I read a post on Facebook today from a friend of mine who is at the one year anniversary of his father’s passing. I would like to tell him that it gets easier with time, but I can’t. So many people offer those words as an attempt to comfort those who have lost a loved one. Since I have lost both of my parents, and many other loved ones for that matter, I am well versed at saying ‘thank you, I hope so’ when those words were spoken to me.
But I have learned a great truth about loss. It doesn’t get easier. The pain of loss is never really assuaged by time. The polite phrase spoken by so many holds a great sentiment but very little truth.
What I have learned, however, is that the pain is slowly muted by the memories. That pain still burns like a lingering flame, concealed far below the surface, and it can be turned into a raging inferno with a single spark. But that pain is much less visceral than it once was and shouldering their absence seems much more bearable.
With each passing year I recognize a growing trend in my patterns. Habits that I picked up subconsciously from those loved ones who are gone seem to emerge inexplicably but they are familiar and comforting traits. Idioms used by my dad tumble out of my mouth before I even have a chance to realize what I am saying. My arm in the window of my car as I drive, elbow on the bottom and only two fingers hooked in the top, is exactly how my mother used to position herself driving up to the cottage when we were young.
It doesn’t make the loss any easier but it is those little things that make us know that their life lives on through our lives. We get to keep some of the best parts of them alive because mimicking their characteristics keeps their spirit close. The pain will always reside in us as proof that the love we had for them was fierce. It doesn’t get easier, it just gets manageable.