"Has it really been 3 months?" I ask myself. In fact, in just a few days it will actually be four months since my father passed away. Here is what I have experienced since my Dad's passing and what you can expect life to be like on the other side of losing a loved one...
- You're surprised when your brain finally gets the message that your loved one has passed away. For weeks, nay months, your brain does this thing where it won't allow you to accept the fact that your loved one is gone. One example of this manifesting itself in me is my brain constantly thinking "I haven't heard from my Dad in a while...I should call him." I guess that's why they say the first stage of grief is denial. It's just an involuntary mechanism of your brain trying to cope with the loss. For more information on the stages of grief, click here.
- Maybe it's just me, but you too will probably start talking/thinking/praying as if the person is still around and can hear you/your thoughts. It's like you just want to tell your loved one so many things still. I really don't think I'm the only one who does this because a TV show I was watching tonight showed a character that had just lost a loved one doing the same thing. I think the show's writers were trying to characterize the person as "losing it," but to me it feels like a natural way to cope with not being able to talk to the person anymore (psych majors out there, feel free to analyze!).
- Little unexpected things can trigger a wash of emotion to come over you. Luckily I had a friend give me a heads up about this coming. I don't consider myself an emotional person, but sometimes if a song comes on that reminds me of my Dad or if someone says a certain phrase that reminds me of him, I'll suddenly burst into tears. What is interesting to me is not that the tears start flowing, but how quickly I can go from being "fine" to thinking about my Dad. And speaking of being fine...
- I appreciate the friends that dig deeper when I tell them I'm "fine." We are such a fickle society. Sometimes people ask us genuine questions that we don't want to answer honestly because we don't want to "burden" them (or maybe we feel like they're just asking to be polite and don't really want a genuine answer). Whatever the case may be, to all of my friends that have called B.S. on my "fine" answer — thank you. It does help me to talk about the sadness I still feel once in a while, but I don't want to be a "Debbie Downer" on your day (similar to how I know you don't want to bring me down if I'm having a good day).
- A lot of people say religion is a crutch and I can understand that sentiment from an outsider's perspective. It certainly does help ease the pain in difficult situations. My father was a Christian as am I, so it helps me to know that he is with the Lord now. He is not suffering. He does not have to be burdened with the knowledge of all the evilness and pain we've got going on down here. In fact, I like to imagine my Dad as having a big family reunion in Heaven right now with his loved ones that have passed before him. His own father died when he was pretty young (he was still in college and in his early to mid 20s) so I like to think about all of the joy that he must've felt upon getting to see his father and mother again, as well as his older brother that passed away six years ago. Most of all, I know my Dad is overjoyed to be spending eternity with his Savior, Jesus.
You can't talk about death without talking about where you go after you die. Knowing what you believe on this one topic will shape the way you live out your entire life. If you could be assured that there would be no eternal consequences for your actions (good or bad!), how would you act here on Earth? Would it be different than how you're currently living out your life? One thing I don't think a lot of non-Christian's understand is that Heaven doesn't really motivate us and Hell doesn't really deter us (although certainly, I do not want to go there). What motivates us is the love that we have for Jesus Christ. Wherever He is, that is where we want to be also. Christopher Love put it best when he said, "If the Lord should bring a wicked man to heaven, heaven would be hell to him; for he who loves not grace upon earth will never love it in heaven." How very true. If you don't love God here on Earth, you certainly aren't going to enjoy all that Heaven has to offer because the biggest draw of Heaven is simply being in God's presence. For further reading on this subject, the following three books are intriguing enough to stir something up inside your mind: Proof of Heaven, Heaven Is For Real, and 23 Minutes In Hell.
To view the first installment in this series, click here.