Saturday, June 29, 2013

One Year

Today marks one year since Bryan died.

I really can't believe it hasn't been a lot longer.  I suppose when you go through a major life change, it's normal for your sense of time to get a little skewed.  So much has changed that it feels like at least several years have passed- probably more like five.

And I think that's a good thing. It means that more healing has taken place than seems possible in just one year.  It means we've moved on and started a new life.

Over the next week or two, I plan to do a few posts sharing some of my reflections on the last year, but for now, my message is for those who are grieving.  I've learned many things in the last twelve months, but the most important lesson, while not particularly earth-shattering or grand, is most emphatically true.

There's no way through it, but through it.

That's it.  That's what I've learned.  When life is terrible, you just have to keep moving ahead.  You can't hide.  You can't go back.  Time keeps moving, and so must you.  You can wrestle with your guilt, you can indulge your grief, you can get angry, you can ask why.  All of that is acceptable.  All of that is expected.  But, in the end, whether or not you've sorted everything out and gotten all of the answers (and you won't), the only way to deal with grief is to keep living.  

I'm not saying it's easy.  It's not.  It's excruciatingly difficult.  But it is also absolutely imperative.  And I am here to tell you that, whether it seems like it now or not, you, my dear grieving friend, will get through it as long as you keep moving.

Bear in mind though, as you go through it, that grief is by no means a straight path.  The day a loved one dies, you don't pass through the gate and begin moving briskly forward, passing one landmark at a time.  It's a road with many twists and turns and some very dark tunnels.  CS Lewis says it best (doesn't he always?):

"Grief is like a long valley,
a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape...
[but] not every bend does.
Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one;
you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago.
That is when you wonder whether the valley isn't a circular trench."
(A Grief Observed, 1961)

The minute you thought you were "over" something, that you had moved past a particular trigger, you will realize that you haven't at all.  "Am I right back where I started?  I thought I 20]3was done with this grieving thing," you'll think to yourself.  But I've come to see that those setbacks aren't really setbacks in the truest sense of the word.  They may seem to impede your progress, but if you pick yourself up and keep going, they become just another step forward in the messy valley of grief.  The darkness of the bad days lightens, almost imperceptibly at first, and then more and more as time passes.  And the dark days come less frequently.  Grief is not, as CS Lewis goes on to conclude, a circular trench after all.

My testimony to the grieving is this:  There is hope.  There is life.  There is light.  Maybe not yet, but soon.  Just keep going through it.

O, Lord,
"Remember the word to Your servant,
Upon which You have caused me to hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
For Your word has given me life."
Ps. 119:49-50

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