Understanding grief is hard until you experience it for yourself. Can you imagine pain so heavy it pulls you so far underwater that no matter how long and hard you swim, you still cannot break the surface? That is what loss does to you, it weighs you down.
Sometimes it’s gradual, as a life ebbs away and a light dims, you are slowly swept out further into waters that you know you will never escape. You try to turn back but the force of the current is too strong, it pulls you further. At first you deny it, then you attempt to fight it before finally you start to pray for it’s departure but by now you are enveloped firmly in it’s torment. It slowly drowns you in sorrow as your loved one progressively becomes a lesser version of themselves until eventually their light goes out. Dying becomes death and it is in this very moment that the current stops teasing you and finally pulls you under. You knew it would happen and you thought you had prepared for it, anticipated the pain, accepted your impending loss. Nonetheless you are still overwhelmed by the depths of your despair. Loss is suffocating, draining, soul destroying, you can’t control it and under, under, under you go.
Sometimes though, loss is instant; that is what happened to me. One minute life is normal, the world is the same as it always has been, then suddenly pain and loss hits you so hard, so directly, so unfairly, you cannot ever imagine recovering. I mean of course you have seen pain before, you’ve read about it in a newspaper, watched it on the TV, you even had a friend who’s dad died – of course you know pain but you’ve never seen it up close. You definitely haven’t felt it, lived it, drowned in it. You are overwhelmed. In an instant pain went from something you knew, to all you know. This isn’t real, it can’t be real. Then the realisation comes that it is, you are pulled down further, there is no air here, panic sets in, you want, you need sweet air, instead you are swallowing mouthfuls of salty water – tears but no air. You’re praying, begging, willing for life to go back to the life you had taken for granted; grief free. It won’t, God doesn’t make bargains and neither does the sea of grief. You can pray, cry, scream and swim forever but you will never break the surface again.
You are changed, you’ve become another despairing soul in this sea, there are millions here, young, old and all of those in between. All here together, in the same sea, drowning in the same unforgiving waters yet all alone in their battle to survive their very own grief. And for the majority, survive they will, instinct does that here, forces you to survive even when you don’t want to. In fact over time you stop trying to break the surface, you stop praying to return to life before your loss; you stop wishing for death; you stop questioning God; you stop letting grief slowly destroy you; and you learn to accept what is, what was and what will never be again – and then you swim to shallow waters.
Existing is bearable there, whilst you’re still at sea at least in the shallow end you feel the heat of the sun and on the darkest of nights, see the beauty of the stars. The light of both brings structure to your days and you learn to live again. And yes, now and again the current will sweep you out to sea where the waters are dark, deep and overwhelming. However once you know the shallow waters there you will return because life goes on there and despite the devastation of your loss, you decide you had better go on too.