Something about grief throws us off balance. While we think we can predict how we will react after times of loss, we don’t really know until it happens. And sometimes we aren’t aware that our reactions are causing us act in certain ways.
In the 20-plus years since my younger sister’s suicide, I can see one way that I still feel challenged by as a result of that loss: the feeling that my life will be cut short.
While I am a patient person (well, sometimes and not always in traffic), I have this fear that there will never be enough time for me to accomplish everything I want to do in my life. I used to save the good towels for the right guests (translation: They never left the closet) and I never ate off the china. However, now the good towels get used daily and we might eat pizza or fried chicken on the china. These are good things, because it means I am enjoying the material items I have and living in the present – using them and creating memories with the people in my life, rather than waiting for something that might not happen in the future.
But this fear of a life cut short does have a downside: My list for each day is much longer than it should be, because I am afraid there won’t be a tomorrow to accomplish what I want to do. It’s silly when I stand back and reflect on it, because I know there is a tomorrow. However, I also know that life can change in an instant and when you’ve had a loss, especially an intense one, you have a sense that you must live more fully in the present or you might miss out.
Life is about balance, and this is one balance of which we often don’t speak. It’s important to do as much as we can in the present moment, but also to enjoy the people who are with us. We can’t change the past; nor do we know what the future holds. But if we keep our feet rooted right where we are, we know that everything important will get done – and we won’t have regrets about any moments that we missed.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D. has spent two decades educating people worldwide about coping with loss and change, and has served as president of the American Association of Suicidology. Her first book following her sister's death, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She recently published her eighth book, Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, chronicling her grief journey as she moves forward beyond the suicide and loss field. Learn more about Michelle at www.inspirebymichelle.com.
Image via Wikimedia Commons / AntonyB