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April 23, 2020 – Time II


That’s usually what I say when I have something to say, but don’t know how to start.

This is one of those times. So many ideas, so many words, Swirling and rattling around inside my head. That might be one of the reasons I haven’t posted anything for so long. For so long, in fact, I should probably make this a sequel to the last one, with the title, “It’s About Time I Write Something New!”

So, in keeping with that theme, that’s what I‘ll write about! Time.

It’s such an abstract thing. A funny thing. We can’t see it, hear it, feel it or touch it. Yet it dictates so many of our activities, so much of our lives, so many of our emotions. The passage of time evokes in us feelings of impatience, worry, anticipation, relief, dread, success, failure, even happiness. We can feel driven by time, or ignore it. Lose track of it. Wonder where it went, or wonder why it passes so slowly. 

While speaking with a friend who had experienced a deep loss a few years before our son died, she noted how the sense of time is so disrupted while we’re grieving. 

She was right.

It’s as though the earthquake of inner trauma shakes our sense of being and disrupts the coordinates of where we are in the universe. It shakes our sense of who we are, of what we do, of why we do what we do. It messes with our linear patterns of time and space. Of where we are, of where we’re going. For a long time, there are no more goals. Nor any satisfaction of plans formed and accomplished. Nothing to look forward to. The thing you want most in life, the desire at the front of your thoughts, is unachievable. Everything else pales in comparison. What you want is your loved one back. What else matters?

Rationally, you know there are things that matter. Most of all, there are other people who matter. And you do care. It’s just that the massiveness of the hurt powerfully shoulders its way past other cares. Time gets tangled in that pushing and shoving of thoughts and emotions, and when it emerges, it’s been altered. 

It can feel like our whole life stopped. Time stopped. Life as we knew it ended. Then it began again, despite our protest. Our lives went on. Not necessarily well, but differently. Then, just as we think we’re adjusting to this new life, without warning we’re pulled back to our lives before the end. Our history becomes divided into before and after our loss. You’d think that such a binary view of life would simplify time, but it doesn’t. 

Your mind and your heart continually leap back and forth from before, to during, to after. You can be in the present and suddenly be transported to reliving an event from the past. Happy, sad, fun, desperate – memories of events accompanied by all types of emotions.  How can you stay in the present, when you flash back to the moment your loved one takes their last breath? In the haze of grief, the past carries the full weight of reality normally ascribed to the present. Sometimes, it can even feel more real than the current surreality of “I can’t believe it happened. I just can’t believe they’re not here.”

In the swirling, murky, powerful tsunami of emotions, keeping a nice, tidy timeline of life is difficult. For some of us, impossible.  

Thankfully, over time, slowly – painfully slowly – the overwhelming flood of emotions begins to recede, and we feel the stability of muddy but solid ground beneath our feet. 

The landscape has been altered, the devastation, great. But we’re no longer drowning. We can start to breathe again, start to walk again, start the process of being restored. 

You can make it through this. Allow yourself time to heal, however slowly the process moves along – because it does move along. Be as patient as you can with yourself, and breathe. And breathe again. And again.

And one day, you just might be surprised by a tiny spark of joy. The first of many to come. It can happen. Even in the mourning.

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One Comment

  1. Anna Anna

    Nice articulation of how time, this abstract but pervasive thing, can unravel from it’s usual tidy form into something so tangled and disconnected from rational thoughts, becoming unusable and unpredictable.

    Importantly, though, your words also share confidence. Encouragement to have faith that even when our sense of time is altered – when emotions no longer share space with each other and occurrences no longer order and prioritize themselves in the linear manner we are accustomed to – that joy is still patiently, lovingly, being held for us … and it will show up again, in time.

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