Walking in the Long Shadow of Grief

“There’s a hole in the middle of the prettiest life…”

“For Real,” Bob Franke

heart-shaped holeThe long shadow of grief seems to have become a constant companion to me these days, a shadow dogging me that I don’t see in the daylight but always know is there right behind me.

It’s not the sharp, immediate pain following a death. These days, it rarely  up & slaps me in the face. I rarely break up in sobbing wails that overtake me from nowhere and leave me breathless & gasping when I hear a song or a voice or just see or even remember something they would have liked.

Bob Franke’s lyric is right and every death drills another hole in my heart. Because all those holes in my heart that each death and loss punches through your middle kinda blur together.

That is, while there is certainly a Scott-shaped hole in my soul since his death last summer, it tends to slowly blur together with the long-tattered edges of old holes left by Mike Eddy and my dead dead friend, Duane, and Granny and Jessie, all from decades ago. Some of the holes feel numb as if cauterized at the edges so the pain feels sealed off. Some deaths make sense but still hurt anyway.

But it is the gaping, raw holes that I feel myself walking through daily. The word “dispirited” came to mind last week as I sought to describe how I felt. Lack of motivation or morale…yeah, that’s it. I am not depressed. I know too much about mental health and depression to allow myself to think that explains this. No, this is the wear & tear of living every day and losing the people you love along the way — and the deep realization all of the people you love will die. I will die. You will die, too. But before you do, each of these deaths will tear again at your heart.

We now talk about the “grief process” we experience after any major loss but especially the death of a loved one. The problem with talking about a “grief process” is that the phrase seems to imply a one-way flow that inevitably ends. If only! Grief is a cycle because just when you’ve finally reached acceptance, here comes that grief again, insisting you relive the pain again, re-experience that horrible moment of loss.

And we discover how the grief will never really go away.

"It has been said "time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue, and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." — Rose Kennedy

On a good day, I see the shadow of grief, but it falls behind me, casting a long silhouette of the one I love and am missing. On a really good day, I can embrace the loss, feel that deep pain, and move through to remembering the great joy of that life. That really does make for a great day. They don’t come easy and they don’t come often. But neither do the dark days where the shadow overwhelms me and I let myself fall into the deepest, darkest of that black hole. Luckily, these days don’t come easy either, and I can usually banish the blues enough to shuffle through the day, awaiting the change of the emotional seasons that find me grieving again.

Again, I turn to song for solace when I find myself overwhelmed by grief. When it completely swamps me, I still find strength, wisdom and courage in Jerry Jeff Walker’s tune, “Blue Mood.”

“I’ll be all right in time —
In a day or two, I’ll be fine…”

Yes, I will, Jerry Jeff, yes, I will.

ADDENDUM: Re-reading this, I worry I’ve misled some of you. I sound gloomy & depressed. I am not. I sound like I find no joy any more. I do. I just had a great walk with my dog, Stella, and it is a beautiful, warm November afternoon. I am headed to my front porch to enjoy it. But I still know that long shadow is with me. Always…

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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