The official definition is “feeling or showing grief.” Only half of that is true for me—the feeling part.
People have been telling me lately that I seem “lighter.” That’s great; it’s what I want people to think. As much as I appreciate the love and support everyone has shown over the last two years, I understand that the level of grief I still feel every day isn’t comfortable for most people. That isn’t meant as a negative or in any judgmental way. I know people still miss Charlie and feel grief when they think of him. But they don’t think of him every day—nor should they. Life goes on. We all have our joys and sorrows, and own grief to bear.
That’s important—my grief isn’t the only grief. I get a lot of satisfaction and joy from supporting people I care about, and I want to be able to do that. It’s difficult if people feel they can’t talk to you, or don’t want to burden you.
Most of the last two-ish years has been about me learning how to integrate my grief over Charlie into my daily life. I think of him every single day, often multiple times a day. Sometimes it’s a happy thought, like when I remember something silly he did. Sometimes it’s a sad thought, when I think about the absolute senselessness of his death, and how much I failed him. But I always think of him. He is still very much present in terms of taking up space in my heart.
Yet humans are not designed to feel as intense an emotion as grief unfiltered for very long. It’s what they mean when they say “time heals all wounds,” I think. That time is like water on the stone of our grief, smoothing away the sharp edges, making it smaller so it takes up less space. Or maybe it’s that time equals distance, so we are further away from the grief horizon, so its gravitational pull stops tugging so hard at our hearts.
I haven’t found this to be true. My grief is as intense and sharp as it was that terrible day, July 16, 2018. Perhaps in some ways worse, because the shock has worn off and there’s nothing to do, no actions to take. There’s just a space in my heart, frozen in time.
What I have been able to do is learn how to live with it. How to get up and go to work. How to talk to my husband, son and daughter, even when I just want to crawl in bed. How to laugh at jokes and take pleasure in the company of friends (socially distant, right now). How to embarrass my kids by dancing while cooking dinner. You know—how to keep living my life even though I’m full of sorrow.
Sometimes I feel like a china jar. The outer shell looks sturdy and solid, but it’s just a fragile covering. Inside, I am full of sorrow. I have to be careful of the jar, so it doesn’t break and sorrow doesn’t drown everything in its path.
But every day, the jar grows stronger. My dearly departed sister used to say, “Fake it until you make it.” So I act as if the jar will hold. So far, it does, even though it is full of sorrow.