December 7, 2009

On grief and grieving: a letter to Chance

In the tall porcelain vase the sunflowers are dying. They make me think about you in those final moments of your life. 
Up until now, I have lived inside the prison of my own grief - giving little or no thought to what you experienced. 
Perhaps everything I have felt and known these past two-years, rushed through you like a freight train, the agony of losing everything you loved. 
Or perhaps you felt the deepest peace as all the beauty of the universe was illuminated.  So much time has passed since the last time that I held you. It is becoming harder to slip inside the memory of your skin.  
I have grown use to it now; the realization that you are never coming back; the longing, the loneliness, the sadness. It gets easier and less intense but it never leaves me alone.  

On this night, two years ago we were busy writing wedding vows and when I woke up  the next morning, you were gone. I don't know what happens to a person after they die - all I know is what happens to the person who gets left behind. There is no making sense of that passage of time.
Grief did not move me forward like a clock, for even time itself had been altered. 
These past two years could have easily been a thousand, or one long minute, where everything stood still. 
My grief has been like a black hole - a force field that stole me from this realm and sent me hurtling into another. 
And although I was here in the physical sense, although I got up each morning to brush my teeth and go to work and tend to the needs of my children - the most fundamental part of me was missing.  I was drifting through the dark. 
People say, that in response to shock and trauma, human beings are naturally inclined to retreat or vanish as a type of coping mechanism. 
Looking back now with a more rational mind, I know this to be true. 
During my own grief, I lost track of everything; my parent's separation, my family, friends and other peoples needs. 
The utter helplessness of losing you took me away from the world as I once knew it, and for a long time I could not see anything but shape of my own pain.  There is truth in the cliche that my world changed forever. 
For someone who was once outgoing and extroverted, I could no longer stand to be around people and even now, I  find it difficult to be pulled away from the safety of my well-worn cocoon. 
People tried to comfort me - they said time heals all wounds - but overtime I just got better at hiding them. 
In prolonged experiences of grief it is not uncommon for the grieving person to feel guilt and shame at their inability to move on. 
But for the longest time, I did not know how to move forward. 
Our story had existed in the past - not in the present or the future. And so, like a lost thing, I had anchored my heart to your memory.  

But grief is a strange and mysterious journey and it's changes are small and subtle. 
Just recently it has shown me that although our memories were beautiful; it is time to start letting them go. 
While it has taken a thousand small steps for me to be able to move through the world without you, I do feel like I am finally walking out of the darkness. 
My grief has taught me that life is fleeting. 
We are here for a short time - some journeys shorter than others - and while I will never understand why the most beautiful souls are taken early, I now know that in order to honor your death, I must make every moment count. 
I don't think the pain of losing you will ever truly disappear - how could it when we were made for one another? 
But as you once told me my love, every journey begins with a single step and the future is full of possibilities. I know now that I am beginning to believe you. 

To my friends and family who have stood by my side through this long, dark night of the soul - 
I thank you, from the deepest place in my heart. Misha.

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