Sabrina loves to write about love, life, and everything in-between in a candid yet humorous approach.
I decided to write this article in honor of my cousin who passed away four years ago this month. I think about her all the time, but every year around March especially, it makes me really sad because more time has passed since she's been gone. She was just 23 years old and her death came very suddenly and unexpectedly. Although she had been experiencing health problems, she was on the road to recovery after a much needed surgery. Her illness was not life threatening and her cause of death was actually not from the illness itself, but from heart failure. No one saw it coming so it was a shock to the whole family, especially her parents and brother. It came as quite a shock to my family as well, because she was my first cousin and the closest thing I could have to a sister since I am an only child.
After her loss, I discovered that the five stages of grief are very correct. First came denial and isolation. I didn't want to believe it and I refused to accept. It couldn't possibly be happening, not to me and not to my family. This is when you usually isolate yourself in your denial which only makes it worse. Next came anger. You're angry at the world that they took your loved one. You're angry at the doctors who couldn't save their life. You're basically angry at everyone and everything, including yourself. Then comes bargaining. You start to think to yourself, if only I could get that person back, I would do this and this and then that. I would be a better person. I would care more. Then the depression settles in when you realize how helpless you are in this situation. The reality of it all hits you all of a sudden and you're full of regret about all the things you should've done...but didn't. Finally at long last comes acceptance. You come to terms with what has happened. You realize that you can't change the past, but you can do something about the future so you never have to feel this way again.
The stage that I was really stuck in for awhile was depression because I had so many regrets about the situation. She lived in another state, so I didn't get to see her often, but I could've made more of an effort to stay in touch. In the technologically advanced world we live in today, distance is no excuse to not stay in close touch with someone. But I did use that excuse. A lot. Although we wrote a lot of emails back and forth, I didn't always answer right away because I had my own life going on where I lived. I was in college at the time so I was focused on myself and my education and my friends. Basically, it was all about me and my life. Sure, I made room in my life for her, but it wasn't very often and it wasn't nearly enough. We always made plans to visit each other, but they were usually put off to some distant point in the future that never came. And that's the part that continues to bother me. I should've taken the time then to spend with her but I kept putting it off until later, but later never came. And I never got to say the things I should've said because I always thought there would be more time, but then there wasn't.
In that period of loss and grief, I think religion really helped me. I've never been a super religious person, but I've always believed in God, the power of prayer, and the afterlife. Believing that everything happened for a reason and there was more to life than just what we have here really helped me in dealing with her death. To me, it made complete sense. There has to be something more than just what we're given in this life. Yes, we can't be totally sure what it is until we actually die ourselves, but I believe it's something great. If there is a heaven, I know that she is there. She was one of the kindest and best people I have ever known and I'm not just saying that because she was family. She was one of those people who always put others before herself and cared so very deeply about everyone. Heaven is where she belongs and hopefully one day I'll get to see her again and tell her everything that I didn't get to while she was here on earth. Until then I hope she's looking down now and knows how much we miss her.
Religion or just believing there's something more out there, can really help a person in the time of grief. It makes the whole situation seem less absolute and permanent. If you believe you're going to see your loved one again someday, then maybe it's just a little less painful then if you think you've lost them forever and that's it. Prayer can also do wonders for your heart and soul. Whether it's prayer that you do in the privacy of your home, or if you go to church and pray with your congregation, it's very powerful either way. Prayer is a time when you can have a completely honest conversation with God. You don't sugarcoat anything, you don't lie, you just spill what's in your heart and soul completely and that action truly cleanses your head, heart, and thoughts. You realize you are not alone and there's someone out there bigger than all of us. We're all inner connected and need each other in good times and especially in the difficult ones.
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In a time of loss and grief, it's also important to spend time with other people and not isolate yourself. You have to get out there and live life while it's yours because it could be gone at any time. Losing her taught me to never be a procrastinator when it comes to the people in my life. Never put off spending time with someone because that time may never come. You're always going to be busy and you just have to make time in your life for the people that matter because they're not always going to be there and then what? You're left with everything you wanted to say and no one to say it to. Loss has also taught me to be more brave in my life. I am no longer afraid to make my feelings known when I have something to say to someone that means a lot to me. What's the worse that can happen, rejection? Well, I'll take that any day over regret. I've learned that the time is now for everything I want to do in my life. It's not tomorrow and it's not next year, it's right now. That's all that we have for sure and it's all that's truly guaranteed.
My cousin was 23, exactly my age at the time when she passed away four years ago. She was born three weeks earlier than me so we're basically the same age. When someone close to you dies that's exactly your age, you start to think about your own life and mortality in a different way. You get thoughts in your head that you didn't before such as if it happened to her what if it could happen to me too? Or my friends? Or anyone else in my life? You get your priorities straight, maybe for the first time in your life, because you realize just how precious life is. You realize we're not invincible like we want to believe, but rather we're all pretty damn fragile. It breaks my heart that she never got to experience all the things that other people do like get married, have children, and have a long and successful career. She had always been an "A" student all throughout school and college, but never got to truly start her career because of her untimely passing. That's really heartbreaking and it motivates me to want to make the most of the time I do have and truly leave something great behind before it's my time to go.
Loss is one of the toughest things to deal with in this life, but when you come out on the other side of it, you become a much stronger and better person. You learn so many lessons about yourself, other people, and life in general. Personally, I think it's made me a better person because I don't take anyone for granted anymore. I try to treat everyone I meet with love and respect. I try to spend as much time as I can with loved ones because I know the gift of time is the one that means the most. I tell people how I feel about them now so I don't have any regrets later. I take more chances and am more open to experience new things. My faith in God is stronger and I don't dismiss the power of prayer. So maybe that's the whole point of loss, it's not supposed to ruin our lives, but rather it teaches us to become better versions of ourselves. It's definitely not my favorite way to self improve, but sometimes it is what it is and you just have to deal with it in the best way that you can. And maybe, just maybe, if we're especially good during our time here on earth, the gates of heaven will open for us too. Or a loved one might have a plus one invitation handy.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 GreenEyes1607
GreenEyes1607 (author) from USA on March 28, 2016:
I'm sorry that your family experienced so much loss recently. I do find it brings people together more closely because it shows just how precious and fleeting life is. It is especially painful when it happens to a younger member. Memories are important because they are part of the legacy we leave behind. Thanks for reading and for your thoughts Denise.
Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 21, 2016:
"...loss helps us become better versions of ourselves." That is so true! Our family has experienced the loss of five people in the past two years. The majority of them were parents, aunts and uncles, but the most poignant was the death of a niece who was similar in age to one of my own children. It was very difficult. Thankfully, we were able to pull together as a family and help each other with our grief. The memories are still poignant, and I'm sure they will be for a long time.