I wish I could describe it–grief, that is. I wish I could tell you all the rules, the step-by-steps of how to navigate the tricky, messy, crazy, painful beauty of grief. I wish I could tell you how, because I wanted the same manual. I read blog after blog, story after story, testimony after testimony. And with a choke hold I couldn’t swallow, tears burning my cheeks, I just wanted to know “How?” How do I get THERE from HERE.
Here’s the ONLY ANSWER that exists: THROUGH! You get THERE from HERE, by going THROUGH it all. You have to go through the pain, the raw, fresh, take-your-breath-away grief, by going through it. You can crawl, tiptoe, run, walk, sprint, take a time out, but you still have to go through it all. There is no way to go around grief, over or under grief, you have to go through it, in order to heal.
Many people questioned my grief journey (and likely still do). We are approaching 7 years in October that my husband has died. I no longer am in active grief–the kind where at any given moment you can’t help but tears spilling over your eyes, down your cheeks, and that silence you from talking because it hurts so bad. I am not there, and I haven’t been for some time. I can talk about him, laugh, smile, share memories with our son, without the tears streaming. Yet, there are still days that I miss him terribly, our life together, and what should have been. Even so, I have lived–truly lived with our son, never allowing his dad’s death to be a reason we didn’t make memories.
And as time shifted my heart from the severe, take-your-breath-away pain, and began to heal, so too did my prayer that God could send someone into my life to allow me to love what was, and what is. It was a non-negotiable. I knew there was no way my heart could stop loving Joe, that my soul still had to breathe by sharing memories of the incredible man he was to our son, and acknowledging that because of him, I am who I am today.
Do you know what loving what was, and what is, looks like?
It looks like still talking about your husband to another man that eagerly wants to know more about him. It looks like you pushing a man who is full of patience and grace away because there is no way he could accept your love for two men, all at the same time. It looks like that man you prayed to God for, reminding your son of the stories you have shared about that little boy’s daddy when you aren’t even around. It looks like that man wanting to help, wanting to do nice things for you, even when you demand that he shouldn’t because your trauma has you imprisoned that you can do everything yourself and you DON’T. WANT. HELP. And then, he shows up again, without fail, because that’s what you need.
It looks like a man full of humility, zero ego, ten truck loads of patience, even more grace that pours down on you, to let you still love the man that was taken from you too soon, and allow you to love him too. Loving what was and what is, is beautifully painful. It is bittersweet. It is humbling. It is duality. It is the highest high, with the sadness that seeps in because of how you got here. It’s appreciation, a deep, deep appreciation, for the most tragic loss of your life, because it has molded your heart to love so much deeper. It takes forgiveness, permission to love both worlds from yourself, and a boat-load of compromise.
Loving what was and what is…it’s hard. Really, really hard. It takes so much time. It takes ZERO unsolicited opinions from friends and family, and ESPECIALLY social media. I have earnestly ensured I didn’t seek out opinions from anyone because I wanted to know the opinions I had, were straight from my heart and soul–and no where else.
And loving the duality of both worlds, certainly does not have a how-to manual. Loving what was, and what is, requires you (no one else) to crawl, tiptoe, run, walk, sprint, sometimes take a time out, to get through it. There is no way to go around grief, over or under grief, you have to go through it, in order to heal. And it takes someone else to be able to do this tango dance, armored with grace, humility, patience, and grace, too.
Keep going in grief. On your own time. Without other’s opinions. And allow your heart to beat again. It is SO worth it.
Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”
You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.