During my previous journeys of grief, there has come a definitive day when I realized the rest of the world has decided to “go on,” leaving me feeling very much alone in my loss. After my dad passed away, one last sympathy card arrived; then there simply were no more. None trickled in weeks or even months later. Life had stopped grieving with me, but I still grieved.
There is always a point, I believe, when any of us touched with grief realizes this truth. Life does go on. The grieving are left to determine how they will go on. Simultaneously, there is the challenge to balance the ongoing intensity of loss with the awareness that one must find a way to choose going on with life. The tangle of anguish and hope stretch the limits of the emotions. One moment, the sudden memory of a tender interaction provokes tears in the midst of an ordinary day; the next instant, the recollection of a shared joy prompts laughter and appreciation for the goodness that life held for a moment in time.
Losing Thurston as a physical presence in my life has been the most profound experience of loss that I have incurred. I’m still very much on a journey of discovering how to live without him. I can move and breathe, make decisions, carry out routine responsibilities; but I have yet to learn how to “go on” with the void in my heart. Wise people tell me the void never leaves but I will learn to live with it. Oh, I hope so, but right now it still seems quite a daunting challenge.
Never one to drift, always one to have a purpose and a plan, I’m finding it difficult to deal with times that I do feel adrift … lost in a sea of competing feelings, trapping me in a sluggish reverie with no one thing or person to rescue me. The truth is that I must learn now to rescue myself, to discover avenues of navigating life on my own.
Even with the presence of caring family and friends, there comes the moment when I must make the decision, I must accept the challenge, I must face the choice, I must do the thinking, I must accept the consequences. I have no one to fall back on except myself. It has been and still is a daunting change. Since life goes on, however, I face the reality that if I am to live responsibly and responsively, I need to embrace this opportunity to discover a different me.
Traveling recently, I discovered ways that I might embrace this momentous change in my life. There is no one way to move forward. I know I will make mistakes and take missteps, but with each one, I will have the opportunity to grow. I know this is what Thurston would tell me; he said it many times in our marriage and showed it in the ways he supported and encouraged me through previous mistakes and missteps.
I found a decorative plaque that takes each letter of the alphabet and creates a “to do list” for this “life goes on” phase of my journey. Some I have already done, others I have yet to experience; but it’s a guide that I appreciated so much I bought it and placed it by the kitchen sink so I will see it every morning.
Amaze yourself. Be kind. Create. Dream big. Enjoy life. Fear not (!). Go places. Have fun. Imagine. Jump for joy. Know love. Live well. Make friends. Never quit. Open heart. Play along. Quiet down. Respect all. Sing along. Trust. Unite. Venture out. Wonder.
Extend grace. Yell out loud. Zig zag.
I do not go on alone, for God reminds me, “… I am with you … I am your God … I will strengthen you … I will help you … I will uphold you” (Isaiah 41:10).
One day, all I may be able to do is quiet down. The next, I may be able to sing along for a time. Eventually, I may be able to recognize that I am living well. Can I do this? I think so. I hope so. After all, life goes on; and so, too, with God’s presence and grace, must I.