Change used to happen a lot slower.
As a child, even a year wasn’t very significant. It meant a difference in grade, bigger lunches, and perhaps permission to stay out later after school before being called in for dinner. The running theme was “more”.
Then we grow up. The once generous hands of time start to take. And it seems like we can never be prepared for just how much can change in such a short amount of time.
July 2017 was a month tainted by loss. I lost my job — the first that felt right after years of searching. Then Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park — a band many 80s kids grew up on — tragically took his life. As so did the young cousin of a friend. I had spoken to her on several occasions. She was only 18. A sweet soul gone too soon.
While, the loss of a life definitely puts things in perspective. Playing “who has it worse” helps nobody. It only invalidates people’s experience, making one suffer more — silently.
We should recognise what we have in common and offer our company. Presence is powerful. Even in silence.
It feels like the right thing to do is to find the right words. We want to fix things. I appreciated every message from my co-workers even though they did little to lighten the load at the time. I had to watch my friend break the sad news to several customers, leaving them scrabbling for a few seconds. One person even broke their silence with “Oh well, you move on.”
Healing runs its own course. Starting as a slow and steady trickle, it eventually finds its way through. Hardened exteriors soften. The distinct curve of one’s smile becomes recognisable once again.
The sting fades. We learned the same thing as children on the receiving ends of a bee’s backside during our backyard adventures. Not to compare a suicide to a bee sting, but the sentiment is that time treats pain. Its hands can be comforting.
Tributes to Chester from around the world started pouring in a few days ago. The rest of the band has returned to making music. I no longer scurry past my old workplace; I occasionally glance up at the reflective windows and smile. I haven’t completely forgiven myself, but I’m getting closer.
I also checked in on my friend this morning to give him these flowers before he headed to his cousin’s first memorial event. Here’s what he had to say about the difference one year has made.
“The first everything is hard – the first anniversary, Christmas, birthday. The wound reopens slightly, but the pain isn’t as intense as it once was. That’s when you realise things do get better.”