I put this on Facebook a week or so ago.
Though I think great strides have been made in the 21st century, we are still a culture that is very hostile to letting people express or even acknowledge and truly feel the full range of human emotion. One of the things that has come with there being more room to express our emotions is the need to find a supposed bright side. You experienced X awful thing, but it’s okay because you grew as a person or Y good thing ultimately happened, etc, etc. The most horrible things have to become “inspiring” or “have been for the best”, etc.
Sure, when faced with terrible things, there are a variety of ways we can respond. It’s certainly good when we don’t respond in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others. It’s better still if we can find some resilience or learn some lesson from tragedy, take something from it that makes us better equipped to take the next inevitable bad thing that life throws at us. We rush to get to that final act of the story, to experience our own redemptive arc through the pain. I’ve been as guilty of that brightsiderism as anyone else.
Some things, though, are just awful. There is no bright side. It’s okay for that to just be what it is. You don’t have to turn your pain, loss, or suffering into a feel good story. I am sitting, carefully and quietly, with the pain of Emily’s death every day. I don’t, like I would have for most of my life, pretend that I’m fine. I also don’t wallow in it. I don’t force myself to think about it when it isn’t natural to do so. I just live this reality as it is. I don’t anesthetize myself from it whether that be chemically or through other diversions and distractions. Maybe in some way, just genuinely living through what I’m feeling here will help me to grow, to experience the fullness of what this human life is. But, damn, that is not a feel good story. There will never be a miniscule thing good about her death. Not if I become the freaking Buddha re-incarnate and liberate all of humanity, her death will never be the catalyst for something good. It’s an awful thing that happened and then other things, good and bad, happen after it.
Maybe others that knew her and loved her will find their peace or their meaning in some growth or change that happened because of their grief here. That’s okay, too. For me, though, there will never be even a hint of “but it’s okay, because…”. It’s awful. It will always be awful. It’s okay for you to feel that, too, about any terrible loss you suffer. Grief works a certain way and it does get easier to live with it over time. You go forward and you live your life and the moments of gut punching loss sneak up on you. They aren’t your day to day life, but that never has to make the loss okay just because there’s so much pressure on us to say so.