They say people shouldn’t make major decisions or changes in the first year, and now I understand why. The first year is a roller coaster! The first year is a crazy (and, I seriously do mean crazy!) conglomeration of emotions, intensity, disconnection, and dysfunction I can’t even describe! No matter how much I wanted to move on with my life and return to normal, I couldn’t. Normal? Normal was obliterated that day! Normal ceased to exist!
The struggle to adapt and adjust became normal. Upheaval became normal. Stumbling, falling, getting up, and stumbling again became normal. Guilt. Anger, Sadness and regret. Tears without measure, tears pouring from my soul, if not from my eyes. And, through it all, trying so hard to regain my balance and restart my life.
“Something is wrong with me!” I yelled in the mirror in frustration, searching inwardly to find the despicable character flaws that caused me to be so lazy and undisciplined and lacking in dependability! No. It’s not evidence of flawed character. It’s evidence of grief! If anything could be called normal about the past year, it would be normal grieving.
I look back at the path of my grief as one looks down at the twists and turns on a mountain road from a higher vantage point. I’ve checked off all the firsts of the past year and survived the running of the gauntlet, the span from November to February when all the biggies happen--birthdays, holidays, and the anniversary of her heaven-going. I didn’t know what it would be like to pass all those milestones of firsts until I reached them. Having passed them, I realize the second time around is just as unknown and unfamiliar. I don’t know what it will be like to pass them for the second time. If looking back over the past year is one perspective on a mountain path, my view toward the next year is another perspective. Looking at the path ahead, it disappears in a mist of the unknown.
How does one find normal on an uphill, unknown, unfamiliar path?
By continuing to put one foot in front of the other just as I’ve been doing. By being gentle with myself and understanding that grief is not a character flaw.
I believe in the coming year I’ll begin to regain some of my footing and overcome some of the inconsistencies that have frustrated me so much. Even so, grief, as I’m discovering, never goes away. I’ll never come to a place where I “get over it.” As long as I live, the wound in my heart will be there, and it will always be tender. But, just as people learn to function after they've lost a limb, I’ll learn to function without her. I expect to get better at managing the dysfunctions of grieving.
Finding normal? All of this is normal.
Sara Faith Nelson
Sharing the journey, because, I find there are so many others making the trek through life without a loved one