When days become months and months become years it’s hard to explain to others how grief is both always present but not always in focus.
I’ve struggled to help those outside the loss community understand that the absolute weight of the burden is precisely the same as when it fell on me without warning that dark morning.
Dominic’s absence, if anything, has seeped into more places, changed more relationships and influences more choices than it did seven years ago when I was only just beginning to comprehend what a world without him would look like.
But I, and my family, have continued to live.
We’ve added family members through marriage and birth. We’ve gone places, made memories and made career moves. We’ve gotten older. My husband retired. Children moved away.
All these things and more mean that life is simply bigger than it was when Dom left us.
It’s a slow, gradual process.And for some hearts who are forced to endure multiple losses in a short time the jar may never get very large because the grief is so great.
I remember when I realized that sorrow was not ALL I felt nor Dominic’s absenceALLI saw.It was a bit frightening to be honest.
Did that mean my love for him was waning or that his importance in our family was forgotten? Was I a bad mother because I no longer cried every day for the child not here? Had my heart grown cold?
But then I realized none of those things were true. What allowed me to feel joy again, to participate fully in family outings or gatherings, to plan holidays and birthdays once more was instead that my heart had found a way to hold both sorrow and gladness at the same time.
There are still days when grief looms large and my world seems too small to contain it. But those don’t come as often as they once did.
Life will march on, regardless of how hard we might wishit wouldn’t.
And, in large measure, life after loss is what we choose to make of it.
No one wakes up one day and just “is”. We become, over time, as our innate nature interacts with the world around us. First our parents and siblings influence us and then school, friends, life experience either gently molds us or pounds us into shape.
Often we get so used to our own way of doing and being we never give it much thought. It’s just “how we are”. We work around our faults and try to use our strengths to our advantage.
Most of us are pretty good at it.
Then something earth shattering comes along and suddenly the cracks are exposed and we haven’t the energy to cover them over.
My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May. Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.
If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.
But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the over seven years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.