Early on, when loss shattered the life I had so painstakingly created and loved, I couldn't see how anything or any place whatsoever could feel correct or right again, let alone actually good and content again. Early on the grief was so all encompassing, I was surprised that anything continued on at all, even bodily needs. I remember having to pee so badly a week or so after John died and thinking to myself, “how is the still going on? I haven't eaten. I haven't slept. I haven't drank anything.” And yet, even so the body continues, the soul continues, everything continues. Everything around me continued even when I thought, in the grips of that early grief, that deep, horrible sorrow that everything should stop, it didn’t stop.
In many ways externally and for many, many months internally I did stop, but not completely. I now understand that even in the grips of devastation there was always a sliver of my soul that was incrementally inching it’s way towards light and joy.That even though I didn’t want it too, instinctually my highest self knew that joy and light, and the seeking and finding of it was imperative to healing. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t without great guilt. I remember the guilt I felt the first time I laughed out loud at a joke, the guilt I felt when I genuinely smiled from a good story I had read, the guilt that I felt the first time I realized I had so enjoyed the company of my bookclub girlfriends that I hadn’t been consumed with the thoughts of going home to an empty house. Guilt is one of those passengers that hitched a ride when grief entered and the finding of joy after John’s death certainly has brought with it a great deal of guilt.
Of the many joys I’ve had since tiptoeing my way toward the edges of the light again the one that has brought me the most contentment and love and the most kindness and understanding is Mark. I remember distinctly how giddy I was the first time he held my hand and how guilty. I remember clearly how incredulous I was when some time after we started dating he actually asked me to marry him, me-wounded, battered ship against the dock me, he wanted me. I remember too knowing that if I was to be his, I would no longer be John’s and the guilt that brought. I would no longer be John’s wife, I would now always be John’s widow-which was probably true even before Mark asked to marry me but the concreteness of it was startling to me even years out from John’s death. I think its one of those things you don’t approach or think about until it’s in front of you. But with determination and help from my therapist and Mark I was able to come to peace with that reality and became excited to bind my heart to Mark’s legally and spiritually.
This last November I remember with great gentleness how Mark and I said our vows to each other, how deeply we meant them, how much love filled that day of a few family members, our closet friends-who are really family at this point in our lives- and our children. And I remember the pang of guilt too, that I could be this joyous, that I could feel this much love and happiness. I felt guilt and awe that I could love again, without reservation but instead with an open heart.
Of course being married again brings with it another set of challenges to what I am told by my grief therapist is a long (insert years here-sigh) and complicated grieving process. It brings with it happy disbelief but also the harsh judgments of outsiders who believe I hadn’t grieved hard or long enough to have such joy yet. It brings judgement that perhaps I didn’t love John as fiercely as I have always professed I did. It brings judgments that perhaps I am unworthy of another’s love in the way each human seeks in our lives because I had it once and should content with that. It brings guilt that the joy of marriage, could again be a daily feast that I get to sit at the table for. But having lost a beloved I know that I will feast on this joy and be grateful for every morsel of it I’m allowed to have. That is a direct lesson of having such loss, you don’t take what is given for granted- not for one moment, not even the hard moments, for even those are gifts and are part of the feast.
I never thought I would find joy again. I never thought I would find light again. I certainly never thought I would find love again. But the soul and the spirit, in the deepest of our bones is always inching towards the edges of joy and light. After the initial impact, the spirit eases away from the eye of the tornado, slowly, ever so very slowly that even we the griever may not notice it’s movement, it is inching its way back to dancing on the edges of joy, back to the edges of life where the soul can catch glimpse of the sun and can begin to gently sway to the rhythm of the dance of returning.
I know that this is still a hard path to be on, I know there are days when it will be a challenge to face the guilt and the judgements but I also know to take great care to savor and pay attention when I find those respites of peace along the way; and when grief hits hard or difficulties throw themselves upon my feast table to keep my eye turned internally for the movement of the soul dancing to the edges of where the light is and for me, with deep gratitude, where Mark is now too.