Tonight I share with you one of the lessons I hold closest to my heart.
I spent the first eight months of this year surviving via sleep walking. I was numb except for when I cried, which seemed all too often. I had days where getting out of bed was too much, I had hours where all I did was drive and then park to stare at streetlights, I had moments where breathing seemed like too much to ask and standing without my knees buckling was way beyond what I was capable of. I ate way too much. This is grief. And it was okay for a season, for a time. I don't look back with regret for the way my unraveling of grief began, we all have different journeys and that was where mine started. I shut down part of my heart, I didn't engage with anyone in lectures at Uni, I simply attended and returned home to the only other faces I saw. I'd call my mother in tears telling her I couldn't be in Auckland any more, and she'd tell me that I had to be, knowing better than I did that running does not fix anything. It was life without living, it was puffy eyes and washed out skin, it was two ams in tears too often.
I couldn't tell you where or how I worked it out, but somewhere in the events of the last few months, I started to live again. Life became more than just a routine. The small victories still lay in the basic needs of life, but I began again to see greater victories, like letting people in, and laughing with more than just my voice. It doesn't mean to say I am not still grieving- I am. It means to say that amidst the heartache it is possible to be more than just a shell. I took my time getting there, but gradually getting out of bed in the morning was less of a mountain. I started attending a Zumba class with a hilarious assortment of middle ages ladies, utilising the fruit bowl (which I once thought was a joke, like, really? I don't need a whole bowl for that nonsense. Get me a cookie jar) and forcing myself to be social. It wasn't easy, but it started to come easier once I realised why I was doing it.
I couldn't go on the way that I was. Not because it was hazardous, although it certainly wasn't good for me, it was more than that. I couldn't go on the way that I was and be okay with myself because in doing so, I wasn't living for the loved one that I lost. In no way am I saying there is a time frame or a certain way to go about this messy grief stuff, but I think we all reach a point where we realise that the best thing that we can do, is to live again.
To not let loss win, but instead to choose to love life once again. To get out of bed today and do something with someone who makes you laugh, or better yet, get out of bed today and do something for someone else. To choose to walk instead of taking the bus, just so that you might smile at a stranger or see the sunset on your way home and be reminded that no matter how grim it feels, there is joy to be found within each day, within each struggling soul.
Choose life. Let the little victories lead you to greater ones, trust in your ability to face the world. You don't have to be perfect, you can go out with your extra five kilograms of grief weight and you can even cry in front of people if you need to, you can struggle with the fact that life is moving forwards. Don't feel guilty, it's not moving on. It doesn't mean pretending or even brave facing, be honest and open and talk about how you feel. But it means you can't run any further or hide beneath your layers of pain, it means facing yourself and making a choice. This means taking a look at the life that you lost and asking yourself how you can best honour and those memories and the heart that was.