How Sudden Suddenly Happens
My eyes are open but cannot see.
My body is awake but cannot feel.
My heart is beating but cannot rest.
My mind is flooded but cannot reason.
My spirit is present but cannot believe.
I can feel the pressure of my eyes staring out the window trying their hardest to take in that which is life. As they seek reassurance from the outside world that it is still there, they begin to realize that it is now the internal world that is suspicious, uncertain, and laced with doubt. Their narrowed focus causes tension to grow in my temples, bringing discomfort to my face, mind, and body. I can feel their attempt of trying to find something, anything, to take me away from that what I am feeling, to take me away from grief.
“I have been lucky enough not to have been touched directly by grief in my life”, a statement that is usually said right before it is concluded with “until now.” This statement is now one that I am living while at the same time resisting with all my tried might. Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to wrap my mind around suddenly losing someone. One day here, the next day they are gone. My reality shattered in a moment as the realization of mortality seeped into my skin, always known but now embodied, felt, everywhere. I am beginning to understand that grief lives in every cell of your being. The aches, the pains, the deep boned sorrow that creates a home below the skin where it once was not. A heavy emptiness forms, solidly taking up space, and as I begin to feel it, I realize there is no way around it. The helpful strategies of denial aid the pain every once and again, but in one sigh of a ghostly breathe, I quickly am brought back to the relentless truth. The realization that there is no escaping sets in, igniting the sorrow of loss, and worries about how to keep moving.
Grief, the ultimate interlude of life. Time begins to feel as though it does not move linearly. Instead, my mind begins to play tricks on me. Taking me back to memories, to life before, to their voice, their smile, their aliveness. Flooded, my mind continues on this strange journey, throwing me into questioning the truth, trying to reconcile that which can not be understood, and begging for a different reality. I try to find myself in these moments. Searching anywhere, everywhere for an anchor. My feet stumble as I try and locate the ground, I can see it but all feeling has been lost, and I begin to realize that I have succumbed to the numbness. This in-between place, of being somewhere but nowhere sets in, as my spirit becomes destabilized it attempts to grasp onto anything without moving, for that would be too much. Reconciling the loss of life creates lifelessness in me, and I surrender. Grief becomes me, and I grief.
Grief is not new to me. I have said goodbye many times before. I have left and been left. I have vanished in and out, while others return and left again. I have had short impulsive goodbyes and long-drawn-out partings. I have witnessed many different types of farewells. In my previous life, I worked at a hospice, where people intentionally go when they are approaching the end of their life. Some thought my choice for a career as a young person was morbid, others thought it was courageous. If anything at all, I always had something to talk about that interested others and in a way that felt special. I witnessed hundreds of families say goodbye to their loved ones. Some gathered around their bed, others sat on a bench placed beautifully next to the sunflowers that lined the home's garden. Some cried silently, some wept as though they could not locate their own breath. Some danced around their room, playing their person's favorite music, finding joy amongst mortality. Others sat in prayer and some sat alone. I held the hands of those who were passing, watching as they took their final breath. I ushered words of solace, peace, and love. I gave people permission to go and offered reassurance that their loved ones would be ok. I caught family members amid collapse, in mourning, and in the rawness that is goodbye. I held space for all of their feelings, all of the grief that they were now experiencing, and all the grief that they had experienced in their life. Still, nothing could have prepared me for my own grief. This goodbye that I am facing does not feel like the other goodbyes that I have witnessed in my life. This goodbye is more sudden, laced with shock, disbelief, and layered with despair. An urge to say goodbye consumes me, but even the urge knows it will never truly feel satisfied. For there is no way of satisfying grief, there is only learning to live amongst it.
A few days after I received the news, I found myself standing in the dark in front of a mirror unable to see myself. I knew I was there but felt lost to all possibilities of being found. As time is passing, so is the shock. Every week I can feel a little bit more, inch by inch I am taking up form again, in the world of the living. This both brings hope and sadness, for once I am back it means I have to keep going without them. I will be forever changed and morphed by this goodbye which will not be a part of my story. Being a mother while grieving has helped, for I cannot vanish completely, and the joy that my son brings fills up empty holes and softens harden walls. What has touched me, has touched so many, and eventually will touch all of us in some way. Even though I am not yet able to see all of the life around me, I know that it is there, and I am finding some peace in that knowing.
This essay was written thanks to a monthly theme "Escape" from Illuminate, a writing community from The Kindred Voice.
Read more pieces about Escape from my fellow Illuminate members:
How Do You Escape? by Crystal James
When All My Escapes Fail, Except One by Christi Jeane
un-becoming by Laci Hoyt
Escaping My Calling by Christine Carpenter
Escape Via Him by Amy Rich
Can't Escape My Worries (a poem) by Mia Sutton