The Left Behind

The Left Behind

So you might be thinking: two posts of the same column in less than a week? Unfortunately for this post, I just have to write it down to get it off my chest. As I am writing this I am going to tell you that I have spent these past few days bawling my eyes out and feeling like a mess while having to support someone important to me.

My boyfriend's dad passed away on Monday and had to be cremated yesterday in the morning.

It has been a shitty month since September for both my boyfriend and I due to our personal, life-related struggles. His dad had been terminally ill and was incurable so even if the passing had always been predictable, I could have sworn my heart sank so deeply when my boyfriend texted me via Line and said that his dad was gone. It happened on Monday at 02:38 am. It was extremely frustrating for me that I couldn't just rush out of my house and be there with him. He also had to witness everything alone before his mother and big brother came a few minutes later.

I'm not sure how funeral is done across countries but here, we usually keep the body in a funeral home first for 2-3 days where people can come visit and pay respect to the family and whatnot. After we are done with the ceremony in a funeral home, the next step is to bring the body either for cremation or burial. My boyfriend's family picked cremation because it's a lot cheaper and practical.

I won't go into full details because this is not my story and I don't feel like I should publish every detail here. I'm just glad that he did not stop eating or anything like that despite feeling the lost. I also did everything I can to support and help him in any way I can — I still do, just like how we have always tried to support each other no matter what. But here comes the sad and most frustrating part of all — no matter how hard I do or try, I will never be able to take away the pain he has to face and accept. I have never understood how to empathize before because I have always used sympathy whenever I visit a funeral home and frankly, I have never realized how much I can be affected by another person's death even if the deceased is not related to me in any way.

The death of someone can affect you no matter who you are, whether you are related or not.

When my boyfriend and I started going out, it was January this year. I have only met his dad a few times but I could see that he was a good man who had to endure a lot by himself, both physically and psychologically. Even though there were times when his dad would rebel, I knew that he was a good man. Isn't it weird that I can almost feel my boyfriend's sadness, fear and all his pent up emotion as if I have known him and his family for my entire life? One of our friends also told me that she could see how different my boyfriend was the moment I walked in — "it was like he finally let his emotions flow and he no longer forced himself to act tough."

I have never understood what it's like to share and feel the sadness of family members who were left behind. As mean as that sounds, I never felt the impact of a funeral as strongly as this one. A friend of mine explained to me that it's because I have a high level of empathy towards my boyfriend, leading me to feel this way which makes so much sense for me because I only care towards some people and when I do, I care about them strongly. I was sad — I still am — but I couldn't shed a tear. It was like as if someone prevented me from crying while also pushing my chest down so I couldn't breathe.

Although I couldn't cry at the funeral home, I did cry several times last month and these past few days, bawling my eyes out and feeling my eyes turning dry to the point where crying hurt. It is not merely because of the funeral but because I have been struggling at home with personal and parental issues so I have to take a lot of things all at once and endure, endure and endure.

Earlier this morning when my boyfriend texted me saying about how he cried during the cremation, I couldn't help but to feel that sinking feeling once again. It's such a difficult time for him that I can't really tell the story from my side and I'm alright with this. When I saw his Instagram posts, there were pictures of the sea which was where his dad's ashes were scattered, I couldn't help but weep.

I find that when you are helping someone who is grieving, you have to be selfless and if you are not, you (have to) learn how to do that, especially if you are that person's most trusted individual.

You'd do anything just to support that person...

That is what I am currently feeling. I don't care about how much problems and personal struggles I have to deal in my life right now because to me, my priority is still making sure he is alright. The stages of grief do not end easily and there will be times when I have to think thousands of times whether it is appropriate to ask him about his condition or leave him be. For now, I am going to let him process things by himself and with his own pace because really, there is nothing we can do to change the situation and/or quicken the grieving phase.

Of course, that doesn't mean I am not going to check up on him once in a while or reply to his text. If anything, I want to do the only thing I can as much and as fully as possible — in this case, supporting him as a patient listener. I find that in order to help a person in grieving phase, I have to be both selfless and a patient listener. It is important for them to know that we are going to be there to hold their hand even though we all know that we can never cast a spell and lift the sadness right away. It is also a lot tougher if the person you are supporting is in denial — my boyfriend is not though, so the only role I have to take is to listen and remind him that it's alright to throw his emotion to me. In the end, it's the person who has to accept the change and move on, no matter how difficult that is.

I probably sound like I am not going anywhere with this post but my point is, this incident has made me learn how to accept, face and look at some of the things in life. It has taught me how empathy can actually cause you to shed a tear even if the deceased is not related to you, how a funeral is more than just a funeral if the deceased happens to be someone important for the person you really care for. Death has taught me to also carefully treat certain people as well because when they're gone, they're gone and those who are left behind will definitely without a doubt feel a change.

Frankly, I'm not sure if I can look at the sea and not think back of this moment. I am not traumatized but this will forever be one of the memories I won't be able to forget.
Rest in peace, Mr. H. A. 

photography: gentl and hyers