I’ve lost a lot of people over the years, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve been contending with a loss I haven’t experienced since I was a child—that of losing someone who is dying.
Much of my healing since leaving the cult has been centered on learning how to grieve, but I’m finding that the grief of death is an entirely different matter from the griefs I’ve experienced before. Rather than the emotional turmoil being spaced out over years as my subconscious gently guides me from layer to layer, they’re all there at the same time with an intensity that is nothing short of breath-taking.
There are days when I’m okay–when the routine of life makes me feel like I’m practically normal. I laugh, catching myself off guard. I get excited about my upcoming school year, work on crafts, and enjoy being with friends and chosen family while the pain of my heart recedes into the background for a time. I welcome those days because they help me get through the others, the days when I’m not okay–when I cry and rage and hide in bed, watching Netflix until I can’t feel anymore.
On some levels, I feel as though I have been building up to this moment, that the purpose of my life has been to learn how to grieve increasingly devastating losses.
Society tells me to buck up, hide my tears when I go into the grocery store, and tell people “I’m fine” when they ask. “Be strong,” they say. “Keep it together.”
Society is not comfortable with grief.
But I know better. I know by now that shoving down the sadness doesn’t make it go away. I know that putting on a brave face only helps to isolate me in my sadness and that trying to escape from the intensity of my emotions creates a recipe for crippling depression and stagnation.
So I surround myself with those who can tolerate tears. I allow myself to be utterly shattered. I am not interested in looking functioning right now. To what purpose? Because I think that others might be uncomfortable with the snot dripping down my nose and my red, swollen eyes? My grief is not about them.
Being shattered doesn’t mean I stop living. I am intentionally living each moment of this process, allowing myself to feel it in every corner of my heart.
“Grief is about letting yourself be destroyed,” my therapist tells me.
Her words offer the relief of permission, but I know there is a truth even deeper than that. I will be destroyed whether I wish to allow it or not, but surrendering to the destruction allows it to be a gentle annihilation. Over the last year with my physical therapy, I’ve learned that when there is pain, the best response is to release into it. Surrender removes the edge of resistance, allowing the pain to ebb and flow naturally.
When people tell me to “be strong,” I want to tell them that I am strong. Crying and “falling apart” aren’t signs of weakness. It takes strength to allow myself to be consumed and know that I will resurrect in the end. I am strong enough to feel the devastation of love.