Have you loved and lost? Was your heart torn apart? Happiness is unimaginable.
But they say it will get better: the grief books, the clergy, the friends. Who believes them? How can it be possible, with the searing pain, the huge loss, and the finality of death that it can “get better”? And even be happy again? When my son was killed, I did not believe them either.
But… they were right.
It has gotten better.
It can get better for you too. And it is okay to let “better” come.
At first, the intense sadness and grief can feel like a choke-hold. You feel like you are walking in a fog or a daze, confused and empty. Some describe it a boot dug into the chest. One man said when his father died it felt like the roof was blown off but when his mother died is was like the ground fell out from under his feet.
As we keep walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we make progress on the switch-back path out of the valley by mourning and processing the emotions. It may seem like we are not progressing because we seem to be looking at the same huge rocks at the side of the path. But slowly, you realize they are the same rocks but they look a little smaller. That's because grief, like the switchback, is zigzagging back and forth but you are slowly rising above them and they are getting smaller and smaller. The day comes when you wake up and for a moment, even forget the terrible thing that has happened, before it flashes back in your memory. That is progress. Slowly the acute suffering and pain has lightened and is getting smaller.
Is it betraying our loved one, when for that moment, we forget that they have died? That we actually breathe deep, feel happiness and even laugh again?
About a year after her husband died, one young widow was at a wedding and was coaxed on to the dance floor by an old high school friend. She enjoyed herself but afterwards, ended up in the bathroom crying. She loved dancing again and loved that for a few minutes she was happy again. "Was that okay," she wondered. As she thought about it, she realized that her husband had been a man who enjoyed life and people and he would urge her to engage in life and even dance again! That was who he was and she would honour his legacy more by engaging the joy of life.
I too, remember making a joke after my son died, and laughing, then… I gasped! How can I allow myself to joke when my son’s moments of life and happiness are all destroyed? Is it dishonouring him? I too, realized that he would want me to go on being happy. He was a bit of a family comedian with his dry wit, always enjoying making us all laugh. Us not being happy would disappoint him. He would want his legacy to be those happy memories and the freedom to laugh and live again.
Often, at funerals. there jokes told - the funny things our loved one did. It helps us to treasure the happy moments that our loved one left us. They are ours forever, as a gift from them. But it also lifts the heavy pain of loss for a few seconds to laugh with them again. Death does not erase the great moments of love and laughter that we enjoyed together nor can it erase the love we had. They are ours to cherish, death can not destroy the happy moments nor end our love for them.
For me, my future has brought me little grandchildren to love with all my heart but I also still love my son with all my heart. Our loved ones that have passed away are not displaced by our new joys and loves but instead our torn hearts heal up bigger and richer and can now hold them all and love them all. Love does not stop at death. We will always love our precious ones, though tinged with the sadness of missing them.
We will always have a deep love our precious ones, even when we laugh, love and feel happiness again.
Yes, it does get better.
Big hugs and love,
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