Someone sent me a description of grief that’s making the rounds. Maybe you’ve seen it. It describes grief as a ball in a box with a button that triggers pain. At first, the ball takes up most of the space in the box, and the pain button is constantly pushed. But eventually, over time, the ball gets smaller, and only occasionally triggers the pain button.
It’s a good analogy. I mean, grief is a really hard thing to describe, and so individual. But this captures the kind of grief that is initially overwhelming and sad, but that gradually, over time, takes up less space in your daily existence (if not your heart).
It describes how I feel about the loss of my sister, and my mother. Sometimes something will remind me of them, and I’ll feel an intensity of grief, often out of the blue. But even though I think of them every day, most of the time the grief is manageable. I’ve learned to live with it. I can cherish the many good, wonderful memories and those have come to outweigh the loss I feel.
It doesn’t describe how I feel about the loss of my son. The closest analogy I can come up with is one I’ve used before—the grief is like a suit made out of razor blades. I never take off that suit. Over time, I’ve learned to hold myself so that every tiny movement doesn’t cut, but the fact is, that suit cuts me and causes pain over and over and over again, every day, nonstop.
Another analogy is that somehow, I don’t get the air that I used to, and that I need. I can still function and live, but I’m crippled by the fact that there’s just not enough air for me to breathe and no one can give me more air.
The fact is, something in me is irretrievably broken. I get up every morning. I work hard, every day, to keep a roof over our heads and give my kids a good life. I’m still a wife, mother, friend and colleague. I can laugh, and be silly with the kids, and dance in the kitchen while we cook dinner.
But. Every day it is a choice to get out of bed. I have to choose to be present. The ball of grief bouncing around my head isn’t smaller; it still hits that button all the damn time. I just make the choice to go on. Because that is what you do.
You just find a way to go on, even when it hurts. Even when you can’t breathe. Even when you’re broken. Because you just do.