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Stephen Kata

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The Journey That Is Grief
by Stephen Kata   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, May 30, 2011
Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011

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(Experiencing grief after the loss of a spouse.)

Every day I used to think I had to accomplish something. Nowadays if I think it at all, it's only fleetingly, and always leaves just as quickly. 

When you've lost the person who was the center of your life, it no longer seems like your life at all. It's hard to explain if you've never experienced the loss of someone close to you. I'm not talking about divorce or abandonment. I'm talking about death.

People don't like to talk about death. Most, certainly don't want to face it. My friend tells me my smoking is going to kill me. I tell him that his non-smoking isn't going to keep him from dying. He thinks I'm being mean. If being truthful is being mean, then I am being mean. What he's really saying is he doesn't like it because I've reminded him that he's going to die, too. What I think is people need to be reminded more often. Because even when you think you're somewhat prepared, facing your death or the death of a loved one will knock you for a loop. And if you refuse to even think about it ahead of time -- well, when life forces the issue, you're really in for it.

Losing the person who was the center of your life is like suddenly being in the middle of the ocean in a rowboat with no oars. It doesn't matter what you were doing before; what your goals or dreams were. They have disappeared into the black hole created when that central person was torn away. There is nothing to do for the moment but let the tide and the waves take you wherever they will.

You didn't know it before, but that person was responsible for a good portion of your self-assurance, and more of your identity than you thought. You are suddenly not even sure who you are, and have no idea what to do next. For a long time you don't even care where the boat goes. You wouldn't even mind a whole lot if it sank.  "You have to go on," well-meaning people have told you, to which you have answered silently to yourself: "Why?" This is not suicidal thinking, but bewilderment, like what happens after a knockout blow.

There isn't any real formula for grief. The however-many-steps-there-are of grief were never meant to be hard and fast rules. Grieving is different for everyone. The time you spend adrift depends on who you are and how much that person meant to you. Sometimes you move forward and sometimes back. It's an journey upon which you never wanted to embark. No one asked your opinion before they pushed you off into uncharted waters.

After an indeterminate amount of time, you will begin to recover, but don't expect time to heal anything -- it won't. It just dulls the pain somewhat. But at some point you will begin to see a hazy area of land in the distance. You know you will reach it eventually, but you have no idea what you are going to do when you get there. You have not washed up on a foreign shore alone for years. You are not young and optimistic any more, and you certainly don't feel indestructible. If you though facing the death of your loved one was a difficult adventure, this one will top it.

The fog enshrouding the area of land begins to break. You grasp both sides of the boat and look ahead. You turn and look behind, too, but nothing is there for you. You must go ahead, not back. At the moment of loss, you knew your life would be completely different from then on. Now you realize it will be even more than that. You will be living a whole new life altogether. You will no longer be the same person as the one when that "other" was part of your life. You already aren't. 
The land ahead looms large. Your boat encounters shallower water. Fear seizes you, not so much of the unknown as of leaving the comparative safety of the boat. As uncertain and uncomfortable as the journey has been, you have become familiar with the feeling. But the boat keeps moving toward land and you cannot turn it around and go back against the waves and the tide.
When the prow of the boat finally scrapes onto land, your whole being is jarred. You step out reluctantly. There is no use pulling the boat up on the beach; you can't use it again. You do the only thing you can -- start walking to encounter whatever is beyond the breakwater.




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