Before I get into this week’s topic, I would like to give a few updates. First, I want to give a huge shout-out to my friend James Singer. He has been editing my blog posts for the last two weeks, and he’s amazing. He is helping me to make this blog the best it can possibly be. Secondly, and lastly, I would like to share that someone who promotes for #BloggingAMA has reached out to me and told me that she would like to help me promote my blog, so I will be hosting a live AMA feed through them. Here is the >>link<<. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything, and all you have to do is go there and, well, ask me anything. I will be going live to answer these questions on Saturday, 7/14/18 at 11AM. I will also be running a Facebook Live feed and answering questions there as well. Thank you all for your support, and now we’ll start on this week’s topic.
There comes a point in our lives where we lose someone very important to us, whether they be a grandparent, parent, relative, friend, or whomever. How do we handle these situations? How do we grieve? How do we move on? This week, I will be talking about how different people process these events and about the people in my life who have died and how I’ve handled it.
Death is difficult for a lot of people. They don’t like it, they don’t look at it, and it just makes them uncomfortable to be around. Other people love experiencing the thrill of death vicariously through watching horror movies. Still more are fascinated by death and make careers out of it, such as morticians. A few, like adrenaline junkies and other risk-takers, laugh at death. Lastly, we have our soldiers, who sacrifice their lives fighting for their country, knowing and accepting that it’s part of the job.
Everyone handles death differently, and it often depends on how they’ve been exposed to it. Growing up, I knew a couple of people that passed away. They were all older, and their deaths were “just a matter of time” types of deals, so they never hit me hard. I went to funerals apathetically, not fully understanding what was going on and just waiting to go home. When I was a little older and a little more aware of what death was, a friend of mine died in a car accident. I had done Tae Kwon Do with him for a long time. We weren’t best friends or anything, but I knew him, and we are around the same age, so the experience was different. But still, I was all right. I was shocked and surprised, but I didn’t really feel much past that.
When I was in 10th grade (I could be off by a grade on this), my uncle passed away. This was also a bit of a different death because he had committed suicide. It was on Memorial Day. We were on our way to a family picnic, and we got a call saying that my uncle killed himself and that our grandmother had found him. My uncle had shot himself. This was a death I wanted to feel something for, he was my uncle. Everyone else was crying and sad, but I just wasn’t. I had a lot of resentment for him, resentment that came as a result of being separated from my best friend growing up, my cousin Derek. My uncle and aunt divorced when I was young, and I only saw my cousin once every other weekend after that. Later, Derek decided to come live with his dad to attend the school there, and I got to go to school with him for a short while. I was excited, happy that he was around more often. But after that Memorial Day, my cousin was gone again. After that, I only saw him on holidays and special occasions. My uncle wasn’t the best person. He tried, I will give him that, but he just had a lot going on. He was an alcoholic and there were drugs involved, and I just blamed him for his divorce and for my cousin and I being separated. Then I blamed him for dying and separating us once again. It was a very selfish feeling, but it was just how I felt at that age.
Then a few years later came the death that was the first to really show me a sense of mortality. I was in my second semester of my freshman year in college. I was living in the dorms at the time. I was asleep in my tiny bed, curled up, and I was woken up by a call around 6AM. It was my mom. I almost ignored it and went back to sleep, but I thought it was weird that she would be calling me so early. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Hey, what’s up?”
Mom: “Zach… Derek got in a car accident this morning.”
At this point, death still hadn’t registered as a possibility. We were dumb as kids, and he’d gotten into a pretty serious dirt bike accident when he was younger.
Me: “Oh, no. Is he okay?”
As soon as I said that, the idea of death entered my head, and I regretted asking the question. I already knew what the answer would be, but I didn’t want to know.
Mom: “He didn’t make it.”
Mom: “Zach, are you okay? Do you need me to come get you and bring you home?”
Me: “No, I’m okay. I can’t miss class. I’ll come home this weekend.”
But I did want her to pick me up. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was because that was where my cousin had died, figuratively, not literally. But I was too stubborn, and I had to act tough. That’s what I do. I need to show people that I can handle things.
I laid back down in my bed and just tried to forget what I heard. I went back to sleep. I woke up the next morning and was a zombie, an empty shell of a body. I focused on my classes to keep my mind off what had happened. I knew that I would break down at some point, but when? I got through my classes for the day and was just sitting outside on a bench. I was thinking of Derek and our childhood. I had just seen him a few weeks prior. We only lived about an hour away from each other, and we had decided that we would see each other more often now that we were adults and had a bit more freedom. We were going to catch up and hang out a lot over summer break. Unfortunately, that summer break never came. And yet I still didn’t break down. Somehow that grief sparked something creative in me: a story. A story popped into my head that I knew would be gold and that I knew I needed to write, I just needed to figure out how. I put the story in the back of my mind and archived it for the right moment, which wasn’t then. But I knew I would do it. I would do it for him, because he had inspired it. At the end of that night, I went to bed, my roommate across the room in his own bed. I turned toward my cold cement block dormitory wall and sobbed into my pillow. I was as quiet as possible so my roommate couldn’t hear me. I never liked to show weakness or vulnerability. But he probably still heard me. That was the moment I finally broke.
To finish my story, in the fall of that year, I met Caitie, my best friend. We decided to write a book together, and we used the idea that had been inspired by my cousin’s passing. She helped me mold it into something fantastic, and now we have a book and soon-to-be series that we are working on publishing.
Death isn’t easy, and it took my cousin’s death for me to truly understand that. There are many ways to cope with these feelings. Some people use religion, others use feigned ignorance, some are just terrified and can’t cope. People like me use creativity and innovation to pull something beautiful out of something even as terrible as death. There isn’t one easy answer, and the answer is different for everyone. However, it’s important we find that answer when the time comes. It took me nineteen years to find mine. Some people take longer, other people shorter, but one day the time will come. It’s important to not let it defeat you.
Thanks again for joining me for another Monday blog. I really hope to hear some suggestions for topics from all of you. I really do look at those and use them. Please follow the blog with your email address and like the Facebook page for updates. Don’t forget about my live feed on Saturday 7/14/18 at 11AM! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and chatting.
Hasta La Pasta,