Nothing can prepare you for that moment when your perfect world is shattered into 1000’s of little pieces. When you receive that phone call to say that a part of your heart ‘”didn’t make it”… My sister, first team swimmer had drowned in a freak accident, walking around our pool, having a seizure, falling in and waking up in the arms of Jesus.
Lauren and I were more than just sisters, we were the best of friends! We shared a room from when she was 6 weeks old and I was just over 2. Our lives were one huge adventure of dress-ups, countless concerts and hours of giggling. As we grew older so we grew even closer. I went off to boarding school and missed her so much that I usually always returned with at least 1 item of her favourite clothing. She lived her short 18 years to the fullest, nothing was a half-hearted emotion with her. We were so excited that for the first time in over 7 years we were going to be in the same town…but all that changed the morning of the 22nd of October 2005, my life would never be the same again.
I remember being really angry at people one day, saying the thing that I still hate to hear to this day, but that were meant with the best of intentions, “time will heal”. Time will never heal it, however, it will teach you how to live with a heart that will now always have, in my case, a ‘Lauren shaped’ hole in it.
I went through all the emotions, I constantly waited for her to walk into our bedroom and jump on her bed so we could sit and chat like we always used to. Then I was really angry, why would God take my best friend from me, she was in the prime of her life, a week from starting her final exams. However as time went on, I began to see how God had been preparing us for this. Lauren had just had her final chapel service where she gave my mum and dad a letter thanking them for all they had done in her life and teaching her about the love of Jesus, she had said goodbye to my brother who was going away for the weekend with a friend and said how much she loved him, she messaged me the night before to tell me that she loved me and would phone the next day. Her and mum had watched The Passion of Christ the night before and spoken what an incredible thing Jesus had done for us by dying so we can live.
This journey is not an easy one, and one that I would never wish on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But through it all, I can honestly say the only thing that got me through was Jesus and the ‘peace that passes ALL understanding’. I remember thinking that the ‘joy of the Lord will be my strength’ (Nem 8:10), up until then I never fully understood what they meant, but through this all, they joy that I was secure in my salvation, and that in the end we would be together praising Jesus strengthened me.
Although I wish Lauren was still alive today, I don’t regret the experience that I have had. I have understood the word grief in its rawest form. I can honestly sit and cry with someone, not because I know their personal pain, but I can relate to it.
For those of your reading this who haven’t been through a loss of someone close to you here are a few practical things to help your friend in the same position:
1) As much as you mean well, telling someone that time heals is definitely a painful thing for them to hear – rather sit and just cry with them.
2) Give them a journal – read on to see why
3) In this raw grief we forget about our basic necessities, buying groceries, toilet paper and making meals is a very practical way to demonstrate your love.
4) Don’t forget about us, this first month is hard, but I promise you, the 3rd, 4th, 5th month are even harder, when the reality hits, this is not a holiday, this is now a reality – reach out, be a shoulder. Those ‘firsts’ are tough ones to get through.
And for those of you who are fresh to this pain:
1) One of the best things I was given was a journal – in this journal I wrote all the memories that flooded into my mind, because as much as we never want to forget our loved one, over time those memories do fade. I wrote everything from Lauren’s favourite song, perfume to annoying joke in that book, and one day when my children want to know what their amazing aunty Lauren was like, I will give them this journal to read. I still read it now, and love how it triggers something else in my mind.
2) Don’t ever feel like it is silly to cry, 8 ½ years on and I still sob every October, even as I write this I have had to take a break because these emotions are still so real.
3) Never stop talking about them! Yes it hurt so much in the beginning, and you will cry at what seems like the worst of times, but they are part of you. As long as I am alive, Lauren is alive in the memories that I have of her.
4) And no, that day you realise that you didn’t think about them at all, DOES NOT make you any less of a brother/sister/friend… like I said earlier we do slowly learn to live with our incomplete hearts beating in a new rhythm.
My prayer is that any of you who read have been encouraged in some way. Life will continue, and we need to choose how we will live. I chose to put my trust in Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, my constant companion, counsellor and friend. I had to choose to put one small foot in front of the other until I knew that I could run the race marked for me, and not grow tired or weary as I do it with the strength and joy of Jesus..