When we are feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the inconsolable pain of our grief, we often wonder, is this going to be my life forever? Will the pain ever go away?
If grief has slammed into our life in a fury we are knocked down, broken and shattered, gasping for breath in a fog of shock, numbness and confusion. The pain becomes relentless and all consuming. The intensity and constancy of it staggers us and frightens us and we feel we will never be whole again.
In the early days of my own grief I was stunned by the fury of my pain, the agony I had to endure each and every minute. It floored me and I was terrified. I was terrified by the force of it. I was terrified by my frailty. I was terrified that this agony, this brokenness would be my life forever.
I went minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day…seeking, wondering, asking. When does it get better? How long does it last? How did you survive? Screaming, when will the pain go away?
I started measuring my struggle by my tears or lack of them and what was happening each day. I only cried twice today. I haven’t cried for a day. When it got to two days, I celebrated. The tears lasted thirty minutes instead of two hours. Amidst my tears and the tatters of my heart I started looking for moments of comfort, and moments of hope. I searched for stories of survival and gulped in the inspiration I found. I wanted anything that would bring a shard of light into the darkness of my life. Day by day ease came in the tiniest of increments and the pieces of my life once shattered forever started coming together again into moments of pleasure, joy and happiness.
Those tears, those moments, those tiniest of increments became my markers; the guideposts that helped me understand and notice my grief and my healing a little better. I saw where I was in my day and in my life. I noticed when my feelings came, how powerful they were and how long they lasted. I also learnt that my grief would never be a straight line from A-B, over finished with, recovered and happy again. It became to me an ever evolving spiral which forms part of who I am now.
If I am around the outer part of the spiral the pleasurable moments in my life are merged and more than the painful moments.
I keep the memory and presence of my son uppermost in my day.
I take time to nurture myself.
I spend time with the people that matter most to me.
I purposefully find something each day to appreciate and enjoy.
If I am moving towards the centre of my spiral the painful moments in my life are merged and more than the pleasurable moments:
I miss my son so much I ache with a longing for which there is no ease.
I spend every single moment wishing for the past, wishing for the magic eraser to take it all away.
The flashbacks are on constant replay yet again.
I can’t get out of bed and want to curl up and die myself.
Depending on where I am on my spiral these moments can be like waves gently lapping at the shoreline, or waves that pound me into the ground. Fleeting as in the wake of a passing boat or a storm that lasts for hours or days and I’m crushed again in that moment. Sometimes I can see the storm in the distance building slowly. Other times it slams into me like a bolt out of the blue. I’ve become used to those waves. Acceptance always hard gently comes and thankfully now this happens less and less.
As with my tears, my spiral and the ocean help me to know myself better. The spiral shows how my grief is rumbling through my life gently or forcibly and how powerful it is in my life at any given moment. It tells me where I am and it is a part of who I am. I don’t have to get over my grief, put it away or pack it up. I recognise the duality that will always remain. The ache and the ease. The rage and the calm. The better, the worse. The sad, the happy. The pain and the pleasure.
The loss of my son will shape and mould me for the rest of my life, my grief will spin and I will move in the spiral of its unique rhythms forever.
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Maureen Hunter is an inspirational writer and grief steps mentor giving comfort and hope to many. She is passionate about helping people to step through grief and build a new and different life after loss, one in which their loved one is always a part of.