At some point in life we all lose someone we love. It’s one of the most painful life events we have to deal with and in some ways we might never completely get over the loss.
Getting back to happiness seems a million miles away. Almost an impossibility.
And no one seems to be able to tell us how to cope right now. Today. Because that’s what we need to know.
We all manage in our own ways. Doing the best we can do, for some of us grieving takes longer and that journey back to happiness doesn’t have the same date for us all.
For anyone who can’t see their way out of the darkness that engulfs them, let alone ever taking that journey back to happiness, here’s my own, very personal story.
May this help and support you if you’re in the middle of great loss and grief. And may it help others to support you as you need.
It took me 3 years before the hourly tsunamis of anguish and despair began to weaken. And another 5 years before I truly emerged from the soul-sad darkness of grief.
The sting of the death of my husband lingered on in my memories and heart. Some days it was a struggle just to breathe and some times I couldn’t tell the nighttime from the day.
It’s the kind of sadness you feel deep in your bones.
I wasn’t going to get one more smile, one more conversation. I was never going to have one more chance to do one more something, one more anything.
No more chances for us. Loss had invaded every corner of my existence.
The strangest thing of all is that faced with such a tragedy and wondering how I was going to keep on living, I was aware that the world kept on turning. Even though part of what it had meant to me to be alive was gone forever.
How could I accept that some things would never be the way they used to be despite how desperately I tried to cling to what had been?
And now, many seasons have passed and the day did come when I could return to waking each morning without reliving the heartbreak of loss, as my eyes opened to the bright consciousness of the day.
So blessed do I feel to have made this recovery from the darkness to the light that I’m encouraged to share with you some of my small steps for taking that journey back to happiness.
1. My first step in the journey back to happiness
The first step is when you finally decide you don’t want to stay where you are.
That’s the only way to get to somewhere else.
And the hardest part is to stop looking over your shoulder at what was and wishing it still were.
I remember feeling as though I was in a dark tunnel, stuck, unmoving, looking at a pinpoint of light ahead of me and only a black void behind.
But in that black void were my memories of love and joy and laughter, and for a long time I couldn’t turn my face away.
I wasn’t ready to let go. Until I was.
But first I had to stop hiding away.
Ignoring phone calls and invitations.
Or accepting them, turning up and having to turn around and go back home, unable to bear the glow of happiness all around me.
2. Manage today
Find ways to manage the hurt today. Today you hurt so much it’s hard to breathe.
Today you can’t sleep, or eat.
Today you need to find a way to take one step back into life, or half a step, even though all you want to do is cry or stay hidden away, seeing no one, speaking to no one.
Living with memories that you never want to let go of.
It’s ok to fall apart, to be scared, what matters most is that you are respectful of yourself.
Do what it takes to get enough rest.
Take naps if you can.
Express your grief.
Emotions can be overwhelming, if you need help in dealing with them seek it. Don’t try to numb your pain. It needs to be felt if you’re to heal
3. Sometime, somehow, some day
I knew I had to move on sometime. Somehow. Some day.
Many days passed before that day came for me.
For a long time I cried for most of the day. I needed help sleeping. I was never hungry enough to eat and I didn’t know what to do with the pain the sorrow.
And I told myself it was okay. There was always tomorrow, or the day after, or next week. If I sound like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, it’s because I was just like her in those moments….”I’ll think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.”
But tomorrow was a long time in coming.
And then one day I noticed something beautiful. I noticed the stars and the moon and then the flowers in the fields.
Perpetual sadness still had a powerful grip on my heart, but at some level I was no longer totally immobilized by loss.
I could see beauty again.
In Japan there is an art form called Kintsugi.
It’s the art of piecing together something of value, something that is treasured that has been broken.
The shattered pieces are put back together with a glue that is mixed with powdered gold making the cracks themselves a work of art.
It felt as though I too had been like a piece of pottery, shattered into sharp shards.
But with the same reverence and respect displayed in Kintsugi my damaged, scarred person was given the golden glue of time, patience and love and like a beautifully restored Japanese vase I was mended.
Put back together with different, but still beautiful features.
I had accepted the gentle mending of love and care others had given to my shattered heart.
5. Last words
There are no classes, no schools to teach us how to deal with the loss of a loved one. And I won’t pretend it’s easy.
We need a safe space and the time to honor our grief and to experience pain in our own way.
It IS trial by fire and it hurts, but one of the things I learned from such pain and loss is that I was capable of much more than I realized.
And so are you.
And, by allowing grief to run it’s course, others to support our grieving hearts and life itself to deliver some degree of joy, a new life order for ourselves is created.
Getting back to feeling happiness is possible. Maybe not right now. Maybe not next month. But in it’s perfect time for you.
I hope that just knowing this, and bearing this in mind when the darkness of loss threatens to engulf you all over again, might allow you to know that where there was love and memories, there is no forever loss.
And the journey back to happiness is possible for you.
Encourage one another.