When something bad happens, that bad can reach in and pull the breath right out of your gut. It feels like suffocating. But as your arms flail and you gasp for air, the light turns green, traffic starts to move, pedestrians take to the cross walk. No one notices. It’s as if the people in cars, on cross walks, in the grocery or at the DMW don’t care or don’t feel the shift on the planet when life as you know it forever changed.
I remember going to the grocery the day after my mom died. It was late afternoon in the summer and the store was busy. This infuriated me. As if this completely normal scene for a grocery store in the middle of summer wasn’t enough, a teenage girl breezed by as she was smarting off to her mother. I wanted to get on the loudspeaker and shout, “What is wrong with you people! My mom is gone! Now please be sad like me at least while I pick up diapers and hotdogs! You can go back to whatever you were doing when the proper respect has been paid to my mom, WHO IS DEAD! And as for you, smart mouth teenage girl. One day your mom won’t be here for you to roll your eyes at!” Makes perfect sense, right? While I didn’t get on the loudspeaker or even scream, in that moment reality hit. Life goes on. While the reality may change, everything else…goes on.
It would be nice if someone wrote an etiquette book on how to get back to normal after loss. Something to prepare you for the jarring reality that there’s an expiration date on your grief. Grief over the loss of anything; death of a person, relationship, job, or life you expected. Once that date comes and goes, it’s time to buck up and get over it. That’s what it feels like anyway.
But then something happens. After weeks, months, or years, your inner dialog does an about-face. Instead of,
I wish I could feel normal again.
Will life ever be the same?
You realize you were never normal and since life is an ever-changing, ever-evolving windstorm of existence, the days would be boring if they stayed the same.
Here’s the cold hard truth. There is no timeline. There’s no magic day. No rhyme or reason as to why one year you cry on your mom’s birthday and the next you realize her birthday passed without so much as a sniffle.
All you can do is stay hopeful. And hope doesn’t look the same on everyone. Some find hope in prayer. Others find it through exercise or food or children or scrapbooking. I happen to find it through all of those. Except for scrapbooking, never been a fan.
The point is “hope” is waiting. And sometimes hope is all you have to cling to. Without it, how could life go on? Choosing hope doesn’t mean you’re getting all Polly Anna. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. If you think about it, choosing hope really doesn’t mean anything specific. It means everything.