I’ve been recording a lot of podcast interviews lately. 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.
If you saw my episode during this week’s Explore More Summit, you know I still cry when I tell his story. Our story. That it’s been nearly 8 eight years, 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,” 7 and a half 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.
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.
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.