Today I sad with a good friend of mine and his family who had recently and tragically lost a family member. Watching him go through the grief of losing a sibling was challenging. Watching his parents go through the grief of losing a child was heart wrenching.
This experience reminded me of my own first big grief experience. My friend Ned died a few years ago quite suddenly and tragically. The last thing he ever said to me was, "I'm going on vacation. I'll call you when I get back." Then he was gone. I didn't know how to handle the grief so I did what I know how to do: I wrote.
I started a dialogue with Ned in my journal:
Ned: I told you I'd call when I get back.
Janice: What the hell?And so began a conversation that lasted about a year. I wrote and he wrote back. He told me about his experiences just after he died...
Ned: I know. Weird. Check me out. I'm dead. Didn't see that coming. I didn't know it was happening at the time. I got out of bed that morning. I didn't feel good. I went back to bed. Now I'm here. I've been sitting here waiting for you to start writing with me.
Janice: I'm so sad I could barf.
Ned: Dude, I know. I don't want you to feel sad but I also understand now that part of my role in your life is to teach you about grief.
I was all "what the?" and couldn't comprehend what was going on or even where I was. All I knew was that I felt great. That I was happy, content and understood fully that I should be here.)He wrote about how Heaven feels different from Earth...
Earth is a heavy place. It feels like being stuck in a system that you feel you have no control over. And it's so bland compared to here. Now the food, the colors, the senses, even love are vibrant and palpable)What his Heaven is like...
Finally good tomatoes.I said that his description of Heaven was severely lacking...
You know what is especially different about being here? I can't even feel sad. I remember sadness as I remember the scenes of my life, but this feels so good that I can't even attach myself to sadness. It really does feel like Heaven here except you can't know how Heaven feels until after your body dies. I wish I had the words to explain this feeling. Maybe there are no words because we can't know this feeling when we're alive. Otherwise we'd all kill ourselves trying to get back to this feeling.He said he and I were soul mates...
But not the smoochy-smoochy kind of soul mates.Gross!
We've been hanging out together in a bunch of lifetimes already, helping each other along the way. We are of a tapestry, both of us threads that keep meeting lifetime after lifetime to assist each other.Then I told him to not show up all ghostly in the middle of the night to freak my shit out...
Okay, no scary ghost business in the middle of the night. How about we communicate in your journals and drawings.Deal.
I'd shake on it but that would probably freak your shit out.You got that right, mister.
And so began my year of writing down my conversations with a dead guy in my journal. You may think I'm crazy. I don't care. It helped. It was the only thing that helped.
Harry: Tell me one last thing. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
Dumbledore: Of course it is happening inside you head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
--Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows