“The suck zone.”
“One day can change your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is is three or four big days that change everything.” – Riding in Cars with Boys
I remember when everything changed. At seven years old, I woke up one morning and bustled down the stairs. Eager to start the day and see what adventures awaited. My folks sat silently in the living room. My child brain knew this wasn’t normal. I avoided my mom because she looked sick. My dad scooped me into his arms. He spoke in a hushed tone that my sister went to be with Jesus. I never bustled down the stairs again.
I was seven getting older by the second. She never grew older than 20. Time does heal certain wounds, but not pain. The pain of losing my sister never went away. Most times it hides really well and hibernates for the season. Sometimes I even forgot about it. And sometimes it pops out of hiding with a brute force.
Christmas. Birthdays. Death-days. Her friends’ wedding invitations. My 20th birthday. Baby announcements. College graduation. My brothers’ weddings. Death of grandparents. This blog article.
And planning my wedding. That one… that one I did not expect.
Crafting wedding stuff, dress shopping, maid of honor, hair and make-up, bridal showers… she wouldn’t be there for any of it. I had to grieve my loss all over again while continuing to move forward with the wedding planning. “You must be so excited! You’re getting married!” Sure, but it also really hurts. Every time I try to imagine the wedding events, I see the void where my sister should be. It was debilitating at times.
Concussions in boxing are inevitable. The whole point of the sport is to knockout your opponent. There are a few things you can do to help minimize the risk. Obviously avoid the punch. When you can’t though, you need to push into it. It seems counterintuitive but by keeping your guard up and moving into the punch, your head isn’t taking the entire force of the blow. By doing that, your chance of staying on your feet for the rest of the round will increase.
I braced myself and pushed forward. When trying to figure out dates for the wedding and reception (we wanted separate days for each), future husband tossed out the idea of having our wedding reception on June 11. “That’s my sister’s birthday”, I reminded him. “Is that ok?” Tearing up a little, I whispered that I thought it was perfect. I later told my mom of our plan. She loved it. We cried.
My sister would be involved with my wedding after all.
Here are some practical applications. I’m not an expert, but these are what I’ve found most helpful:
- Acknowledge your loved one. Planning and having a wedding without your loved one is painful. Talk about them. Share memories about them. Try to incorporate them into the event somehow. Not only was our wedding reception on my sister’s birthday, we had a framed photo of the two of us on display next to our family wedding photo.
- Show grace to other people. “She’s been dead for years. Get over it.” Yeah, people actually say that. Show grace to them. In my opinion, that they haven’t yet experienced what it feels like to have someone they truly love die. They will someday, unfortunately. Show grace to them now in their ignorance of what they said. Show grace to them later when they are going through their own grief.
- If a “tradition” is too painful, you don’t have to do it. Traditions are for people who lack imagination anyways. Unapologetically carve a new path.
- Share your hurt. Don’t bottle it up. Don’t grin and bear it alone. Rounds of boxing matches are three minutes and then you retreat to your corner where a team helps refresh you. It’s ok to retreat to your team and tell them your hurts.
What can you do for someone else? Pretty much the same as the above. Talk about their loved one. Acknowledge it hurts. Listen to them. Grieve with them, if needed. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut with your ears and arms open.
I kept moving forward during the wedding planning. It wasn’t easy, but I refused to get knocked out. I pushed into the pain. I tried to stay alert. I tried to show grace. I retreated into my corner often, where I could be refreshed. Life isn’t easy, and neither is boxing, but they don’t hurt as much as you would expect if you are prepared for the punches.