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This Is What Grief Feels Like

04/10/2017 11:24 EDT | Updated 04/10/2017 11:24 EDT
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Woman in silhouette, sitting on a bench in a moody landscape at water's edge. The lone woman may be widowed, divorced, or lonely, sitting in solitude, contemplating her grief, sadness, or depression. The lighthouse in the distance is a symbol of finding hope or direction in a sea of troubles.

Loss hammered you incessantly. Grief hollowed you out until you were gasping for breath, empty and fully spent. Your heart was broken and battered into a heap of crumbled bits and pieces. And still, you stood.

Anguish carved you open in unexpected and totally disorienting ways. You lost your footing; you lost your way. Nothing made sense anymore. There were moments when thoughts of your own death seemed like a cool pillow on a sleepless night, blessed relief for the heated pain that endlessly coursed through you. And still, you stood.

You stayed alternating between almost-catatonic numbness and torturous, cycling agony. You kept inching your way through the thick, clinging muck of grief and memory, holding pictures and words and touch to your heart. Again and again, you relived the moments and slices of life you spent together. You were not going to forget a single nanosecond. Ever. Excruciating and tender and filled with an unspeakable sorrow, they remained your most precious -- and, sometimes, were almost your complete undoing. And still, you stood.

Your will to carry on flickered like the sputtering end of a candle. You were done, so done. You tattooed your feet with the words so you would remember how to walk forward each day. You tattooed your arm so you might lift it again some day, in a distant future, a different reality.

You walked miles in and out of sleep. You scribbled and cut and pasted your life like puzzle pieces looking for a different outcome. You did anything to feel something different, something not so painful. You were bleeding tears. And yet, still you stood.

God was an anathema. Perhaps not permanently, but in the dark days of grief when it felt like a boa constrictor was squeezing the life out of your heart, nothing felt good or right or meaningful or symbolic. You were furious with God. This was not supposed to happen. You found yourself staring at a crevasse into which you might plunge. You clutched brown plastic bottles of pain pills and clear, slick glasses of drink, but there would never be enough to eradicate the pain you felt. And yet, still you stood.

People said such stupid things to you. So unthinking. Their words stabbed. They tried too hard -- or, maybe, not enough. Just tell me stories, you screamed in your head, and don't forget. You didn't give a flying fig about angels at that moment. You wanted your flesh and blood.

Minute by minute, you crawled through the aftermath of endless hours and days. You were scattered and aimless, forgetful about the present and precise about the past. You curled into a fetal position and rocked in disbelief. Memories and scents and sounds clattered noisily through your psyche and kept you awake, wandering wide-eyed through rooms in the middle of the night. And still, you stood.

Your heart was broken open. You became vulnerable and unbearably fragile. Grief spread-eagled you into expanded states of awareness. You became sensitive to the slightest nuance of pain. You learned all too well the effects of loss. Tears slipped from your eyes without the slightest provocation. You were forever changed and permanently altered. Through sheer will and determination, you slowly re-entered the flow of daily life. It took such guts to pretend normality. And still, you stood.

There are still days when everything clicks into those "before" moments, and the focus becomes sharp and raw anew. You had no idea you could be so courageous and strong and defiant. You had no idea you could be so dangerously close to implosion. Your once-shattered heart has been re-imagined. Love has become a more tender kind of language. And still, you stand.

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