Young death is an unfathomable tragedy that rocks and shakes you so deeply you cannot help but question every pillar you have held as an irrefutable truth. It is pools of tears and snot on dorm room mattresses, glassy eyed Facebook stares as messages of incredulous mourning surface by the moment on their wall. It is rising bile and clammy skin. Uncontrollable shaking and unsuccessful attempts at out walking the pain and confusion and fear.
It is coos of support and explanation falling on deaf ears, as well-meaning friends grapple to find words that do not exist to stay the pain, to give answers where there are none. It is hollow, surface level interactions, and over sharing with strangers. It is questioning how the people moving around you are existing in happy bubbles of trivialities, how they are unaware of the grave loss the world just experienced. It is wondering how many times you have been in that happy bubble, while someone around you felt like their heart was falling through their stomach. It is perspective, like a shock of cold water to the face, a neon reminder that there are so many more important and grave things going on in the world.
Young death is a deep mourning that cannot be fully swallowed. A bitter pill that will not go down. It is a gnawing nausea at the realization that some people will not be okay. It is the acknowledgement of your inability to fully fathom the disgusting and horrendous amounts of pain his mother is experiencing. His father, his siblings, his best friends.
It is guilt. It is feeling sad when you don’t feel you have the right to. Who are you to cry, and scream when he was not your best friend, or your child, or your brother? It is guilt because death makes you think of yourself. Of your friends, of your family. It makes you play the “what if” game. Spend extra time Googling symptoms of your various ailments, spend extra time running your hands over your body late at night, checking for lumps and abnormalities, doing a mental inventory of the functionality of each of your limbs and organs.
Young death is a loss of innocence, it is the realization of vulnerability so many of us are lacking. We are not invincible and any one of us could be taken too soon. That is a terrifying thought but it is not new. Young death doesn’t suddenly make the world any more or less safe, but it brings to the forefront this inevitability we – for our own sanity and health – hide from ourselves day to day.
We cannot live in fear but we must live with awareness. To honor the memories of those taken too soon, leaving holes and hurt in their wake. Young death feels like a perpetual state of being shaken awake at the wrong time in a sleep cycle, nauseating, disorienting, and stuck in a hazy world of distortion. There is no way to overcome, only continue moving forward.
Forward does not mean linear, though, nor does it mean forgetting or not acknowledging. Forward means moments of silence, lighting candles, crying on runs, setting intentions dedicated to them in yoga. It means finding a new normal, one that incorporates sorrow and loss into daily life. It means being open and honest with those around you about what you are feeling. It means not feeling guilty when you want to smile and laugh again. It means regressing to old people and old habits of comfort. It means not shaming yourself for seeking the comfort you need.
Young death means delving into the world’s infinite sea of darkness, but finding the bright people who can buoy you back to the surface.