SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen/read Harry Potter and plan to, you probs wanna skip a couple of paragraphs.
This post is the result of my journey with grief.
One of my favorite scenes in Harry Potter is in the fifth book/movie, when Harry returns to Hogwarts after witnessing Voldemort’s return and the murder of Cedric Diggory. The previously-driverless carriages that haul the students from the train station to the Hogwarts campus now have animals to pull them along–thestrals. Harry is shocked at the sight of these magnificent creatures, and asks his friends if they see them too–which they don’t. He thinks he is going crazy until Luna Lovegood tells him that she sees him too. This is when he finds out that only those who have witnessed death can see them.
The same can also be said for the Muggle world. Those of us who have witnessed death–whether by being physically in the room when someone dies or simply experiencing the excruciating pain that is grieving for a loved one–look at the world a different way.
Life becomes all the more precious when you’ve seen its fragility; when you’ve seen how someone can be just on the cusp of being healed to just 24 short hours later being pronounced deceased. It is even harder when you’ve prayed for a relationship to be mended, only for that to become impossible in this life.
For me, death has changed the way I live in almost every aspect. My planned career as a criminal defense attorney is all about preserving people’s lives (specifically when they are death penalty cases). When I’m reminded of my mortality and how short earthly life is, I tend to be more real with the people around me–even going so far as to tell someone I like them or spontaneously buying my sister a book. These things that come out of grief and experiencing death are the thestrals of our life–the things that only people who have known deep loss can appreciate.
I don’t believe that death happens for a specific reason–I can’t believe in a God who picks and chooses who gets to live and who gets to die–but I do believe that certain things that come out of knowing death can be beneficial for one’s development. The sensitivity and sorrow can be used for good. I have more compassion and empathy for those who have lost or are in the process of losing someone because I’ve been there. I know that this all seems random and cruel and that you feel like your life will never be the same once this person is gone. I know how bad it sucks when people say the wrong thing, thinking they’re helping when they’re, in fact, making it worse.
Don’t get me wrong, I would do anything to get those I’ve lost back–anything. I would love to have MaeMae cook supper for me again, play outside with Cap, and get a chance to know the good side of my father, but since I can’t do that, I have to turn the pain into something constructive. That something has taken root as deep compassion for those facing death as or for someone dying.
Recently, I have had to get very honest with myself about a lot of things, but specifically about my grief journey. I am still deeply hurt by the loss of my grandparents. I take things regarding death a lot more personally than most do, because I’ve been in the vicinity three times as someone has taken their last breath and witnessed their consciousness leaving their body–all of them entirely too young. I’m nowhere near healed, and I don’t think I’ll ever be, but I know that they would want me to “use my powers for good” and be there for those who are going through similar things, and really, if Luna hadn’t been there for Harry, wouldn’t he have spent forever wondering if he was crazy?
So, go out, and whether it be grief-related or not, be someone’s Luna Lovegood and let your life experience help someone else.