I was speaking to a reporter about sudden death and how this type of grief differs from anticipated death. I explained that it was no better or worse, just different. No one is ever ready to say goodbye to someone they love, no matter the circumstances. Loss is hard and never invited into our lives. It comes to all, and our hearts yearn for what we can never have again – our loved one’s voice, touch, smile and laugh.
However, I think part of the challenge of sudden loss is that it reminds us that there is no certainty in life. We get up each day with a schedule full of events. Our calendar fills with dinner dates, business meetings, vacations and other plans. We have every expectation that these things will come to fruition. Yet when someone is taken from us unexpectedly, our plans shatter. No longer are we able to, nor do we want to, go out to dinner or to see the latest movie. We cancel vacations, clear our schedule and turn to the task of funeral arrangements, burial plans and the need for the time and space to mourn. Our lives have changed permanently, and no longer do we look at things the same.
We are faced with the knowing that certainty is an illusion. As humans we need to make plans, to pretend that all will turn out as we wish. Yet, death brings home the understanding that never was the future completely in our hands.
The reporter asked me about this concept of such a “grim reality.” I asked her why she thought of this as grim. She was not sure, it just seemed bleak, to not be able to really know how things would unfold. However, it is a gift, this not knowing. If we understood how fragile life is, we would embrace it fully. We would live fully present in the only certain time we had, the present. This moment: now. It is all we have. It is all we ever had.
Certainly we can look back at fond memories and remember those times spent with the ones we love. However, we should not sacrifice being fully present with those in our lives now. When we meet friends for coffee or have a family gathering, we must use those moments to tell them how much they mean to us. We must hug a little longer, listen a little more closely and embrace the time spent together.
Far from grim, the gift of the present moment is one not to be frittered away or allowed to go by distracted by worry, fear or anger. Take a deep breath, notice what is going on in this moment and remind yourself of this wonderful quote: "Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it's called the Present."
Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.
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