Wednesday, April 27, 2016

To the Class of 2016, from Someone Who's Been There

Your senior year is a time for celebrations. Your big class trip; your last musical; your last baseball game; your last orchestra concert; your last art show. Even though everyone is headed in different directions, you never look around at your friends and think “this is the last time I might see them,” because there is always Summer. Summer is for bonfires, riding around with the windows down, getting ice cream at Milky Way.

You never think that your class will bond over something tragic as losing a classmate. But sometimes, and only God knows why, that brings you closer as a group.
Quite frankly, losing a classmate sucks. It’s inexplicable. It’s hard. It’s unfair. It’s sad. It’s all of those things plus a million more emotions you didn’t know you had.

As someone who has Been There, here are a few quick things I wish someone would have told me about losing someone you love.

First of all, I want you to know that everything you are feeling is valid. You are not being overemotional, or overdramatic. Allowing yourself the space to feel and grieve is okay. It’s necessary. It’s your body’s way of releasing stress and tension. Let it happen. If someone tells you that you are being overemotional or overdramatic, it’s ok to disagree with them. Only you can assess how and what you are feeling, and that’s ok.

Secondly, grief is strange, and everyone grieves differently. Some of you will cry, others will be silent. Some will be callous and say “I don’t care that much” because they are confused about what they’re feeling. Others of you will gather and tell stories and laugh at the silly things she said, or the way she used to joke, or remember how smart she was, and honor how beautiful she was inside and out. Again, let it happen, and don’t discount anyone’s form of grief. The beautiful thing about every one of you is that you feel and process things differently. And that’s okay.

Grow in your grief. Figure out how you, as the wonderful human you are, process these emotions. Talk to someone you love. Parents, friends’ parents, a counselor, a teacher, a coach, youth pastor, whoever. Your mental health is too precious to tackle this alone. Please talk to someone.

Lastly, it’s important to joyfully remember your friend. What happened was tragic, yes. But the life she led was anything but that. Get together and celebrate who she is, and the fact that you know she is healed and whole and with the God she loved so much. Joy is also strange. It’s strange to feel so incredibly sad yet so incredibly joyful at the same time. I think of the movie “Inside Out.” Riley’s emotions and memories finally work together to form her different Personality Islands. Sadness and Joy pressing the button together is the perfect example of allowing our emotions to blend together, but not control us.

It’s hard, but as one of my favorite writers says “Together We Can Do Hard Things.”
Spend time together. Spend more time together than you ever thought was humanly possible. Be amazed at how you support each other, and take pride in how your community has come together during this time. Remember that even though you’re in a small town, each person has shown that they have a big heart. Don’t take that, or anyone you encounter, for granted.

And always remember: Love Wins.

(Flckr: slgckgcBy: slgckgc  )