I found a piece I’d written several years ago, and realized that it is timely for this time of year. While this is a heavy piece–unlike most of my posts, I feel its message is important to anyone who may still be missing a loved one, which, I have found, is most of us. My wish is that if you are feeling this pain, too, that you will feel at least a small measure of peace, and realize you are stronger than you may know.
In just two days, we will experience the shortest day of the year; the longest night. There will be more darkness than any other day, and then the light will begin to return, slow but sure.
It always does.
The holidays are a festive time of year, celebrations of peace and joy abound. This is a favorite time of year for many people, but for some, it is not so joyous.
The last two years have been a crucible for many people, and for some, loved ones have been taken. Too many people have died from COVID; this is a heartbreak we all are aware of. Other losses abound too, and while holidays are meant to be a pinnacle of joy, they can also be extremely difficult for those who have lost a loved one in the past year, or years past.
We are approaching the 13th Christmas without our parents, and while our tears have been mostly replaced by laughter and warm memories, we will never forget how hard those first months and years were.
If the pain of your loss is still greater than the joy you want to feel, please know there is light ahead. The darkness always subsides, and you will emerge a stronger person. Just as certainly as December 22nd will be a bit lighter than the day before, the light will grow brighter every day for you, if you let it.
And that is the truth.
THE TRUTH (written in 2019)
The truth, my friend, is that you are going to be okay. This ‘okay,’ however, is yet unknown to you. It won’t be the savory, sweet okay you once knew; it won’t be the same okay you knew before the loss and want so desperately to get back. It will be a new breed of okay, and what it will look, feel and smell like, you don’t yet know.
The truth is that you will likely have many dark moments in the near future, even on the brightest, sunshiny days. You may feel your heart will be further ripped from your body as you feel so acutely how much you miss your loved one. You may even wonder how it could feel even more painful than the earliest days, yet, it just might. You might wonder how you can breathe long enough to get through to the next minute, but you will.
You will keep on breathing, and you will keep on moving forward, because you don’t have the choice to do anything besides that. You will move on to the next moment, the next minute and the next hour, and those will turn into the next day and the next week. The sun will continue to come up each morning, just for you.
You might wonder how the rest of the world can keep on spinning as if nothing has happened. Your loved one died, dammit, and they don’t seem to care. Curse them now if you must–I did, but remember this: there will come a day when you are ready to get back on the spinning wheel that the world revolves on, and these people have kept it spinning for you. You will then thank them. It would be impossible to get it moving again if they had let it grind to a halt when you wanted them to so that they could stop everything and grieve with you.
You will soon–and this soon can’t be defined in temporal terms–be able to smile from deep in your heart again, instead of forcing the smile on your face to make the world think you have the old okay back, because that is what they want for you, and for themselves. This is hard for them, too, because they truly don’t know what to say or do. They most likely haven’t been exactly where you are, and they don’t speak or understand the language. Don’t hold it against them, I was one of them before. Most people are one of them in the before.
Yet, here you are. You keep breathing when you think you can’t, and you keep moving forward when you think you can’t, putting one foot in front of the other, even if each foot weighs hundred pounds. And, you might even smile.
When this smile rises up from your heart, you may feel as if you should push it back down, stuffing it in because surely, you shouldn’t be smiling when your loved one is no longer on this plane, on this planet. You may feel a bit guilty, as if you are dishonoring them.
But you’re not. You are doing what comes naturally when you loved someone so much, and they were taken from you. You are simply feeling them in your heart, the same heart that felt like it was being ripped out just a short time ago. And in your heart they will stay, even on those days when the old familiar searing pain comes roaring back as if it were brand new, as if the wound was just made.
When you’re tired or not feeling well, when no one seems to understand–even those close to you , because they truly can‘t, when your job is hard or when the car breaks down or the basement floods, but especially when they don’t show up at your holiday table you may feel your heart being ripped out all over again.
The beast of grief won’t be leaving any time soon. You will soon become comfortable with it, even though you won’t want to. It will become a docile beast over time, and you will figure out how to manage it, even though it stays strong. It should be strong, because you loved them so much. But in time, you, my friend, will become stronger than the beast. You will crawl out of the belly of that beast. It swallowed you whole, but you will find your way out, back into the sunshine. Not right away, not as soon as you may hope, but you will. You never wanted to become this strong, but there you will be, feeling mightier than you ever thought you humanly could.
You may reach for the phone to call them, because they need to know this. They need to know about your great news. Or may you need to ask about that recipe. You may keep doing this–albeit, not as often–for a long time. Years, perhaps. But you will one day stop yourself and remember they can’t be called on the phone anymore. And one day when this happens, you will smile instead of feeling as if you need to cry again. This will very likely become routine.
You may, even more than eleven years down the road–that’s how long I’ve been living in my new okay, break down and feel as if you haven’t moved an inch since you got the news. You may wonder how you got this far; surely you didn’t fully grasp the finality, the darkness of their departure. And here it comes, the blackness, roaring back to remind you: they are indeed gone.
But not really gone. They are still with you, and they are with you every moment of every day. Everywhere your heart goes, which, of course, is everywhere you go, they will be there. They may feel a million light years away sometimes, lost in that next dimension, but they have never been closer than they are right now.
This, my friend, is the truth. And you are going to be okay.
This post is dedicated especially to anyone grieving a loved one lost to COVID, but to any other form of loss as well. You will be ‘okay’ again, and the light will indeed come back into your life. And they will ALWAYS be in your heart. May your holidays bring you a measure of peace and strength.
Merry Christmas from the sisters of The Sister Lode. We are living proof that the light comes back.