece of it is taken away. Unfortunately, by that time it may be too late to do anything but grieve.

In 2015, I lost my grandfather. He was a robust outdoorsman who built things with his hands and worked hard all his life. He never learned to read, but if you gave him tools and material he could build almost anything. I was very close to my grandfather, and often went to him as my wise advisor. He always had something to say that would help me.

When he died, it was a gut-punch to my soul. There was this huge hole in my life that I never noticed he'd filled until he was gone. A few weeks after his passing, my wife and I were in a store and I saw a John Wayne DVD set (my grandfather absolutely loved westerns even though he'd claimed to have seen them all) and I thought, "I need to get that for..." and then it hit me again. I knew he was gone. I had even started to adjust a little bit to it. Then something familiar triggered an automatic reaction in me and I lost him all over again.

I read a quote that says, "When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure". That is absolutely true. All of the sudden those little things you did together become big moments. Those precious phone calls you had are priceless interactions you wish you could relive for a few moments. Those little jokes and the meals around the kitchen table are worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox.

The simple truth is that we never "get over" the loss of a loved one. Whether you saw it coming or it was unexpected, it is at times unbearable. Friends may try to be sympathetic, but they can't truly understand.

Before I experienced loss myself, I used to wonder why people just couldn't move on. You don't ever "move on" though. You learn to live your life a day at a time, and you live with the purpose of making them proud of who you are going to become. They may never see your successes, but you just know they were there cheering you on every step of the way.

That wise scholar Dr. Suess is credited as saying "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." That's not easy to do, but if you consider how fortunate you were to have that person in your life for the brief time you did, you can begin to see the blessings you were given. You may never see them again in this life, but be so very thankful to have had someone so precious in your life as long as you did. There are many people who will never experience anything like that in their lifetime. Consider yourself blessed even though your time together was only temporary.

The important thing though is begin to transition into living again after you've had a healthy time of grief. You'll miss them forever, but I think it's safe to say they wouldn't have wanted you to stop living just because they moved on. My grandfather poured countless hours into my life, and even though I never learned how to build anything even remotely like he could, I know he'd be proud of who I am today. I have accomplished a lot since he left, and I am certain he would have thrown his baseball cap at me if I'd just set my life on pause.

For several years after his passing, I would perform one particular illusion in my show that was dedicated to my grandfather. I would tell his story as I performed it, and I felt it was my way to honor his memory. Today, years later, I still have that illusion with me in every show. I don't perform it every time, but I always see it in my case as I'm up there and it reminds me of him. Even though the audience may never see it, I feel like he's giving me a wink and a smile with every laugh, gasp, or applause I receive.

If you are dealing with grief today, just remember that you are not alone. I cannot truly say I understand the exact pain you are experiencing with their loss because I didn't know them, but I do understand that sudden void in the tapestry of your life. It hurts more than words can say.

But whatever you do, don't stay in that same place forever. Make them proud. Honor them in every way that you can. Be the absolute best version of yourself you can be.

Talk to people. Find a support group at a church or organization that can be with you every step of the way if you don't have anyone else. Do not shut yourself off from the rest of the world! This is no time to be a turtle and crawl into your own little shell.

Think back on every single wonderful thing they taught you. Laugh at every joke, and remember fondly their smile. You were blessed to know them in a way few other people ever did. You were fortunate to have them in your life.

Consider well every wonderful quality you miss in them, and then commit yourself to sharing those qualities with others so they live on through you.

And one day, even though it's hard, remember what Dr. Suess said. Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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