"Seems just like yesterday." This sentiment is seamlessly woven through many survivors' memories when recalling the loss of a loved one. Healing from any loss is an individual process, yet there are common threads that bond survivors; threads that help them realize they are not alone.
Will a traumatic loss always feel just like yesterday? It's something I've asked myself many times over the years. My father flew back from his retirement home with a body invaded by cancer. Three weeks later, I was a girl without a dad. Years later I still relive those three weeks like they were yesterday. Will that ever fade?
My daughter also had to ask herself that same question, along with many others, when marking the one-year anniversary of losing a friend to suicide.
The pain of losing a friend so young and full of life to depression may always be with my daughter. It will dull, but never fully fade. Losing him was like losing innocence for the friends left behind. Yet they kept moving forward, discovering a new existence, while missing their friend with the bright blue eyes - one they didn't know was hurting.
My daughter was sad, but slowly found more joy. As I said to her so long ago, my simple hope was that her heart would ache a little less each day.
The pain of loss is often etched upon us. Life feels different, forever changed. Healing is about learning to live a changed life, even with an aching heart. It's a personal journey that no one can judge, only support. Time isn't always the magic cure-all. Sometimes it's just a simple measurement tracking the days spent learning to live with new challenges.
My daughter's friend will always be missed, but she continued on. New happiness crept in - even when sadness sometimes found a crack in the door. I know my daughter will always ponder that last conversation with her friend. Chances are she will forever wonder about what might have been.
Little things mean the world to healing people. Never forget that. Knowing someone cares and remembers is vital. My aunt saying my father was proud of me still warms my heart, even after ten years. Little things, even as simple as a once forgotten happy memory can help. Maybe that's the irony of grief. You hurt while a memory simultaneously makes you happy.
Sometimes healing is just day-by-day survival. There is no roadmap. Love and support are needed as we find our way toward more moments of joy. Please remember these words: "If you see a grieving friend, ask them how they are. Don't be scared of their answer. Or maybe just give them a hug. If they tear up, squeeze tighter."
Compassion is not negated by dates on a calendar. People who are healing always need to know others care. No matter how many years forward they travel, the loss may always seem just like yesterday.