My father-in-law once described this whole experience of grief as feeling like falling into a pit over and over again. You exhaust yourself trying to climb out of it. You claw your way up muddy walls, sometimes reaching high enough to feel the sun on your face again for a moment. And then you lose your grip, and you feel yourself sliding back into the depths of your pain. Your fingers digging into the wet earth… hoping to find something to anchor to. But much of the time it is to no avail… and you fall and fall and fall. Until finally, you are once again at the bottom. Exhausted. Depleted. Empty-handed.
It is a special kind of desperation to be back in the bottom of your pain when you’ve lost someone incredibly dear to you. I was brought back there just a week ago, after attending my first bachelorette party since my fiancé died. Seeing everything I should have had and want so dearly to have… I lost my grip, and down I slid over mud and ash and pain. Stopping only when I reached the bottom of my pain, where there was nothing to do but surrender.
Almost 2 years after his death, I am not brought back there as often as I used to be. But I never forget the place where – for at least the first 6 months – I think I only managed to climb a few feet up the wall before falling (and I rarely had the strength to try and climb at all). When I am brought back there now, the reaction is still the same as the week he died. Every hair on my body and every last cell of me screams out in desperation. Even my hands themselves cry out – begging to be able to feel him again… pleading to know none of it is true. Aching to know the world I once knew, which looked nothing like this one. It wasn’t dirty. It wasn’t cold. It wasn’t dark. It wasn’t hard to look at or hard to feel. My world before was bright… something people liked to look at. Something I liked to look at. How complex living your life becomes when you find yourself in a world that no one wants to see, including you.
That is why I have so much appreciation for all of the people who have watched the most painful parts of my journey. Who have been unafraid to look at my world when it wasn’t beautiful to see. Hell some of them have even hurled themselves right down into the pit after me – entirely unafraid to feel the darkness with me. Those are the heroes in my story. They are the ones who make the loneliest place we will ever travel a little bit less alone. Today, if you are still here reading, that is most certainly you.
About the Series: Through 40 weekly photos and accompanying essays, 'Still, Life' captures a deeply emotional and psychological journey of what it means to grieve, to heal, and to live on.