Grief and The Fluctuating Future

When your love first dies, the lights of the universe are switched off.  

Time moving feels wrong, you want to scream at the sun for rising and you wonder how you’ve landed in this apocalyptic existence. People will tell you of a time when the pain eases, when your life will return to normal somehow… what they don’t realise is that normal doesn’t exist for you any longer. It cannot exist because the most central person to all of your hopes and dreams has gone… but it goes deeper, bloodier than that. I lost my ability to daydream when he died because it’s not only my future with him that stopped existing, but any future at all. I’ve always been a daydreamer… yet suddenly all I could see was such dark black that everything ceased to exist. There was no life, no air to breathe, the colour didn’t just drain from the world… the world ceased to exist under a blanket of darkness. Grief reconfigures so much of your life that it’s natural for the very concept of a future to feel alien. You’ve just fallen out of sync with the only life you ever knew and the trauma blocks vision.

At first the pain was all I could see. The idea of being in this much pain forever felt horrific, yet equally horrific was the idea that the pain would ease… because that would mean he really was dead and I had no idea what my life would look like, a life of After Him. I didn’t want that life. I was desperate for the pain to ease yet terrified of what that means… terrified that I’d be in this intense pain forever and equally terrified that the pain could ever go. That was much of what early grief was for me.

The truth is time doesn’t heal, it gives us space to absorb this loss into your life and learn how to carry it so we can become friends with our grief, a constant companion walking by our side. The intensity of the pain lightens as time gives us the space to build our lives around loss so we can move forward and find new joys… and that, right there, is one of the biggest things that made me realise I could survive this… joy and grief can co-exist.

There was a shift somewhere deep inside me when I realised that I didn’t have to let go of loving Marky and missing him to move forward and find new joys. I felt so much lighter when I realised new happiness and old grief can co-exist. We carry that grief and love and suddenly a future looked possible, with him still by my side, just in a different form. I can’t tell you of an exact crystalised moment that a future felt possible… I think grief lives within us and becomes so interwoven with the fabric of our lives that one day you just realise that the future doesn’t look as terrifying anymore. I still have no idea what the future looks like, but it wasn’t overwhelming darkness anymore. There’s a viral tweet that really spoke to me… ‘You don’t have to be hopeful about the future, it’s enough to just to be curious about what is coming.’

Of course, when you realise a future is possible it is terrifying in a myriad of new ways. Grief makes us simultaneously feel like nothing can hurt us again as we’ve been through the worst imaginable already… yet also makes us feel more fragile to hurt. Invulnerable yet supremely vulnerable at the same time… which is difficult to hold.

Rebuilding a life where every plan has been thrown away is hard. I’ve found the future fluctuates for me… sometimes I am hopeful, sometimes I am scared, some of my plans pre-grief still exist and parts of me are coming back, equally some parts of me are forever changed, reborn. Living with grief isn’t an either/or… we contain a multitude of seemingly contradictory emotions, overwhelming loss and overwhelming joy are not opposites, we walk through this life with a permanent amputation now. Grief doesn’t give us only two choices, to look to the past or to look to the future… we can hold both.

If you’re in raw grief… hold on, you don’t have to look to the future right now, I know that it doesn’t exist for you right now. If you’re in the darkness, those of us further along will hold your hand through it.