COLUMN: Finding light after loss

I know you won't heal, but you can cope


The other night, I was playing around with my dad. We were joking, laughing, catching up, reminiscing… all the good things. It’s like I was seeing color for the first time in a while - the happiest I had felt in months.

Before I knew it, my eyes opened, and my mind was unwillingly thrown back into a much harsher reality. Life without him.

The 8-person tent I slept was consumed by the black Upper Peninsula nighttime.

The following morning, the sun replaced darkness with light. The color was restored, except in one place - me. For those few moments, I spent with my dad, in my sleep, brought back a feeling that is gone forever.

Over the summer, I distracted myself with an internship I was not sure if I wanted to do. Even breathing, walking, and talking, among everything else feels wrong to do when my dad cannot.

My internship crew at the Midland Daily News and WCMU Public Radio welcomed me with open arms and enthusiasm. I am incredibly thankful for the warm homecoming but naturally, like everything else, it did not comfort me.

While on assignment, I found myself in the three-seasons room of an Oil City log cabin, seated feet away from a man I was interviewing about a pain we both felt. His wife of nearly 60 years passed away in the room we were in less than six months prior.

As I unfolded grief-related questions, I unsuccessfully held back tears as a depressing reality came to fruition - there are no answers.

I spent much of the summer searching for a way to heal.

I quickly realized there is not one. You cope with the pain, or you don’t and everyone does so on a spectrum.

People have told me time heals. I wish that were true, but I don't think anything does. Healing implies getting better... improving - but I don't see that happening. I am coping - adjusting - never healing.

Every day, the sun goes down, and darkness returns. Every day, the sun comes back up and restores the color.

My dad was my sun. Every day, all my life, he restored the light in me; my motivation, my desires, my mission - he reminded me of my inhibition, and he routinely re-ignited the fire in me that is my curiosity and excitement to discover this world.

Now, he is no longer here to brighten my days or make me laugh until I can’t breathe - only in my dreams.

And somehow, I’m supposed to continue as if my life is still right-side up. 

I am sick of hearing "he would want you to continue" from everyone but the one that matters. How can he want that when he is not here to want it?

One thing that helps me see a glimmer of that light is knowing I’m not alone. Other people have been through similar experiences. Talking about it may seem like the exact opposite of beneficial, but you will never know until you try.

While I have yet to try an actual support group, I have connected with endless people who have suffered similar losses – and it does something. Out of everyone that expects you to heal, cover the wound, and go back to life, people reminding you that it is okay, and understanding the persistent, and permanent pain you feel can make a world of difference.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe you, too, could benefit from connecting with others.

I have been flooded with mental health resources that all seem so one-size fits all, but talking with people who understand simply helps you cope. After all, they don't expect you to be okay, when everyone else does.

Below are resources if you are suffering from losing someone you love and are looking to connect with others who know how you feel.

Bereavement Support

989 773 6137

Woodland Hospice Home, 2597 S 2597 S Meridian Rd

Meets the 1st Tues. of the month, 6-7:30p.m. and 3rd Thurs. of the month 2:30-4p.m.

Grief Support

989 773 5616

Charles Lux Funeral Home, 2300 S Lincoln Rd

Meets the 3rd Monday of the month at 6:30-8p.m.

Grief Share

989 773 3641

Mount Pleasant Community Church, 1400 W Broomfield St

New Tomorrow's

989 316 4353

McLaren Hospice 8 Week Grief Series

Meets Wed. 9:30-11 a.m.

Grief is lonely and more often than not, unspeakable. Even though my dad is not here physically, I have to believe he is here spiritually. I believe he brings the knowledge, people, and experiences I need into my life. And I think your person is doing the same for you.

Maybe they even brought you to this column.

Remember: You are not alone. There are people that know what you are feeling, want to talk about it, and want you to talk about it.