Grief. It’s individual to each one of us, yet it is a shared emotion. We try to walk the path it leads us down with strength I suppose. Never really knowing what will be waiting around the next bend, what will knock us back on our ass or who might help us up. I am no expert on grief, but I have walked in it’s darkness. I have fallen back and prayed for someone to come along to help me take even one small step forward. When I have wandered with grief by my side I’ve found that even that one small step is a step toward the light, though it may only be a glimmer, and far off down the path.
I’ve struggled to decide whether or not I should share this story…right now I’m sitting with “don’t”, while trying to decide if putting the words out there would help anyone or if they would help me to get them out of my head.
This is it for me. The week of my deepest sadness, the days of my most difficult memories, the hours leading up to the harshest ache. Can I share that publicly? Should I? Aside from all of the stupid shit I’ve done that has hurt people, hurt me. Aside from all of the times when my heart has broken or when my mind has fractured to contain the insanity I must deal with, this next string of days contains the most difficult choices I’ve ever made.
Nah, I won’t publish this one. As I sit and think back at the days, the tears come free and easy. There is no soundtrack to these days, only a great silence, a hurried press that seems to crush the air right out of me. There are flashes of memory that I can see so clearly even through my years-later-tears, that my breath catches in my chest . Moments where my heart literally pounds so hard that it makes my head ache. In these days leading to my personal moment of greatest grief my heart and mind seemingly shatter, and yet, as happened all of those years ago, the world screams to say; “carry on”.
There is no stopping. There is no chance to get off and sit on a bench while you catch your breath. When time immortal decided to stop for me I found that everyone else just kept on going. Perhaps you’ve learned this too. The worst has happened, your heart has broken, your world has seemingly ended…yet you walk outside and the sun is still shining, the wind is still blowing, the snow is still falling. Worse yet? Cars are still flying down the freeway! Bills still need to be paid! Pipes still burst! Had I been then the woman I am now I would have stood at the graveside and screamed. I would have cried out so loudly it would have stopped this damned world from it’s spinning. Just a moment in the still quiet air to inhale the fresh scent of pine. Maybe a day to sit in the snow and the slush at the graveside, not feeling as the frostbite settles in. Perhaps a week or two to ease in to the new way of the world’s spinning. Why is there no reintroduction period after deepest loss?
Yet there it is, isn’t it? I said it, in that last paragraph, did you catch it? “If I had been the woman then that I am now…”. Could I be the woman I am now if I hadn’t gone through the world’s ending? If I hadn’t seen time stop and pick up again on a different timeline would I be here, tapping out on these keys? Would I have ever have found the strength buried inside of me to leave the dark emptiness and the brokenness in my first marriage if I hadn’t known that time will stop again for me? Would I have ever had the courage to suggest we move away from the place I detest but the people I love if I had not already felt the deepest loss I will ever feel?
I know with aching certainty that I would not be here.
There is no possible way a person does not change who they are when faced with deepest loss. Or rather; there is no way a person does not find out who they fundamentally are when faced with deepest loss. It simply is not possible. In looking back I know that I would have made the same impossible decisions. I would have held my mother up as her strongest child and I would have not broken down with weeping until one of the strongest men I ever knew walked into the church that morning. I also see the shift in myself begin to take hold at this time.
True, it began a year or more before, but the heart change came with this loss. Knowing at that moment that I did not want to live a life where every day was like the one before, filled with belittling and maltreatment and fear. Or worse, filled with nothing; no passion, no excitement, no greatness. Knowing that while many people choose to never make a change, to stay where and who they are for safety’s sake, I could not be one of those people for even one more day. I began seeking a chance.
Because of this loss I know that I parent a little differently. I know that I “human” a little differently. I have this boy in the back of my mind at all times laughing and joy-filled… and then not. I know how quickly it can all be taken away. I know how quickly the joy can be pulled away. While I have been through it myself I still feel it is a pain I can not even fathom. If I focus too closely on the emotion I can not breathe. If I sit too still in the ache, the sobbing begins and I fear I may not be able to make it stop. The heartbreak of it is still raw and intense and now it comes at me from so many new angles.
I was a “sister” then, though I felt much like his mother for a lot of years. Now I am a mother and I can’t even let my mind go there for I fear I would not be able to come back with my sanity intact. I also have an oldest daughter who has a little brother and when I think of how the ache would feel for her my soul seems to split in two pieces. I am a wife, well I was then too, but I’m better at it now I think, at least I am a healthier one. I see how the loss would affect the man who struggled to be a good father to him. The man who struggled to be a father at all to him. Being the me I am now, makes all of the understanding quite overwhelming. It does not help me to know how I would feel in all of these different roles, it only breaks my heart in myriad new ways.
I am always wondering at the reasons I run, or the reasons I have run. I know it goes deeper than this string of days from thirteen years ago. I know it is rooted in how my childhood unfolded. I know that my choices in my early adulthood set me on my way. But this, the week I enter into every year on this day, this is more profound than any other single moment in my life. Even without the messed-up-edness that is my life experience, even with all of the situations you could look upon and say, “yep, that’s a big part of her why…”. The loss of my baby brother is the catalyst for change in me. It is my “No longer will I be afraid. No longer will I be ashamed. No longer will I be silent.”. It is also the deepest ache in my entire being and I wish to the heavens that it could be taken away.