Making Meaning of Goodbye

A few weeks ago I lost one of my best friends unexpectedly. We don’t know what happened or why, just that she didn’t wake up one morning. Despite being in a profession that demands self-reflection and primes me for exploring the unknown, death is an event that I can struggle to sit with. The finality of it. The wreckage it can leave. The unresolved grief it can seek to drown us with.

One of the “side effects” of getting healthier on this journey, for myself, has been really being able to be in touch with my body. The sensations, the ebbs and flows, the knowing she shares with my unconscious before I am aware of what is happening. She is the most phenomenal and breath taking vessel to live in. And most days this is a gift. But on the day I got this news, I felt shattered. And I didn’t feel it in my mind or just imagine that I felt shattered, it felt like my body had exploded and like I couldn’t breathe. I was able to identify as I moved in and out of denial, as I danced with anger, and felt suffocated by the pain and grief. I’m still dancing within this cycle. And I imagine I always will be to some extent.

I sat on my couch for what felt like eternity and waited for the tears to stop coming. I kept reminding myself that enduring their presence wouldn’t kill me and all I had to do was keep breathing. I reached for my loved ones, my partner, my comrades, my people. The ones who come when the storm gets worse and I’m struggling to keep my feet on the ground. The ones who bring the sun with them.

It’s been a few weeks and I still find myself surprised by moments of pain or spontaneous tears that honor the love I had for her as I am reminded of her and the void she’s left in my life.

I’m not sure what I believe about an after life and don’t hold a stereotypical perspective of heaven or hell. I tend to believe that we are all from the same soul and we all return to our Source at the end of our journey. But really, no one actually knows. So when faced with such tragedy, it can be so overwhelming and challenging to process and move forward. And yet, we must.

So how do we grieve? How do we honor the love we have cultivated in this life with this person and still manage to keep going?

I firmly believe that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s your process and your loss. However, engaging in the process is a powerful catalyst for forward movement if we aren’t to relinquish ourselves to a living death. I don’t think that I’ve quite mastered this art of loss and won’t sit here and tell you that I am now comfortable with death. But being that it is the one last adventure that comes for us all, I am learning to feel more curiosity about that last release.

Here are a few questions that have helped me ground and process on my journey of goodbye. I hope they’re helpful if you find yourself in a similar space.

  • What will I miss the most?
  • How can I honor our love as I tell her goodbye?
  • What did I learn from her?
  • How has her love rippled throughout my life?
  • What did I leave unsaid? And why didn’t I say it?
  • What was the most challenging part of our relationship?
  • What parts of this relationship do I want to bring into others?
  • What did she see in me? What did I bring into her life?
  • What did I learn about myself within this relationship?

Wishing you valor on your journey,

Dr. B