The fog continues to clear as we step into it, and in becoming more aware of my environment I look around and feel like my sadness has become a blemish. An undesirable characteristic in a story that others assume I am closing. A natural response for me that is uncomfortable for some and awkward for others. When I am asked if I have finished mourning or am told that true healing would bring only happiness I realize there is a vast disconnect in people’s understanding of grief. In this life there is an abundance of things to mourn; relationships, careers, possessions, and ambitions to name a few. And though all losses share parallels the conclusion of a human life is unique from the rest.
Death is final and with it goes all earthly hope of restoration with that life.
So here is the role that sadness plays: as the ones that we love most dear are taken from us they leave an opening. While learning to survive with this gaping hole we are saturated with sadness. Somewhere along the way we have been taught that the sadness needs to vacate before we can heal. It has been clumped together with all the other undesirable feelings. Like it is only a temporary bandage to stop the bleeding. Yet sadness not only helps the wound to heal, but it becomes part of the scar. It is permanent, like a tattoo in memory of the ones we have loved and lost.
I’m not talking about depression, addiction, or shutting people out; that is sadness that has evolved from an emotion to destructive behaviour. Instead I am referring to the ache that will never leave you. The memories that are always on standby. And the gap in your chest that never fully fills. And as time continues the sadness becomes less potent, but it never leaves. It becomes faithful and comforting. And I suspect that to assume anyone who has suffered great loss could ever be without that sadness would be like cutting someone’s legs off and then asking to be told when they don’t miss them anymore. Would they grow back? Could they ever forget that they are gone? No, probably not. But they could learn to live without them through anguish and struggle. There would be good days and innumerable bad. Life would continue and time would not stop, but all this could not solve the dilemma of being without legs. And those surrounding them and expecting the legless to continue as though they haven’t suffered loss would not be an aid to someone living with this handicap.
Sadness is not a feeling that you are trying to outgrow, but rather a lifelong companion. It might start out aggressive and heavy, but with time it will be content to step back. And hopefully there will come a stage with moments that you fail to remember it is present. But it never leaves and is ready at any moment to remember, relive, and dwell in those spaces of “what if” and “if only”.
If we don’t allow sadness into our lives there is a lot that we will be missing out on. It is what brings the relativity to our happiness, and what allows us to understand the value and depths of our delights. To remind us to treasure life’s true gifts. To find the motivation to live.
So as I begin to embrace the new joys that are in front of me I will not turn my back on my sorrow.