With the recent loss of my best friend’s husband, I’ve done a lot of thinking and ruminating on the status of grief and the people left behind with one’s death. What could I offer to his family, including my best friend, during this terrible time? At thirty-years old and in seemingly good health, the loss of this young, vibrant, and creative man left even me speechless.
Heartbreak is complicated. Grief more so. His life was a creative and passionate one, and he had been my best friend’s “person” since their early teens. Half of her life was spent with him, and I had known him for the same ten years I’ve known her. Being with her was the best I could do, so I drove to Vermont, where they are from originally, to offer whatever love and support I could.
As I drove through the beautiful, rolling hills of Vermont and talked myself through my own grief at his loss, I thought deeply about creating a mental model for grief. Mental models have been a huge part of my professional and personal growth. Determining mental models helps humans understand and explain the world. To understand this, I was going to need a Hell of a lot of mental models.
How could I explain this to myself? I’ve lost several peers over the years, but watching someone I love lose someone they love so much is a new and horrifying experience. In addition to that, my desire to understand, identifying and experiencing grief in a healthy, productive way is relatively new to my late twenties. I miss him, and I grieve with and for my friend.
So what did I come up with? Well. Nothing incredible. Turns out the entire situation just sucks, including mental models to try to understand it. But the simplicity helped me cope through the weekend and in the time since.
Grief is Dark Glasses….
Grief is dark glasses. The edges are so black that it seems impossible to see through; so opaque in their general vastness that you feel certain you could fall in. The deeper the love in life, the darker the hue of the glasses. Grief is the dark glasses they shove onto your face, that you may only take off once in a while when you sleep. The glasses go back on, often before opening your eyes. Grief is the sometimes-unintended gift of a loved one as they leave this world.
The dark glasses go on, and for a while, the recipient is blinded. The glasses are so dark that the wearer moves through things completely blind; bumping into anything and anyone that is in the way. Sometimes the glasses go on, and the person simply crumples at the loss of this vital sense. They remain motionless, afraid to move. Sometimes the glasses go on and a person tries to drive, moving blindly and wreaking havoc and destruction, running over property and people as they scream about moving on and getting out of the way.
With the glasses on, the wearer is blinded, and the other senses amplify from the loss of the one. Nothing feels the same; there is absolute pain and few moments of anything else. Food tastes different as it is tainted with memory. Sound is amplified and also silenced; there is no smell that is not a jolt to the system or stabbing sensation.
The recipient continues to wear the glasses. Over time, the eyes adjust. The sense adjust and the wearer feels the pain as normal. Somehow, the feelings adjust with the eyes. The world adjusts to the person wearing the glasses. The adjustment continues and eventually, the wearer is able to see again; moving around, engaging with others, seeing things and feeling.
Eventually, the world even seems bright again. The sun keeps coming out; the wearer adjusts. They get used to the world being darker. They realize the darkness is there because it never leaves, but they also see the sun shining, see the world moving. They see both, forever.
We miss you Chris. Love to you and continued love and support to those who loved you most.