When you lose someone, everyone is quick to tell you, in soft voices laden with reassurance, that you will forget. That time anesthetizes the sharp pains that disrupt your sleep and interrupt the most mundane moments of your day.
And they’re absolutely right.
But what they don’t tell you is that the forgetting hurts as much as the initial loss. That in the forgetting, you lose another piece of that which you have already lost.
That the resilience that propelled you through the gasping breaths of panic and the heaving sobs of loneliness is a double-edged sword.
It doesn’t happen all at once, but bit by bit. Time slowly erodes the trauma of the loss itself until the scale slowly tips the other way. Until it is not the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about as you drift off to sleep.
You realize that life does go on, time does make you forget, and you are strong enough to live without them.
Yes, there is something triumphant about that. But that resilience brings its own brand of pain.
That might not make any sense if you view grief as an inherently negative emotional state. As an unpleasant task to be eventually checked off with a sense of accomplishment. Or a Herculean quest to prove your strength or your mettle.
But that’s where I think we’ve gotten it all wrong.
If you instead view grief simply as a measure of your love – a tangible reminder of what you were lucky to have – it is actually a comfort.
Those nights when I sank to the kitchen floor, shaking and sobbing were not painful for me. I did not wish them away. I did not wish for company, for an arm around my shoulder offering solace. Those were my moments. Mine alone. Those were the moments when I was reminded of the breadth and depth of the love we shared.
And, truthfully, as those pangs of grief lessen – as the time between them increases – there is a part of you that hurts in a different way. There is a part of you that doesn’t want to forget.
Always on July 3rd, I am struck by a deep sense of nostalgia for that last moment of innocence I had. Standing in the kitchen as my dad bounded through like Tigger, full of excitement at the game he had invented for the boys. Sending a silly text to a friend. Tucking the boys into bed and smelling the salt in their hair. When loss was a just word I used to describe my weight, my memory, or the whereabouts of my keys.
Our minds conveniently forget the details of pain so our hearts will continue to love with fervor, with reckless abandon. If it were not so, we would never have the courage to love again knowing we will inevitably lose again.
We all lose the people we love. We lose our sense of security. We lose our faith. And that can break you if you let it. But when I see these 3 faces, I remember that the things we lose always come back to us if we look with our hearts and not our eyes.
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