At some stage of grief, we accept that they are gone, really gone. We miss that person, their spirit, the way they were in the world. That’s all gone.
Then the other losses begin to mount. The future, as we planned it. I, in particular, lost my past. Some lose their financial security, or their homes, or the children they never had, or their helpmeet. After we lose the person we all experience a combination of losses particular to ourselves. Whatever they are, the losses keep coming.
And we go on anyway. That’s the stunning fact. Put in a wretched place, hopes and dreams dashed, bereft, achingly alone, knowing that our beloved is never coming back, staring into the gaping hole, we go on. We don’t know how we do it. We do it. There may be strength there, or resources embedded in the human condition. Who knows. Denise modeled this so beautifully. We lose another thing. It seems unfathomable that we can bear this new loss after having lost so much. Shrug. We go on.
After the initial losses and living in crisis to get this household in order and having a fairly successful schoolyear, I fell into a funk. May was enervating. June was a black hole, emotionally. I hated this life, this house, this town, these people who give me strange looks or exclude me or feel so sorry for me that they can’t even look at me. Each time I returned from a trip this summer I held back tears, wishing I could move to a place where people would just treat me like a person. For the month of June I hardly spoke to anyone. I holed myself up, let in the loneliness and felt alienated.
And then I saw that alienation for what it was. It was loss. Not the really bad losses around Steve’s death, but loss, nevertheless. My life resembles my past life–same job, same house, same kids–but I haven’t felt a part of it. My children have been through trauma. They are not the children they were. I am no longer the parent I was. I have the same job, but my career path was lost. And so on with the house, social life, etc. I kept waiting for this grieving to be over so I could resume my old life. But my old life is gone. It is lost. It is never coming back. All these semblances of my old life are illusions, which is what made it difficult to discern that the old life is gone.
That sounds bleak, but that jolted me right out of my funk. Because, loss? Loss I know. I know that we lose and it will be okay. I know that it hurts to not have these things, but we will go on anyway. (And I know that the things I have are very good pieces for building a new life. I know that.)
Something else happened when I acknowledged my situation as loss. I wasn’t getting it back, so I let it go. They tell you that, to let it go. This time, I really understood it. I let it go. And it was liberating. I stopped longing for what I didn’t have. Just like that. I wasn’t even aware that I was in a state of longing for what I don’t have until I stopped. And just like that, I felt freed.
This all happened about a week or two ago, just like that. One day while walking the dogs I noticed that I wasn’t carrying that box of pain in my chest. I was just a person, walking two dogs. I haven’t been resentful or feeling sorry for myself. I’m just doing what I do, grateful for what comes my way. Ever since I couldn’t button a pair of shorts in early June, I’ve been cutting back on my near-nightly wine drinking. That took some willpower, because I’ve hated my long lonely nights, but I’ve been consciously cutting back for the sake of my waistline. Within the past few weeks, though, this became easy. I haven’t needed to pour that first glass of wine to face the long lonely night ahead. The nights don’t feel so ominous anymore.
I am so pleased to be freed of longing for what I can’t have. That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m complacent, or that I don’t want things. In fact, I finally feel the sensation of want. I stopped longing, and I started feeling desire for things I can have.
Back in June, I saw that there was going to be a 5k on the brand new highway. Before they open it for cars, they are letting the walkers and runners and cyclists take it over in an inaugural race. That seemed neat, I thought, but I haven’t been running, so I forgot about it. Not for me. Last week, a friend invited me to run. (Friends ask me periodically. I decline. They back off and ask again a month or two later. I love them for this.) This time, I said I’d like to join her. I ran on my own, just a little, to test things out, and I found that I’m in good starting shape, because I have been keeping up with moderate exercise. I can work my way up to a presentable 5k. And let’s face it, a few runs a week would make it easier to button those shorts. And golly, it will be fun to say to my kids, every time we drive on that highway, “You know, I ran on here once.” Can you imagine the eyerolling? Every time! But, really, the thought of runners taking over that highway makes me think of that half marathon I ran a couple of years ago. The start took us the wrong way down a one-way street. I saw the town through new eyes. In the pack of runners were students, colleagues and friends. I waved hi to spectators I knew and joked with spectators I didn’t. It was so much fun. I loved that Half. I loved doing it in this town. And I really want to run that once-in-a-lifetime run on the new highway. I want to do it because it’s a neat thing to do. I want to do it because I want to.
So I got in touch with those wonderful women in my core group, those women who have asked me to run. We plan to run that 5k together.