Today I turn a year older. It might as well be ten years older though, based on the events of the last fourteen months.
Two heartbreaking deaths, entry and subsequent exit from a business venture, additions to an already complex blended family, not to mention the daily routine of being a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend – all this while trying to maintain some notion of sanity.
Everyone I tell my story stares at me dumbfounded, wondering how I have managed to get through the past year without being admitted into a mental facility. And yes, not only have I managed to keep my head above water, I have somehow found tranquility in the midst of all the storms that continue to rage around me.
A hungry stomach, an empty wallet and a broken heart teach you the most valuable lessons in life.
I am not sure who came up with this quote, but it’s a concise summary of my life’s experiences in the past decade. I have endured each of these situations in various degrees of intensity, riding wave after wave of adversity, and somehow getting back on my feet each time I got knocked down.
For all my grit however, there is one wave that has always taken more out of me than any other. And in the last one year, it literally hit me like a full-on tsunami.
The wave of Grief.
I am no stranger to Grief. In fact, at this point, we are so well acquainted to the extent of feeling like old friends.
Most people do not know what to do with Grief – they treat it like a curable disease. Just get through the five stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) and you are as good as new. If only it were that simple.
Grief is a multi-faceted monster. Different for each person and rarely following any kind of linear stage progression. Some people even experience all the stages in one single day. Others skip right to acceptance and then bounce right back to denial. Its highly unpredictable, extremely unnerving and creates a sense of hopeless disorientation.
It is a never ending process. Typically, pain from loss doesn’t really go away – we simply learn to live with it. Also, if you can find an outlet for it, then the pain does seem to fade with time though it can hit you again when you least expect it. Suppressing it usually creates worse problems – like depression, stress, anxiety, repressed and often misdirected negative feelings.
The main thing about Grief though, just like a tsunami, it completely alters anyone it comes into contact with. If you have been through loss or heartbreak, then you know what I mean. That precise moment where your life shifted irrevocably. When you knew nothing would ever be the same again. When your perception of life changed drastically mostly due to the gaping vacuum in your broken heart.
That crossroad in your life with a clear Before and After point.
That empty chair at the dinner table. That saved contact on your phone whose calls will forever go unanswered. All those “if only” thoughts that refuse to vacate from your mind.
And from my personal experience, the worst scar Grief leaves you with – altered relationships. Loss has a way of determining who sticks around in your life and who falls off. The people that you least expect are the ones who appear and support you while those you thought would be there for you, somehow just fall back. Almost as if Grief was an infection that they could possibly catch.
So here I am; a year older (and certainly wiser) and as resilient as ever despite having considerably fewer friends than this time last year.
Also, I have bucket loads of peace so I would say, that’s a great trade off.