The Club.

Though you are now a mem­ber of the club, you don’t know it.

It feels like no one under­stands and that you’re alone. The mem­ory of what hap­pened to The Per­son You Love is heartbreaking.

The feel­ing seems end­less. Per­haps you feel it in your body; maybe it feels like a hol­low weight in your chest. Maybe your head feels heavy. Maybe most of it unfolds through your thoughts: You hear good news and your heart floats for a few moments, but then you remem­ber what hap­pened. Even good news some­how seems sad.

Some­times it feels like time doesn’t move the way it did before it hap­pened. Thoughts like, “This is the youngest I will ever be… will I remem­ber this?” become reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to your mind. You grasp those lit­tle things that bring you joy and cling to them:

  • The sum­mer water­melon is cool, crisp, and sweet against your tongue. Will this be the last water­melon I ever eat?
  • How won­der­ful it is to see the splashes of peach, pink, orange, and pur­ple across the evening sky! Will this be the last time I wit­ness this super­nat­ural work of art?
  • He has a delight­ful laugh! I hope that this won’t be the last time I hear it.

Life takes on a quiet desperation.

Because you don’t know if you will expe­ri­ence these moments again, grat­i­tude over­whelms you:

  • I turn on the faucet and hot water comes out in sec­onds! I get to take a com­fort­able shower every day!
  • I have a place to live! My mind doesn’t have to spend every wak­ing moment wor­ry­ing about where I will sleep tonight!
  • I have friends! We talk, we laugh, we spend time together, we enjoy ourselves!

Life is beau­ti­ful and sublime.

You dream about The Per­son: Some­times the dreams are com­fort­ing, some­times they are dis­turb­ing, but they are all cryp­tic. You wake up, your limbs heavy in bed, and won­der: Is she really dead?

That feel­ing comes back. You know the answer to that ques­tion. She is, but you’re not, so you get out of bed.

There are moments through­out the day when you do for­get what hap­pened. The weight dis­ap­pears and you focus on the things in front of you right now. Things shift, and your mind begins to make asso­ci­a­tions that you didn’t make before:

I look at grass and I think of tomb­stones now.”

You con­coct expla­na­tions to com­fort your­self, though some­times they don’t:

  • Mol­e­cules of air that were in her lungs are still in the house. When I inhale, some of that air is now in me.
  • Though she is dead, her genes live on in me. The genes con­tinue to expe­ri­ence the world, even if she does not.

Some things don’t mat­ter any­more. Kind­ness becomes essen­tial. Rela­tion­ships with peo­ple become vital.

When peo­ple in the club learn that you are a new mem­ber, they wel­come you with a grace that you didn’t real­ize existed. You acknowl­edge that you had no idea that they were a mem­ber of the club.

That’s how it works,” they reply.

They spend time with you. They share wise words. They share wise silence. They com­fort you.

You then real­ize that you’re not alone, that there are peo­ple who under­stand. They appre­ci­ate how heavy the weight is in your chest and help you carry it. They remem­ber the dif­fi­culty and lone­li­ness of hav­ing to carry the weight alone. They also know that, ulti­mately, you often must carry it by yourself.

Every­one even­tu­ally joins this club. If you, too, are a new mem­ber, know that you are not alone. There is no club uni­form, badge, or pin, but we are here and share your grief.