It was a long time coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s never easy, losing someone you love.
Last month, my dear friend Lauren – my sister’s best friend since high school – died of complications from a lifetime of battling cystic fibrosis. She was 37, decades older than the doctors predicted she would live.
And girl, did she live. She ate Taco Bell in the ICU, carried oxygen tanks to parties, traveled to Paris even though the doctors said it would kill her (it didn’t), and somehow always seemed to have perfect makeup, even when attached to IVs and breathing machines in the ER.
Lauren was an inspiration, one of my biggest.
She taught me to challenge the ableist concepts surrounding the ideas of “being healthy” and showed me what it meant to thrive even when faced with the worst. She became a spokesperson for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and inspired people around the globe to rethink how they treat and interact with people with life-threatening diseases.
She loved pink, fried rice with extra chicken, champagne, and her family – biological and chosen. She had one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard, especially after her second lung transplant when it gained this Kathleen Turneresque deep raspiness. She will leave a massive hole in my life and the lives of the hundreds of people she inspired.
When grief hits again, and you are not okay
I’ve done this monumental grief thing before, but it’s different every time. I feel like a seasoned, salty captain stuck at sea during a tempest. I know how to handle this boat now, but each wave of grief is different, coming at me from a new angle, threatening to capsize me.
Lauren’s brother, a dear, old friend as well, called me the other day to ask if it will ever be okay again. It’s been four years since my brother died, and I still don’t have an answer to that.
I’m starting to think that striving to “be okay” is like striving to “be healthy,” something we should give up trying to do.
Maybe, just like being “healthy,” being “okay” isn’t a possibility for some of us. Maybe we’ve just got too much bullshit in our life to be okay. That doesn’t mean we can’t find joy – Lauren was never healthy or okay, but she laughed all the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t find love – Lauren was surrounded by it.
What if you stopped trying to be “okay” and just accepted yourself as you are right now?
What would that look like? There’d probably be a lot of crying. Good. Crying is cathartic. There’d be some laughter too, because whether appropriate or not, it seems impossible to make it through a funeral without breaking out into a fit of giggles.
Letting go of trying to “be okay” allows you to have both the ups and the downs, and everything in between. It allows you to meet yourself where you are today.
So, I am not okay. One of my biggest inspirations is gone and it will be a long time before I am okay with that fact, possibly never.
Here’s what I’m doing instead of trying to push through and be okay:
- Writing. Incorporating as much of Lauren’s story into my books and articles and letters and poems as possible.
- Watching movies. She loved Mel Brooks films and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, so those are on repeat.
- Playing classic Nintendo. Just like we used to.
- Reading. Young adult novels are my favorite form of escapism.
- Eating. Because sometimes it’s a big fucking accomplishment to simply feed myself.
I’d love your suggestions for movies, YA books, comfort food recipes, and Legend of Zelda cheats.
What do you do instead of trying to be okay? Let me know in the Bawdy Love Facebook group.
With love and light,
P.S. In tribute to Lauren, my sister created this beautiful image of 65 Roses, the nickname the cystic fibrosis community uses for the disease. We’re offering it on mugs, phone cases, shirts, and journals as a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If you’re interested, visit my shop or click the links below.
See more at my shop.