I’ve said it a million times. Grief is tricky. Just as you think you’re getting a handle on it, something triggers it, and the process starts again. There are things wrapped up with loss that we don’t consider when it happens. At the time, we’re just mourning. Sad. Torturing ourselves with “what-if’s.” Trying to figure out what happened. Retracing every step and then trying to figure out the future at the same time. Whether loss is expected or not, it’s the same thing. It’s the same feeling of sadness, hopelessness and overwhelming fear. Fear of your own mortality, your own stability and what life will be like now living with this great loss. It could be the death of a loved one. It could be divorce. Or the loss of a job. It could be any of it, or all of it. It doesn’t matter. Loss is hard, and it is very, very real.
So, we start this process of healing. From day one, we cycle through it. We have good days. Bad days. Then all bad days. Then mostly good days. The back to good and bad days. Until one day, we start feeling better and we’re ready to go back out there. We’re ready to take on a new love, a new job, new responsibilities, and we slowly, and sometimes subconsciously add those things back into our lives. Then, just as suddenly, a trigger comes up that reminds us of what loss feels like, and we panic. We get scared. And we start waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Since Chad’s death, I have experienced more loss. I don’t need to get into the details to make you understand, but it’s tough. Loss is one thing, but loss compounded is overwhelming. After my husband died, I sat in that for a while. I sat in that pain. Without even knowing it, I went back to real life over the course of two years and started allowing all the pressures and stress back in. There was a time where I didn’t care about anything but my healing and that of my children, and during that time, I didn’t care what anybody thought, or what anybody did. It was liberating. But, as time went on, reality came back with a vengeance. My priorities changed again, I started putting myself back out there and I started to live again.
But the problem was, I never lived without the fear. I was always waiting for something to happen. I was always waiting for the bad to come. I was always surrounded by doubt and anxiety. I was constantly worried. When my husband had cancer, we were obviously in and out of the doctor’s office all the time. And each time, I sat in the lobby and asked myself, “Is today the day they tell us the cancer is back?” “Is today the day they tell us there is nothing more they can do?” “Is today the day he dies?”
That feeling has never gone away. I now live my life with that cloud surrounding me. That burden of tragedy. That curse of my past. I often question how I will ever get past that; how I will ever be “normal” again, or if there is even such a thing.
During my subsequent losses, I have blamed myself. I have told myself that if I had just “done this”, or just “did that”, that this would not be happening. If I hadn’t been so worried, it would not have happened. If I didn’t have this fear hanging over me, it would have been ok.
And, then today, it dawned on me. This was not a self-fulfilling prophecy. This was not all my fault, and I refuse to take blame for one more second. Because while all of my loss has been hard, and has affected me in negative ways, it has also taught me amazing lessons, and I have to start remembering that. I have to start realizing that it’s ok to live. It’s ok to be happy. It’s ok to enjoy moments and not worry they will be taken away. But it’s also shown me this:
I’m trying to remember these things today, and I will probably need to remind myself of it over and over. Because even I get mixed up in the emotions and fear and everything that goes along with it. But, I refuse to let it define me in a negative way. I refuse to let it defeat me. I refuse to give up, and I refuse to give in. I refuse to let it dictate the rest of my life. There will be people who come and go, jobs that come and go, difficult situations, trying times, but the right people will be there, and they will never leave, no matter what. And in that face of adversity, we will see people like us, who have dug their feet in and decided to love us through it. And we will keep healing. In five years, ten years, twenty years, we will keep doing it. Because we’re the real deal. We’re the real bruised and bloody package and that makes us worthy. That makes us invaluable. That makes us the best of the best. Don’t you ever forget who you are. Don’t you ever forget your worth, and don’t you ever forget how far you’ve come. And, I won’t either.
A new friend of mine told me something today, I want to share it with you. It has been his motto for years, and now it is mine. Let it be yours.
“And, in the face of adversity, I shall stand defiant.”
Think about that. Absorb that. Live that. Stand in defiance of your fears. Stand in defiance of your heartbreak. Stand in defiance of obstacles. Stand in defiance of your pain. Stand in defiance of your circumstances. Stand in defiance of your past. Just stand.
This story was written for by Diana Register, 45, of Meridian, Idaho. She is the founder of iam149.org, and is in the process of writing of a book about her journey with grief after her husband’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Read more of her work below:
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