“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
― C.S. Lewis,
It comes in waves.
It is part of the ebb and flow of life, rising and falling like a breath. The tide rolls in. The tide rolls out. Leaves fall to the ground. Flowers bloom. Rain pours out of a darkened sky. The sun continues to rise and set. The things we think we know about ourselves, and the world we live in disappears in an instant. And, yet, it remains the same, but with an unfathomable hole punched through it.
“Sometimes people are just broken. She sounds broken.” This is what her father told me rather casually over a conversation that included suggestions that I purchase luggage for her as an eighteenth birthday gift, as I push her out the door and wish her good enough. I didn’t expect more than that from him.
She should have had the two of us fighting for her.
I can’t give up. I can’t ever give up. But, I have to let go.
The hum and whir of life propelled me forward: my shoes hitting the pavement while I ran, the sounds of birds chirping in the morning as the sunlight streams through the windows, and the business of life continues. But, it was my mind teeming with certain expectations about how it is supposed to go that seems to be the greatest casualty.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I sat on the cold, hard wood flooring in my living room in front of my fireplace, surrounded by boxes full of Christmas regalia. I pulled a stack of stockings out of the box, and flipped through the stockings of varying fabrics. I probably had over a dozen of them, but that happens when you have four children. Just touching them evoked the memories of all the Christmases we spent together, each one carrying a memory that spilled into another year. I pulled out six of the felt red and white stockings, the ones I had written the name of each member of my family in gold glitter glue at the top of each one, for our first Christmas as a family. I wanted us to all have matching stockings. The fabric was worn thin in places, since we stuffed as much as possible into each one every year and hung them on the mantle. The felt loop at the top of one looked like it might tear completely if challenged with such a task this year.
I fought tears, and put them back. I couldn’t hang hers, because she rejected her given name, and would not be here anyway. I can’t hang the others because they won’t be here, either. I can’t just hang mine and my son’s. No stockings this year, I decided.
The waves crash onto the rocks.
I found myself sobbing in the shower for no reason at all, and for every reason all at once. I walked through the day, feeling like shattered glass. I felt like I was trying to scoop up the pieces to put them back together, but it’s broken glass. I was the walking wounded, as they call it. The lightest touch, and I will bleed out everywhere. I longed to tell people I was hurting and I needed something, but the words could never come. And it seemed ridiculous at the same time. I knew people would care, but trying to make them understand would be excruciating. I could never say what I needed; I just didn’t know.
I have found that grieving my losses is an indispensable part of human-ing. Perhaps these emotions will help rewire my brain to accept a new reality; a previously unplanned and unforeseen future. My losses this year felt cataclysmic; and every significant loss changed who I am, etching a new dimension of my identity into my soul. I would brave each day with a face that was not shattered from within. I will survive this. I will talk about this. I will not be defined by this.
Let the waves roll in.