Somewhere, in that space between the loss and the letting go of it, you must feel its whole, heavy, crushing weight. That’s what grief is. No one prepares you for how heavy that weight is, how hard it is to carry, or how long it will linger in your heart. But you have to feel it in its entirely, in order to feel the light begin to peek in the cracks on the other side of grief. It will never go away completely; you will always carry some of it with you. It changes you, but in time the light will come back and you will see the road forward with new eyes.
My last three years have been largely about grief. The end of my marriage, a job with a toxic environment, the loss of two beloved cats, and having my life upended by my father’s sudden death.
There were nights I cried myself to sleep, and days I felt so numb that I thought I may never cry again. I walked with that weight pressing me down, invading every inch of my soul. I walked even on days when I thought I couldn’t possibly have any more strength. I lay awake most nights at 3 am, turning over every word, every feeling, every look I had received, trying to make sense of what went wrong. I did this even when I knew logically that I did the best I could, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, I upheld my end of the deal. Not perfectly, but I did the best I could.
I lay awake with the weight of knowing that you can’t make somebody else step up to the plate, or keep the promises they made. Knowing that sometimes you just run into assholes, and kindness won’t make them stop being assholes. Knowing that sometimes we all get the shitty end of the deal, no matter what we do. When I did sleep, I had vivid nightmares. My brain is very, very ruthless. For me sleep came and went, with the insomnia returning with each new trauma. At some point, the sleepless nights once again became nights where I slept more peacefully. It creeps up slowly, so you aren’t really sure exactly when it happens. I still have those nights that I wake up at 3 am and turn over everything in my mind; they are coming less often now though.
The light seeps into the cracks, and you find your smile returning. Sometimes other people notice it before you realize it’s there. You find yourself laughing where you faked it before. You find yourself looking forward to things again, instead of seeing each day as something to be endured. My road trip helped me immeasurably. With each mile that I drove, and each place I visited, and each kind person I met along the way, the weight lessened. My heart lightened. But time played a part too – and the distance that time creates.
No, it never really truly goes away. You still have the memories. The good memories, that bring you joy and peace. And the bad memories hit you like a gut punch when you least expect it. They also remind you that you can get through it, as long as you don’t give up. You change. The grief will still be a part of you. But it will no longer define you. So yes, somewhere, in that space between the loss and the letting go of it, you must feel its whole, heavy, crushing weight – there isn’t any other way. I’m not quite there yet, but one day, it will feel lighter.