Marking Time

Grieving is such a difficult journey, and each of us walks the same path, only wearing different shoes. I don’t know about you, but in the early days of my grief journey I carried what seemed to me like the weight of the world around. To be honest, there were moments when I wished that I were not here, either. The loneliness, heart ache, and pain were almost unbearable. The future just didn’t seem like it was a place where I belonged. In fact, I wasn’t at all sure that I belonged anywhere any more. And I really didn’t care.

That was then. This is now. The two year anniversary of Brian’s death is coming up on April 1, just ten short days from now. I’ve had other widows/widowers say that they have heard that year two was harder than year one. Looking back, I can report that, at least for me, it has not been “harder” or “worse.” Those are such subjective words each having its own degree of malaise, depending on how one defines them emotionally. I prefer to describe the past year as simply different. It seemed to entail dealing more with acceptance of what is, rather than coping with the disbelief, anger, and abandonment feelings that surface in the wake of the death of a loved one. In my “reading therapy” where I searched, sometimes frantically, for any small way to make sense of losing Brian, I came across a quote from the author, Elise Segfried that resonated with me. She says that in our grieving, we too often see our loved one’s death as a “final punctuation mark in the story of their life.” I thought about that and realized that when I am feeling the most sad and alone, I am looking at Brian’s death that way, when, in reality, that’s not what it is at all. While it is true that his earthly life has come to an end, it doesn’t mean he never existed. I know that he existed. I have photographs, letters, cards, videos and many more reminders that he was very much alive and an integral part of my life for 29 years. He has not disappeared from my life. I don’t love him any less . . . . I just love him differently. I am finding ways to keep him alive in spirit, even though he is gone in body. While he no longer exists in my physical life, he lives on in my heart, and always will.

So, yeah . . . I’ve come a long way since those first excruciating months of intense grief, but I’m by no means back to anything even close to what I would consider “normal.” In fact, I am not at all sure that “normal” exists anywhere but as a cycle on a washing machine. It’s true that when Brian died, a part of me died as well. I have spent the last 24 months running through the storm of grief surrounding his loss. Facing grief head on. Taking to heart the words of Cheryl Strayed who, in her book, Tiny Beautiful Things said, “It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.” I know I can and I know I will. I’ve started this process by continuing to write the next chapter of my life story. And, in doing so I’m finding a new way to navigate life. I am like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I am recreating myself. And I think I am doing a darned good job of it, too.

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

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