I lay in bed. Wide awake, yet numb and half asleep. My mind is in a trance. I feel waves of tears cascading over me, through me. I toss. I turn. Nothing feels comfortable. My bed offers no relief from the tension in my body, the tight grip on my mind.
I illuminate my wristwatch’s backlight. 3AM, really? How long have I been laying here? I grapple with my nightstand in the dark, searching for a vial of lavender oil.
Please, something, ease my mind. Let me rest.
I can’t stop thinking about it… him. Questions are never completed in my mind because they spiral into each other, weaving their way into a complex web of emotions. All of it leading to the big question: why?
Why him, why now, why?
My tears feel heavy. They bead in my vision, blurring the world. I feel the balls of emotion forming like a snowball in the corner of my eyes. They release, scratching my face, until they reach the cliff of my jawline. My tears slam into the ground like a wrecking ball, audible as they hit the floor. They continue to come, eyes opened or closed. No control over the river that flows from my heart.
Over time, I begin climb out of this tunnel. Slowly. At first, a smile comes. A laugh. I feel guilty at first. Then, I get friendly with this emotion. I welcome it. It begins to shimmer in the darkest moments. I remember something new. I see a glimmer of the positive memories. Sense him with me. See it’s going to be okay. It’s always going to be different, but there is a light and a blanket of comfort that is slowly embracing me.
I consume myself in a creative process of unpacking all we had. I toil at my computer like a scavenger hunting for memories in my hard drives, Facebook messages, emails, Instagram DM’s. Our connection was in the clouds. It was all over the web.
It is engrained in my heart.
Through this painful process that at times seems self-torturous, I find a more effortless, genuine smile. I find cleansing tears. They feel lighter now. I feel them flow in a steady stream from my eyes, as they brush my cheeks like a light feather, offering me a comforting touch. A vision more clear. A vision of gratitude. A vision of love.
I get a breath of relief, then another wave comes.
The thing about grief is that it constantly pulls you back into the undercurrent. At first, all you see is darkness at the base of the ocean. There is no hope, no escape. It’s completely suffocating. The world seems like a dream, every breath a trigger for another reason to cry. Every breath a reminder that the world is different now.
The breath I still have, but someone else doesn’t.
How could I be so sad and full of grief, then feel the tears transform to gratitude mid-cry? How could all the sadness, anger, and loss be feel cleansing?
I begin realizing my feelings of grief and gratitude are coexisting. They are coming into existence together and trying to separate them was oversimplifying my emotional experience. It comes in waves – constantly evolving as the tide pulls away from the store and another wave crashes into the sand simultaneously.
Pulling away, cascading in. All at once.
We’ve all suffered so much loss. Where is the meaning in this suffering we are enduring?
All the hugs we haven’t had.
All the events we’ve missed.
All the grief without community.
All the things that could’ve been.
All the things that will never be.
All the things we thought we needed, wanted, and are.
I continue to flow freely between these states. Gratitude and grief, grief and gratitude. Not either or, now one or the other, but both.
I let my throat clench closed as a single tear finds its way to my eye.
I let my gut wrench as more tears come.
Whenever I thought the world was getting lighter, it crashes down again. wave after wave after wave.
I let my heart soften as I move through loss. I offer myself compassion. I seek connection where I can. I find the way to cope when it seems all meaning is lost.
I surrender to the endless expansion. I allow the grief in my heart to crack me open, to let my light shine through, to reach others.
We are all working through our pain, moving in synchronicity with the world as it ebbs and flows between grief and love. Leaning into our feelings is uncomfortable and evokes a deep sense of fear—feeling like we are on the edge of disaster if we were to fully trust. Eventually, we learn to lean fully over the edge and fall. As we get sucked into the vortex of emotions, it can feel disoriented and insecure, not knowing which way is up and which way is down.
The world seems to close in on us in darkness.
This darkness is as infinite as a black hole. Yet, the more time we are willing to spend in the darkness, the more we begin to see the forms of light around us. Our vision adjusts to the world that seems black yet hints of color and light begin shining through.
This is leaning into empathy. Leaving our ego at the door and welcoming the collective pain and grief as our responsibility to hold together.
Our growth and connection is what shines through the cracks.
We pick up the pieces of our heart and begin putting them back together the way we want them. We are the builders of our own lives and destiny now.
As the pieces continually fall, we realize we have lost so much. There’s no comfort, security, or hope. We grieve as we watch these pieces fall all around us, the world crumbling. We grieve our past selves and what was meant to be in the future. We grieve the parts of us we thought made us whole but, in fact, were seemingly empty and meaningless.
But maybe this is our opportunity to welcome new growth. Maybe this is our revival. Maybe we needed to be stripped of all we believe to see the depths of our being. Maybe we needed to grieve and endure our pain together to actualize our human connection.
This way, we uncover the authenticity in our connection. We find our values and each other are worth fighting for.
We find our true meaning.
As we continue to crack and break, may we rebuild and become stronger together.
As we continue to get sucked into the undercurrent of grief, may we remember there is still love and gratitude with us, even if our eyes haven’t yet adjusted to the darkness.
In loving memory of Braden Smith who touched the lives of many. I wish I could have physically been with everyone this weekend to honor the life you lived fearlessly & ferociously, but the world has kept us apart for now. Your spirit is within me as I shed tears of grief and gratitude for who you were and the person you helped me to become. I’ll never forget you. I know you’re flying free and diving deep now… xoxo