I’ve been recording a lot of interviews lately (be sure to check out the whole list of podcasts here!). One thing they all seem to have in common: the interviewer asks me about how my work – and my life – relate to Matt’s death. They want to know if I’m…. recovered.
“Recovered” is such a strange word. I mean, I can talk all day about grief, and about why this work matters. And my voice still cracks when I tell his story. Our story. That it’s been several years since his death, that I’ve told the story – his story, our story, mine – a million times, doesn’t matter. It’s not just a story. It still matters. It still hurts.
Even though I am largely “fine,” these years out from Matt’s death, it is still inconceivable to me that that man is dead. DEAD. WTH.
What’s more, I can’t believe I survived. In those early days (months, years), the thought of a good life – any life – was horrifying to me. And yet, here I am. Happy. Despite the gaping hole in my life his death created. Despite missing him, missing our life, missing that person I was back then. Life grew in and around that crater, in ways I could not have imagined (in fact, resented and resisted) in those early days.
It’s a weird reality.
So when I’m asked, in conversation after conversation, about my recovery, this is how I respond: I didn’t die back then, much as I may have wanted to. In the early days, I was horrified – disgusted – with the very idea that I would ever be “okay,” let alone happy. I couldn’t see any way that could happen, and not diminish Matt’s place in my life, in our life.
That it’s happened – of its own accord – still surprises me. I’m so thankful for it, and – it’s still a little strange.However long it takes, your heart and your mind will carve out a new life amid this weirdly devastated landscape. Little by little, pain and love will find ways to coexist. Click To Tweet
The truth is, being happy now does not negate the pain of his death. They don’t cancel each other out. I carry both of them. Those two realities share the same space, side by side. They most likely always will.
If you’re wrestling with the idea (from inside yourself or from others around you) that at some point, you’ll be “okay,” please know that it’s absolutely normal to feel freaked out by the idea.
However long it takes, your heart and your mind will carve out a new life amid this weirdly devastated landscape. Little by little, pain and love will find ways to coexist. It won’t feel wrong or bad to have survived. It will be, simply, a life of your own making: the most beautiful life it can be, given what is yours to live.
Both things will always be true.
We talk lots more about this in my book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand, and in the almost-monthly Writing Your Grief sessions. Check out both! Finding a beautiful life that doesn’t ignore or gloss up the reality of grief isn’t easy – both of these resources can help you find your way.
How about you? Are you in a place where the thought of having any kind of good life feels – horrible? If you’ve experienced good things since your loss, how do you understand that coexistence of loss and goodness? Let us know in the comments.