I ended yesterday’s post with this line: Life is good these days. Let’s keep it that way.
It felt strange to write that. How can life be good? How can I say that? How can I say I’m OK when nothing is OK? This past Friday marked four months since I lost my mom. Looking at the big picture — my whole future, the whole expanse of the rest of my life laid out — four months is like a heartbeat. It’s nothing. I am not going to pretend that my grieving process is “complete” or that I’m “healed” or “whole again” or I’m “moving on” or any crap like that — that doesn’t happen. It will never happen. That’s not why life is good. I will grieve this for the rest of my life — the rest of my life will be made up of healing — and I think that is ultimately why I can say life is good these days. Because this is life.
One thing that helped me after my second miscarriage, strange as it might seem, was knowing that my grief wasn’t going anywhere and there was nothing I could do to change it. Learning to live with the sadness, rather than fight against it, was actually liberating, and as the months went on I learned that it was possible to say things like I am doing well and mean it in a big-picture kind of way and not a you know, considering kind of way. It takes time to get there — like I said above, this past Friday marked four months since I lost my mom — but it’s possible to arrive at that place.
Which again begs the question: How? Well, I can only tell you what I think is true for me, and the journey for you will undoubtedly be different. At any rate, a good place to start is by identifying what you mean by OK. For instance, I can’t talk about my mom without crying — I can barely even think about her without eventually tearing up — but I don’t have some kind of internal threshold I feel I need to reach in order to feel any small amount of contentment. Peace and grief can coexist. Understanding this fact has been one of the most important things I’ve learned in the past year – maybe the most important thing, because it’s helped me so much.
It takes time for peace and grief to learn to live together. When grief first overtakes you it’s like a flood, screaming into your life, consuming you, drowning you. There’s just no room for anything else. But like any flood eventually it recedes. You come up for air. You assess the damage. You take deep breaths, literally and figuratively, and see what remains and what’s survived the wreckage. And for me, the thing that has always eventually revealed itself is that sense of peace. Not hope, especially — hope comes later, so don’t worry about it at first — but peace.
Now, how to cultivate that peace? For me the answer seems to be one part distraction, one part exercise, one part faith, and one (BIG) part patience. I’ve talked already about how distraction and exercise have helped me in the last year (and by distraction I mean doing things to take my mind off my grief), but faith and patience are the other big part. Feeling OK in the midst of ongoing grief won’t happen in an instant, but understanding that your peace and contentment can transcend your circumstances can help it to happen in time.
One last note: this isn’t a linear journey, either. The ratio of grief to peace is constantly shifting, and it will continue to do so for the rest of my life, in all circumstances. But I will choose, as best I can, to keep clinging to the peace.