Through The Rain

I knew that he was gone when I saw faded glimpses of lightening flash behind us, followed by the low roar of thunder. It started to drizzle slightly, upon becoming a torrential downpour as the four of us made our way out of the concert arena and into the impossibly crowded parking lot. At one point the rain was coming down so hard that I had to shut my eyes in order to ease the sting of sweat, make-up, and water that were now seeping from my eyelids. I clung desperately to my mother with both hands, praying that I wouldn’t slip or get knocked over or lose my glasses. Don’t let go! Just get to the car….

In a way, that is how life has been for me,  particularly in the weeks and months after my friend’s passing occurred. My lack of experience with loss was almost like walking in complete darkness. The inability to mourn and grieve freely caused both my mind and body to go into autopilot; after my family had gone to sleep, I would sit in my pitch black room and cry as quietly as I possible, or read the stories that were posted on his memory page until my head ached from staring at the computer for two hours straight. This went on for a week and a half until I got back to campus, the day of the funeral service.

I believed that once I could get away from my hometown, I would feel better. And in a way, I did; I had more people to talk to about it, but I can’t remember how much we actually talked about it at first. And while it wasn’t often because of busy work and summer class schedules, down the line I kind of started to hate rehashing the same thing over and over again. I wanted to move on, and yet the mere idea of it felt like betrayal.

Self-medication became the norm; when I wasn’t with my friends, I tended to go out on the town alone, sometimes multiple nights in a row. It wasn’t so much about the drinking as it was just being around others, even if a lot of them were strangers. I did meet quite a few of them, but rarely anything went beyond the dance floor, save one guy who got my number, texted me an hour later, and hasn’t contacted me since then. It was the darker side of Cinderella, except I went to bars instead of a ball and walked out with an empty heart rather than a missing shoe.

But the levee gave way soon enough; during the first two weeks of August, I could barely function without something triggering a tear-fest. There were periods of time where I would just sit on my couch and cry, not knowing the reasons why or how to stop. In a way, they were the tears that I should have cried at home or even at the funeral.  At the urging of my grandparents, I finally made a motion to talk to one of the group leaders of Intervarsity; up until then I had gone out of my way to not talk to pastors or anyone involved in the organizations that I had been part of, at least regarding everything that was going on. I was terrified that I would just be met with a bunch of cliches about how my friend was in a better place, and that if I just kept praying, went to church, read Bible verses, etc. all the pain would go away. I didn’t want any numbing cream with a Jesus-approved sticker, and I didn’t want to risk the rejection. Unfortunately, I had gotten to where I couldn’t keep silent without it eating me from the inside out.

It was a long and exhausting conversation; it didn’t automatically make everything better, but it was the start of setting myself free from this emotional prison that I had kept myself locked in for weeks. Spiritually, I was practically bone-dry. I didn’t know what to pray about exactly, but I did read the Bible and write when I felt the need to. On a very random morning,  I came across a verse that has practically spelled out where I was at: when my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path (Psalm 142: 33).

It has been almost four months since, and I am not going to deny that I am a changed person because of it. I have a love hate/relationship with alcohol and I occasionally get angry when others seem to put getting drunk before their own safety or that of others. However, I do try to make the most of the time that I have with friends, and I feel like I’m getting better at figuring out what matters and what doesn’t.  Looking back, I now have a deeper understand of why I felt and reacted the way that I did:

The very idea of knowing I could lose a loved one in just a span of a few hours (or moments) was absolutely terrifying. After the news was confirmed, I reached out to multiple friends as a way to keep myself calm; I didn’t care that it was two in the morning or that each text was somewhat long and sappy, I needed to feel connected somebody. In the days that followed, I wrestled with whether or not I just have waited to absorb it before telling anyone else, particularly those from college.  While I don’t regret telling that I care for them, I am sorry that they might have been uncomfortable about it. Nothing done with the intention of showing or giving love should not be felt in shame.

The root of my pain wasn’t solely in the tragedy, but also in the disconnection from my friends and family afterward. I understood that there are appropriate places and settings to grieve, yet I felt like I couldn’t even do that in my own home. I spent so much time and energy putting the needs and feelings of others above my own, and I paid for it later on. As I mentioned in an early post, I feared being called selfish or undeserving.Back then, I would have rather been alone than to risk being looked down on, even though both make me miserable.

And I know everyone deals with this kind of stuff differently;  More specifically, “being strong” may work for my parents or my siblings, but it doesn’t for me, at least when something had happens. I can’t pinpoint the reason though, considering they all seem very reserved in that regard. Comparing pain levels (i.e. someone always has it worse then you) does not make it diminish or disappear.  While that may be true to an extent, everybody is hurting in some way. There are other phrases to use in order to put it all in perspective without denying another person’s (or your own) pain. 

There is such a thing as feeling before you can feel better.  For those on the other side of the fence,  It may be personal nature to go into problem-solving mode, but that’s not what the grieving person needs. They need to be held. They need to be loved on. They need to be given the space to just let it out. When you don’t know what to say, those are the times when actions will do more than words ever will.

It doesn’t take much for me to care about a person. I don’t have to see or talk to them all the time in order to learn to love them. Being observant as I am, I can learn to do so in one night. Hence, it is possible to make a list of things that made my friend so special, despite our lack of conversation and interaction. Along with that, it is possible for one act of kindness to impact my perspective on someone. Not just in our friendship, but for other friendships as well. 

When I reflect on that rainy night, I was literally holding onto my mom; looking at this from a spiritual standpoint, it all seems like a metaphor for what I’ve been through and how I’ve grown since then. Realistically, I haven’t been holding onto my parents, or anyone else for that matter. In the times where I can’t see, where I’m blinded by whatever is going on in my life, there’s only One that I can hold onto.  

Then again, maybe I’m not holding onto Him; rather, He’s holding onto me. 

    photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

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