Some call it grief; others call it sorrow. For me, these were just words: pat labels that weren’t quite right; were simply not enough.
No word could describe, much less encompass everything l I felt the day my beautiful, bright, “kolohe” son, Shannon, died suddenly of a seizure disorder. He was just 24, in the prime of his life. He was my youngest, my baby, my joy.
It was the ultimate irony that someone whose life had been all about words, as mine had been, could find no word for the excruciating pain I felt during this period of my life.
It wasn’t until years later that I found what I’d been seeking in a book a friend recommended. It wasn’t about death or dying; it was much deeper and more profound.
Two words jumped out at me shortly after I started it: “THE SADNESS.”
The recognition was unexpected and immediate. It was as if I had been waiting for these very words since the beginning of this nightmare.
From that moment on, this time of loss, of emptiness, of overwhelming emotion became for me “The Sadness.”
I speak of this now because the weeks ahead will be filled with much joy for some but such sadness for too many others.
Christmas without a loved one you’ve lost (especially that difficult first Christmas without them), dredges up so many memories and so much pain that Joy is often eclipsed. Sometimes it disappears completely.
The Sadness becomes such a big part of your life, it creates voids and empty spaces where there were none before, and prompts tears when you least expect them.
It is at this time that families keep each other going and make what seems to be the unbearable easier to bear.
Love of family and friends; love of God (or whatever Supreme Being you believe in) is never needed more than it is at this time. It helps people turn once-dreaded memories into welcome remembrances that allow Joy to flow back into your life, your heart and your soul.
In this season of gifting, of family, of hope and of love, I send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone for whom pain is still a constant companion.
You will find that there will be those who tell you it will get better, and yes, someday it will. But even after it does, there will be moments that the pain and sadness may return, even briefly. Expect this. Steel yourself for it. Do not fear it is a step backwards on your path to healing. It is all a natural part of the process of grieving.
There will also be those who try to convince you It is time for you to move on; to lay down your burden of grief and put The Sadness behind you.
Do not listen to them. You — and only you — will know when that time has come; when it is right; when you are ready.
One more important thing to remember: you are never alone. Many of the people who share our island home, who comprise its community — family, neighbors, friends, business associates — have been where you are, have felt what you’re feeling; gone through what you’re going through. And they care; they care a lot.
God bless everyone who needs strength to make it through the coming holidays and the weeks and months ahead. Aloha.
Rita De Silva is a former editor of The Garden Island and a resident of Kapaa.