Bounce: A Journey Through Grief.
Today it feels like an endless lake of deep, blue sadness.
I’m stuck in the middle, sitting in a rowboat with no oars, dead in the water. The lake feels bottomless, but not quite endless, for somewhere out there I can see there is new land across the horizon, though I sense it’s going to take a while to reach.
This lake I speak of is simply another landmark on a passage of grief I never expected to take. As I write these words, it has been exactly one month since my brother died, passing away from a medical condition we all believed was under control.
He was my only sibling, we were only a year apart — me 38, him 39. It is still unbelievable to conceive that one moment he was here and the next, instantaneously gone, the fabric of my family and my life forever changing in that second.
Loss will bind you to an unwitting contract, signing you up for a one-way ticket across a wasteland of grief.
You will find yourself plucked out of the trajectory you were traveling, and deposited into uncharted territory, with ever changing terrain, that you must somehow learn to navigate without a map.
Some days it will be a barren desert, devoid of life, without relief in sight. Others, a stormy sea of why’s and could have been’s and all that was left unfinished and unsaid.
And then you will find oasis for awhile, an unexpected cooling from the hot, salty tears that become a frequent occupant of your face.
You believe you are starting to do okay… until a wave comes along and pulls you back into that crash of thrashing sea.
Mostly you feel like you are living somebody else’s reality.
You do your best to keep moving in the physical world that constructs real life, while on the inside you continue this invisible journey through a surreal and awful landscape, as you start to realize what you are experiencing inside feels more real than anything in the outside world.
At present, I have been sitting in my tiny boat in the middle of that vast, sorrowful lake for several days; the terrible tumult of the last four weeks starting to settle into my heart and mind and bones, making me aware of its finality and weight.
I am learning that death will change you. Grief will rearrange you. Loss will be an unexpected catalyst to a different version of self, and your process will not be understood by many.
I have learned these lessons before through a painful divorce that marked a breaking and reconstructing of self; the passing of my beloved, and still missed, old faithful of a Dog; and a rapid series of betrayals and break-ups that left my heart broken and reeling.
It is with bittersweet irony that I have realized what has previously passed in my life has prepared me to make this particular journey. Emotional, mental and spiritual calisthenics that forced me to dig and reach and stretch to find my reservoirs of untapped strength.
While this feels heavier, graver, and more terrible than the others combined, I know I can survive the passage. I just don’t want to be here.
Those were the words I told my husband the day my brother died: I just don’t want to be here.
After learning the news, we were frantically racing across town to get to my parents’ house, and I told him that I knew the minute we got out of the car, crossed their threshold, and entered into a collective process of familial grief, that things were about to become real.
I could already feel life snatching me out of the bounds of normal reality and placing me at the start of this wasteland of grief.
I had a felt sense of a giant mountain I needed to climb to gain entrance to grief’s valley, and I remember telling him of that metaphorical mountain awaiting me and saying, I know I have grown strong enough to climb it, to carry it… but I don’t want to. I just don’t want to be here.
Here is where I find myself anyway.
There are many things we have a say about in our lives, but there are some things where we have no say.
You can be walking along, focusing on the path in front of you, when you are completely blindsided by something you never predicted or saw coming.
A tragedy, a trauma, a cataclysmic change that knocks you off that path, landing you in lonely, unexplored terrain where you are forced to become an inadvertent participant in a journey not of your making
It is a journey of Life’s making, and regardless of purpose or reason, you find yourself staring at that mountain wondering how you can possibly climb it, then somehow finding the courage to take that first step.
There are days where you want to turn away and crawl back into the cocoon of normalcy that encapsulated life before all this happened.
Days where you trick yourself into thinking that you are further along than you really are, until pain once again demands attention, and you are reminded that you are still a stranger in this strange land.
Days where you search for shortcuts and bailouts and time warps, and learn the painful truth that the only way out is through.
There will be some people who understand the passage you take, for they too have walked these lands, but many will not.
It is not their load to carry or their journey to make, and they will sit expectantly waiting for you to bounce back, waiting for you to reach that distant horizon, so life can resume as it once was.
What they do not understand is, this is an unseen process of heart and spirit and soul, and you will not look the same upon its passage — there is no bouncing back.
We can’t undo the strings of irrevocable change that are pulled when life turns upside down. We can’t tie them back the way they were and return to the skin of self we previously wore.
For better or for worse, we have been asked to step into a new version of self.
And if we allow it, grief holds the potential to shine a light on our soul. Stripping us of all the facades and pretenses that hide our authentic self. Revealing an untapped well of love, courage, and strength that awaits us in time of darkest need.
Helping us realize the intangible things that are most real, while introducing us to our deeper, spiritual selves. Teaching us a new, resilient language of the heart that helps us become deeper, wider, and more than we were before.
After its initial contraction, grief offers expansion — if we learn to let its light in.
I do not want to be here, on this small boat in this lamentable lake, but here I find myself anyway, doing my best to keep my heart open to the changes life is rendering inside.
Time has become my best companion, reminding me that every step forward is a step away from that terrible mountain I first ascended, and a step closer to that distant horizon, which still feels so far away.
But I believe there will come a day where I reach that place, and find myself standing on new shore, and while things will never go back to the way I came, I know they weren’t meant to.
We didn’t come here to stay the same, we came here so our hearts could be rearranged.
Sometimes the best any of us can do is courageously undertake the journey Life hands us. Believe we will find our bounce again. And learn to land wherever we may.
BethAnne Kapansky Wright is a Clinical Psychologist finding joy and light from her tiny corner of Anchorage, Alaska. She writes poetry and personal essays and enjoys photography and creating whimsical art. She can often be found on top of the nearest mountain or running through the trails in her beloved woods. She is the author of the poetry chapbook ‘The Art of Becoming’, and is inspired by nature, love, her awesome husband and fur family, and the beautiful journey of becoming more fully human. She can be found blogging tidbits and snippets of poetry and other random thoughts on her website.