For over five months now, I have awakened each day to the awareness that my life is momentously different. The reality of losing my life partner greets me each morning and reminds me throughout the day that living out my days will never be the same. Grief leads me.
It is a process, and I am learning not to underestimate its effect on who I am as a person, a woman, a mother and a widow. Grief is an unwelcome shadow that stalks my moments, both positive and negative. Regardless of whether I am enjoying myself, it sneaks up on me and reminds me, “Life is different.”
Like millions of others, I have enjoyed watching the television show, “This Is Us.” In one episode, the mother is crying, having helped deliver her son’s first child in his home. Confused, the son asks about her tears. She explains that they are happy tears over the joy of new life, but then she clarifies that her happy tears will probably always include some sadness because her husband has died and is not present for these new moments in her life.
That line has stayed with me. I am basically an optimistic person who walks with hope. The reality that I will never shed completely this underlying presence of loss is something I am learning. It is a delicate balance that compels me to absorb profound change into the ordinary days.
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp” (Anne Lamott).
I want to learn to dance with the limp. That is my hope and my prayer as each day greets me. On those gray days, when the weather turns dreary, I’m not so successful at dancing. They remind me of the shadow lurking in my heart, where Thurston’s presence now resides for the rest of my days.
On brighter days, however, I grab on to hope and embrace life as fully and completely as I can, celebrating new joys, new experiences, new friends, new memories to be stored also in my heart. They don’t replace Thurston, but they add to the impact he had on my heart and remind me of the many ways he loved me so well. Gratitude wells up for the years we shared.
Another American author, Washington Irving, wrote: “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
My tears, and yours, have purpose. Childhood memories of “Stop those tears” no longer prevent me from weeping when the need arises. Those who refuse to allow tears to accompany loss rob themselves of a powerful healing instrument. King David writes in the Psalms, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8). If my tears are valuable to God, then they most definitely are valuable to me.
Thurston’s witness after a breast cancer diagnosis was “Walk in hope.” Though grief now leads my way, I choose to follow his wisdom, to walk in hope. Sometimes I grab it strongly and some days the grip is weak. Still, I hope. Even in grief.