I’ve learned a lot about loss the past year. As I sit here and write this, I even feel a little bit guilty- why choose to write about the bad stuff when I also have SO much good stuff in my life? I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for, but I’ve learned that the good does not cancel out the bad and vice versa. So yes, in many aspects I’ve had the best year of my life, but it has also been one of the hardest. And I choose to share my struggles, because it is in not sharing our sadness that life gets overwhelming. Unmanageable. Too much to handle. Not worth fighting for. I choose to share my struggles because without them, I don’t know if I would fully appreciate the blessings that God gives me too.
Three days before Christmas I lost my best friend. She cut herself out of my life for reasons I’ll never know or understand. I know her better than anyone, and I know this meant I might as well be dead to her. Two days ago, it was my husband and I’s one year anniversary of our marriage. Five weeks after we got married, my brother in law; my husband’s very best friend; took his own life. The day of his funeral was exactly five Sunday’s after our wedding. One day after my 30th birthday my sweet sister friend from treatment died, leaving those of us who loved her in shock. She had fought SO hard for SO long.
Three. Two. One. Gone.
I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to try and understand their pain and help them.
Grief makes us quiet; probably one of the reasons I’ve written so inconsistently. We think grief is like a shell- eventually it hardens and keeps away the rest of the world- but that’s not true. I would love to sit here and say grief is healing but I’m not sure I feel that way just yet. Grief made me unreasonable, bitter, afraid. Grief kept me up with nightmares, it made me worry if I didn’t know where my husband was at every minute, it made me try to fix other people’s problems for them.
Grief is me picking up limes at the grocery store and suddenly having tears in my eyes because limes remind me of how Will showed me how to get the most juice out of them for margarita making, when we visited us 2 weeks before he died. Grief is me seeing Kaila’s happy Instagram life, and knowing what she is hiding- how she is suffering from a severe eating disorder- and lashing out at her in anger. It’s not fair. I tell her. You’re a fake. Emily was fighting and you aren’t and why is she not here. Grief is me dreaming about the beautiful toast Amanda gave at my rehearsal dinner, the night before I got married. It brought tears to almost everyone’s eyes and I never felt so loved, so when I wake up the next morning I roll over and reach for my phone to text her, but suddenly remember she isn’t part of my life anymore.
It’s stupid. I tell my therapist, a dozen times. So stupid. I’m crying over limes in the store, trying to reason with my friend who doesn’t want help, and I should have seen the thing with Amanda coming. She’s crazy. I hate this, it’s stupid, and I hate that I can’t use my eating disorder to effectively cope with all this anymore.
It’s NOT stupid. She says. You say that about anything you don’t want to feel and process. It’s scary and hard but calling it stupid makes it insignificant to you.
The woman has a point. God knows, she has seen enough of me the last several years to often know the truth before I do. And we both know I’m right- I can’t use my eating disorder to cope with all the scary feelings anymore. I’ve tried. But I can’t starve, cut, drink, run, throw up, or over exercise the feelings away. I can’t go numb anymore.
I have to feel.
And it’s hard.
And it hurts.
And I hate it.
But it isn’t stupid.
Stupid is pretending those things that meant so much didn’t matter. Stupid is trying to minimize the losses and cancel them out with the happy, fluffy stuff. Stupid is listening to what the world says and “sucking it up” so no one sees my vulnerability. My God, what would happen if people actually knew people were hurting?!
Maybe there wouldn’t be so much hurting.
I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours. We all have scars. Pain. Heartbreak. And a lot of times, we hide that. I’m not saying to walk around like an open book, professing your sorrows to anyone who will listen.
But grief makes you quiet.
And when we are quiet- we can listen.
If you try hard enough in the listening part, you can hear. You can hear things other people can’t. You can hear others, and you can see others grieve. Before you think what the hell, listen. Look.
That woman in yoga who came up to me before class and thanked me for sharing my story on my blog- she’s suffered with body image issues for years and is trying to juggle being a mom to two little kids. I gave her a little bit of hope.
The older woman I sat down next to at the all day immersion and told my story to- she’s never felt like enough. Now she feels less alone, and more brave.
That Instagram post where I hash-tagged “eating disorder recovery” and boldly declared that despite the struggles, recovery is worth it- someone saw that and maybe for the first time, started to believe it was true. They messaged me and we exchanged stories, and that person is in recovery now. They’re struggling but they’re trying and that beats the hell out of living with no hope.
That time I changed my profile on Facebook to the eating disorder recovery symbol- someone I was in Girl Scouts with saw that and decided that if I were brave enough to do that, then maybe she was brave enough to to try to fight.
That time a nurse from another unit asked me what my tattoo meant and I told her- she has a daughter suffering with an eating disorder and doesn’t know how to help her. Her daughter is the same age you were when things got really bad and no one said anything.
That patient I admitted who overdosed and starts crying then I helped her get dressed- she wishes she would have died; but no one means it more than me when I whisper to her I know it feels that way now, but there are so many people who are glad you’re still here.
Those parents I handed their dying child to- I ignore the rule that says “There’s no crying in the PICU” and dammit, I cried with them because I’m freaking human and death sucks and life is completely unfair.
Grief makes you quiet, but do not let it make you hard. Don’t let loss silence the one thing God gave us that we don’t ever use for evil- compassion.
There is so much sadness in the breaking of our hearts, but there is beauty too. It allows us to relate to other people genuinely. We can grieve without stopping time and looking like the fool so many of us are afraid of others seeing when we feel our losses. Maybe when bad stuff happens, I can listen, and I can hear someone in their grief, turn to them, and say: Me too. I know. There isn’t a need to create a fake Instagram life; to take yourself out of this world with no explanation; to end a relationship to punish someone else; to lose this fight we call life. You aren’t ever alone. Ever.
So I try to own it. I try to own the mess that I feel like I am sometimes but rarely let myself be. Like it or not, deny it or confirm it, admit or hide it- we all have our stuff. I’ve been through a season of loss and it isn’t stupid. I can be sad. I can be angry, even if I’ve had amazing things happen to me along to way too. I can hate having the loss there to dim the amazing. Pain is pain is pain. You and I do not have to justify that at anyone. But in the silence, when grief slides in and covers all the light- because we know sometimes it will- be still and listen. I can’t save the people I are lost, but I can do the best to help others find healing in my wounds.
It’s not stupid. I say. Even if I don’t really feel that way. I’ll make myself say it. It’s not stupid that I’m sad, and angry, and hateful. It’s human.