One Death, Two Losses

When my Grandmother died, I distinctly remember the realization that I was no longer ‘somebody’s someone special’. She died. I lost someone special to me, but I also lost the experience of being someone’s somebody special.

When my mother died I became a motherless daughter. I not only lost my mother, I also lost being my mother’s daughter.

Every death, is two losses in one.

Of course this is most obvious when you lose a parent, or a child. It’s easy to understand the extra loss, “I am no longer a mother.” “I am no longer a mother with 5 living children.” “I am a 40 year old orphan.” “I am no one’s daughter.” “I’m no longer a wife.”

Oh sure, we are technically still mothers, or daughters, etc. Death cannot take that away, but in the moment of active grief it feels like we are not and no amount of platitudes will comfort.

When someone you love dies you lose two people: the person they were to you, and the person you were when you were with them.

A different version of you exists in every relationship you have. When someone you love dies, the version of you that existed in that relationship dies also.

Some have said ‘a piece of me died with her’, but it’s more than that. It is an entire you that was created in the space of that relationship. A you that only existed with the impetus of that person.

It is more than just losing someone important to you. It is also losing the way they made you feel. Our most devastating grief comes when we lose someone who made us feel ‘more than’. Being made to feel ‘more than’ is valuable in today’s world where making people feel ‘less than’ is currency.

People who make us feel ‘more than’ are people who make us feel seen, heard, loved unconditionally, validated, empowered, accepted, appreciated, adored, or cherished. They are the people who make us laugh that big silly unfiltered belly laugh, til we pee our pants. They are the people who sit and listen not watching the clock or keeping score. They are the people who make you feel special. They are the people with whom you share your most vulnerable shadows. They are the people who see you despite your powers of invisibility.

You will never be seen through those eyes again. No one will bring out of you, exactly what they brought out of you. The best you can do is to mindfully look at yourself through their eyes once in awhile.

This is how that person lives on in you. By bringing out that you, as best you can, on your own, for others to know.

That’s the real ‘after life’. Your life after their death, because the only certain thing about grief is that it will change you forever.

Creating a life without them, that contains elements of that life with them, is the challenge. At first we think our grief is all we have left of someone and we hold onto it with both hands. However, as our open wound begins to heal we can find ways to incorporate all that our loved one brought to our lives, even if they are no longer physically present.

Creating a memorial altar can be very helpful in making this transition into our ‘after life’. It can be as simple or elaborate as you like. It can be a shelf in a curio cabinet, a table in the living room, or the dresser top in your bedroom. It can be visible to guests or can be completely private.

It is customary to have a picture of your person on the altar, but not necessary. Their energy is what matters. Have on the altar anything that brings that person’s energy right back to you. Gifts they may have given you in the past, memorabilia from events you went to, their favorite flowers, a book they cherished, a poem they wrote, or a poem you wrote about them. You can use a piece of their clothing as an altar cloth.

Having an altar gives you a physical sacred space through which you can connect with your person any time you want. This is what graves provided and why people tended to them so dedicatedly. It was a physical sacred space where people went to feel connected to their loved one. However, these days when people are living so spread out, access to a grave isn’t so convenient. Or maybe one’s ashes were spread at sea or some other inaccessible location. Creating a sacred space in the privacy of your own home allows you access whenever you need it.

Eventually you might come to find you don’t need the altar anymore and you can dismantle it. I make altars for individuals then, when it feels time (usually around the one year anniversary), I take the individual’s picture, or something from their altar that symbolizes them, and place that on my collective memorial altar. The remaining things I place around the house in plain view. This serves as a great reminder for me to keep these people in my everyday life. More importantly, it reminds me to effort to be to others what my loved ones were to me.

Nothing will replace what we’ve lost. Moving on isn’t disrespectful. Grief doesn’t get smaller. You never ‘get over’ a death.

Healing our grief is the expansion of ourselves around it. In doing this we carry with us the best parts of those we grieve and recognize we were made better by loving and being loved by them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: