Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.
Yesterday I lost a friend to cancer. Although I knew his disease had metastasized I was not prepared for how distraught I felt when I heard he had succumbed even though I knew his disease was progressing. My friend made the most of his last years-choosing not to undergo chemo that may or may not keep the inevitable at bay, and outliving his doctor's six month prognosis by almost two years. During that time he reveled in the relationships with his family-living and dying in his own way.
I remain intrigued by the human capacity for coping and resiliency. In the case of loss-whether it's the death of a friend or family member or any other kind of loss or transition-a job, a home, a treasured belonging there are some normal stages of emotional response:
The five stages can occur in any sequence. Any stage can be of long or short duration. Choosing to cope by working through each stage-in whatever way is useful-can foster resiliency.
I described the stages of grief in an earlier newsletter. While experiencing that loss I found myself lingering in denial, moving quickly through bargaining, lingering in anger and despair and, to this day I am not sure I've fully accepted the loss.
This loss impacted me in a different way. I moved quickly to despair-wanting to linger in deep silence and melancholy. I find myself remembering that when my parents were my age some of their friends died. Knowing I am repeating that experience somehow connects me to them in a new way. I spent so much of my early life hoping I would live life differently than my parents yet, as I grow older, there is some comfort in my awareness of what a good example of resiliency they portrayed for me and I see more of them in me.
Despair, for me, is about saying goodbye and finding new ways to move on. I will miss my friend's sense of humor. I will miss the bantering we exchanged when we crossed paths. I will miss his ability to swiftly evaluate a situation and make his point. These are the gifts of friendship that are his legacy because experiencing them nudged me to be more skillful in my own life. Despair, for me, is also about my inability to speed his family-especially his wife, who is a close friend, through their own inevitable grieving process.
Author C. S. Lewis wrote, "The pain now is part of the happiness then." How true.
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