Loss and grief
11 July 12
I separate my involuntary emotions to make them more palatable. Most of the time they drop into one of two piles — either loss or grief.
Loss is the feeling that arises when I remember that I’m missing something. I miss my baby boy kicking against my arms as he feeds at my breast, I miss his gentle snuffling next to me while he sleeps. I miss the feeling of Elijah in my arms and on my back, I miss his outrageous flirting with whoever would smile at him. I feel his loss keenly at different times of the day, and it can be triggered by the sight of another baby, a glimpse of one of his items, or simply a memory of what used to be.
I also feel the loss of David who has been my best friend for almost sixteen years. He has proven himself as a strong support to me in difficult times, an involved parent and a confidante as together we figured out what our journeys were teaching us.
This is loss, and there is no way to go back to what I have. So when I feel the loss, I have to make a conscious decision to accept my current circumstances and move forward in joy and thankfulness for what I do have.
Grief is something different, and it takes longer for me to process. For each time I feel grief rising within me, I stop to analyse what I am grieving.
Grief comes as I realise that I have been holding to an imaginary future scenario that will now never come to pass. I grieve for a future without a boy-child, without David still at my side.
I grieve because I will never see Elijah as a grown man. I grieve for the large family that we were and that I imagined we’d always be. I grieve for places and people David and I wanted to visit together.
In recognising and naming my grief, I have the opportunity to readjust my imaginary future. Sure, it’s looking very different to what I imagined a month ago, but a future is still in front of me — bright with promises and hope.
In recognising that grief is letting go of my emotional investment in a future fantasy, I can come back to the present and inhabit the life that is placed before me.
And so, I process my grief and simply say, “This is what is.” Anything less accepting can cripple my mind and squeeze my spirit into a dark hole.
One day, I’ll properly learn not to invest emotionally in my imaginary future so that I don’t feel disappointment when it doesn’t come to pass. This may seem impossibly idealistic, but I would rather retain my optimistic, idealistic ways and pass them on to my children than drop down into the dark pit of despair.
The children laugh and play around me, eager always for attention, joy and love. And in this way, life goes on for the living, and so must I.