At first, grief seems overwhelming because it is. It almost kills you, quite literally, and I don’t feel good admitting that. But it’s the truth.
At first life goes on without you. Beside you. Away from you. Apart from you. Very, very distant from you.
Everyone around you is going and doing and laughing and living while you are grieving. They are kind and polite, but most of them aren’t quite sure what to say or do.
I used to be one of those people. And then grief hit me like a freaking atom bomb.
In the first days of grief, you struggle to breathe. To eat. To sleep. To survive, and you aren’t even sure you want that. You’re not sure you belong here anymore. You no longer fit in.
But, life goes on.
One day you notice you are breathing without having to think about your breath flowing in and out. The air is nourishing your body without conscious thought.
You find that you are able to sleep again. Not all night, but enough to make it worthwhile.
Your appetite isn’t fully back, but you eat because it is the healthy thing to do and you want to keep yourself healthy.
You start a journal to document this awful journey. The first entries are short and sad. You cry while writing them.
People around you are still chatting like nothing ever happened (because it didn’t, not to them). They make plans, have dinner together, share stories and laughter. Sometimes you hear them laughing and feel a twinge of grief mixed with longing, and you think, “That was supposed to be me.”
You still feel like an outsider, but wish it weren’t so. You long to fit in.
As life goes on.
The days become weeks and the weeks become months and you wonder if your memories are real or if they will fade into nothing.
Days are just as much good as they are not-so-good. The loneliness pervades, but you start to see through its cloud.
Your concentration returns. You are able to think clearly again. Your journal entries become more coherent and cohesive.
You count your blessings, because they are many. You want to bring joy to others, because it’s a small thing that you can still do. You want to find joy in yourself because you know it is still there.
One day, you notice you are smiling. You even laugh on occasion. You realize you feel a twinge of happiness and long for more. You meet a new friend. Make a new connection and start to feel a new longing for life.
Maybe some day you might fit in.
And life goes on.
Then, one morning you wake up and it seems like a new day. It isn’t really — this was long in the making — but something about this day feels new.
The sound of rain on the rooftop is a wonderful sleep elixir. Waking up to it pattering on the windowpanes is equally peaceful. The rain stops and sunshine glimmers through the trees. Outside, the birds are singing, and it is as though you are hearing them with new ears. The world, itself, seems new.
You realize you’ve come to appreciate life again. Joy and peace reside within you, where they have always been. You breathe in pure, clean air and look forward to the day ahead.
You turn to your grief journal and realize it is no longer all about grief but much more about life; it has become a life journal.
You smile and give thanks, knowing it means you are probably doing more living than grieving, and realize that’s probably a good sign.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.