“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”

– Jamie Anderson

I spent my entire life making preparations for my eventual passing, often discussing it with loved ones. However, when death actually came, I had to question if all those preparations truly prepared me. Unfortunately, mere hope can’t suffice, particularly when neither science nor medicine can offer remedies for certain illnesses. Death always remains an unexpected, unpredictable event in our lives, even when it follows a prolonged illness or hospitalization.

Through my interactions with others, I discovered that these exchanges weren’t just about sharing memories. They were opportunities to form deep emotional bonds. However, the loss of a loved one hit me hard, knocking my emotional balance off-kilter. It became my responsibility to somehow restore that equilibrium.

Moreover, I realized that I had to keep fighting for my own life, all the while providing care and support to my loved ones, including children, parents, and my spouse. It was an ongoing battle that I had to face.

In times of suffering and grief, I found solace in metaphors. They provided me with valuable insights and guidance, much like Emily Dickinson’s poem, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.” This poetic expression beautifully captured the essence of the emotional turmoil I was experiencing.

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

The immediate period that comes after a loss is marked by the funeral ceremony, then the withdrawal from social events, and a period of quietness. In the metaphor “The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs,” the feelings of pain are compared to a numb group of people participating in a formal event, much like a funeral. The emotions I had for my lost loved one I carried with me for an extended period, like the weight of a corpse being carried to its burial. These emotions can be likened to the nerves that extend from the heart to the brain and throughout the body. But when I experienced a loss, this connection to my emotions lost its grounding power.

Without the ability to fuel the nerves, they became devoid of feeling, growing numb and still, much like a group of people at a funeral ceremony. In contrast, someone with active nerves possesses courage and a clear sense of purpose when confronting challenging situations. Unfortunately, without the connection responsible for transmitting sensory impulses to the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and organs, I experienced disconnection, profound sadness, a lack of focus, and a decrease in self-confidence. Recovering from nerve injuries proved to be a slow and arduous process. In the poem, the nerves sit, seemingly resigned, with no course of action left but to prepare for their burial ceremony.

“In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

The feelings and my lifeless nerves are immured as a method of final deposition. A shallow burial would be insufficient in this case; the emotions I experienced required something deeper to cope with the pain. Their weightiness demanded something solid, stiff, and unyielding. There was no turning back, and the choice for these feelings was tombs.

These tombs weren’t merely shallow graves adorned with marble crosses and wreaths of flowers. Instead, they were structures constructed from stone or deeply embedded in the earth. This made visiting them quite challenging once the ceremony had concluded. These tombs were exceptionally cold, quiet, and dark. They stood as the sole symbol of those feelings, which would persist for eternity, without any possibility of return.

The exact duration for overcoming a loss isn’t clear, and it can vary from person to person, but the emotions that follow seem to follow a pattern. Time becomes a relative concept for someone who has experienced a loss, and it can feel like hundreds of years have passed when, in reality, the events happened just the day before.

“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”
― Sarah Dessen

The metaphor “Yesterday, or Centuries before” encapsulates this sense of an unknown mourning period with a loss of one’s sense of time. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, a common practice is to allocate forty days for the memorial period, seen as a transition from death to the afterlife. Believers understand this transition as a time when a soul revisits the places and people they loved before leaving the earthly realm forever.

During this period, a person who has suffered a loss can feel a profound sense of confusion, blurring the lines between reality, dreams, and imagination. After this transitional phase, most people begin to adapt to life without their loved ones and continue on with their lives. In the poem, we see a similar situation unfold through the process of mourning, although in this case, the duration feels like an eternity.

This contemplation about the complexity of grief reminds me that there’s no one-size-fits-all timetable for recovering from a loss. I underwent this journey in my personal way. The metaphors and customs linked to mourning provided some comfort, but the profound pain of my grief often eluded simple understanding. Nevertheless, when faced with such a profound loss, I discovered the human capacity to adjust and carry on with life, even though the emptiness left by that absence remained. It’s a testament to my ability to persevere and continue to hold the love I had for those I’ve lost, always aware of the timeless nature of their memory.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Anne Lamott

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