You just keep living and putting one foot in front of the other. Everyone says time heals, but sometimes it doesn’t. Really. It just makes you forget more often. Life can be good again, just in a different way. I never knew how do you grief, but experiences teach you something new.
1. Staying Alive
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
2. Hanging On
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything… and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
3. Surviving the Waves
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
This is adapted from an advice on grieving I found. Then I cried. I bawl my eyes out and cried like a baby. Instead of suppressing my feelings and sadness inside, I let it all out. I gave myself a week of soaking pillow and teary eyes. We feel sadness because something is lost. Not just a person, but maybe something intangible like love, relationship or the presence.
Then Move On
Then I just moved on. The most straight-forward decision, but the toughest to execute. It hurts.
It still hurts when I remember it, but I remember it less often now. Occasionally I see a picture, a letter or I smell a scent. And the waves come crashing back. But they never do for a long time. And the waves keep getting smaller. I take comfort in the fact that it was a beautiful chapter in my life. It’s a new chapter now, and I’m learning to live without.