When I was eighteen I lost my dad and it was absolutely the most life-changing thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always been kind of morbidly fascinated with death, but having it hit so insanely close to home, it just changed my life as quickly as turning a completed puzzle upside-down and letting the pieces fall.
I took a week off, as he died on a Saturday morning, and while we prepared for the memorial service (he was cremated) on the following Saturday, I slept a hell of a lot, most often characterized by mostly-sleepless nights and impromptu naps on the couch when my mom and grandmother (who stayed with us that week — I had to sleep on my dad’s side of my mom’s and his bed; it certainly didn’t help my sadness but oh well!) would be watching the 6 o’clock evening news, lasting until 9pm or so.
Anyway, I was able, after that Saturday of his memorial service, to bounce back into school, and I made the Dean’s List that semester. The following semester that very same grandmother died, and this became my second most life-changing moment.
The point of all this is that I don’t like to be defined by “my dad died when I was eighteen and just 3 days over six months later, my grandmother/second mother died” but it’s hard not to be. Such huge events have to impact someone a hell of a lot — and I was no exception. But I’m a strong person, apparently, because I pulled through, and I’m still in college and yes I still cry a lot, but I’ve dealt with it pretty well.
But instead of being defined and crippled by these moments, I chose to use them to realize not only the fragility of life and the suddenness with which it can change in ways one can never imagine, but also the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
I have life experiences few others my age do (though perhaps more than one would think, as sadly enough, I’ve helped both my former roommates with the death of one of their parents, also from cancer because I had this experience) as well as talked to a professor whose mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of the semester I took her daughter’s class, as well as chatted with her again not long ago. She said we were “both sisters in this” and that’s something I’ll remember forever.
I’ll be the first to tell you, life fucking sucks sometimes. It’s horribly unfair. But life is worth it. You’ll experience things greater than you can imagine, even if they’re not overly outstanding. You’ll make connections and friendships and even just read a good book or a story that will really touch you and make things a little more bearable.
I understand things may suck now, but I truly believe in the saying, “Everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
Push through it. You’ll be a stronger person for the experience. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety and endured these losses, I can, with full confidence, say I’m damn proud of the person I’ve become despite, and maybe in part because of, these losses I’ve endured before I turned 19.
And if anyone ever needs to talk, I’m here. Please don’t think that just because I’ve been through such things that I’ll think your problems are trivial compared to mine. That’s not how I think at all, and if I bring up my dad or grandmother, or my depression or epilepsy (which, yeah, the summer of epilepsy was probably my lowest point, emotionally and physically) it’s only to help relate.
I know how much somebody just listening can help, believe me. If you need me to be that person, I will.