Far too quickly the moments and words of these days will pass. I will keep living and growing older with each day and she will forever be 47 to me. All that has passed, I can never fully understand. What I know is the awful and beautiful pain of love; not lived perfect but lived well. I said we must have done something right, the mystery of two becoming one because I know the depth and pain of the tearing of my life from me.
As I continue to write, I remain impressed upon to say and caution you to not look past the pain and grief that comes with loss and death. If you come to console, do not try to push ahead for the grieving. Faith has not gone. Hope is not lost. For those in the valley of suck, it just looks different. Not only do the ancients make this clear to us, Jung wrote expressing “there is no coming to life without pain.” We are mortals in a fallen and corrupt world, this I believe now, maybe more than ever. To speak too soon of what is to come; of good days and reunions is to diminish the reality which our world seems so intent on trying to wash away.
I recognize this may well be my greatest weakness and my greatest strength: I go all in. All the time. As my friend Scott Brown said, “I never have to worry how you feel. You always carry it on your sleeve.” I enter relationships with a reckless abandon. With Heather, I went all in and so now the repercussions of that, how I live, hit me again and again and again. So many other widows have said, it comes rolling at you like waves of the ocean, knocking you down again and again. It is a good picture. There is truth here echoed by fellow travelers/widows.
If we are going to love then we set ourselves up for loss. To choose the path of marriage and intimacy (and it is a choice mind you), then the truth must be spoken: in most cases, someone will die before the other. One will be left to carry on. Alone. There are no perks when you join “The Widow’s Club.” No discount card comes in the mail. If you want to know love then you will know loss.
You who grieve, do not cheapen the tears by sucking them in. I have learned it can cause quite the migraine. Do not look past the moments when you get knocked down early, and they will come. You anticipate at first in the early transitions you make such as having to handle bills and letters with your loved one’s name and your’s. Those hurt. They ought to do so. We are hurting. It took a long time to create love. As we say in Scouts, “Be Prepared.” The valley of suck is a long road.
It will hurt when even good, loving people, family even, expect you to get over it in weeks, months, or years. You may do it to yourself (hear this friends). Your own emotions and memories betray you as I have discovered. On the day of Heather’s memorial service, the “guilt monster” sprung his trap in the valley of suck, seeking to pull me down into “what-ifs” that won’t do anyone any good. It will happen and it will hurt.
This is what I have observed in these first days as I journey moment by moment, savoring the sweetness and suckiness of this valley, in these horrible days after death. The memories and the morose are part of the steps we take. Just because we want it different does not make it so. Wishes are for fairytales. As Wesley, in “The Princess Bride” said, “Lies do not become us.”
I can only write what I have seen; tell you only about the path I have walked through the valley of suck. On this path, I do not say lightly I have looked to the words of Scripture to guide my path. I do not speak of those passages most thought of in these times of grief. They have not brought me hope.
I have come to see the value of those passages and books so often overlooked. The wailing of the prophets, the laments of Lamentations and the cries of the Psalmist. These speak the words of people who had great faith and also knew great suffering. They knew you need to speak both. We, however, today’s church, in our rush to alleviate any little discomfort, feel it necessary, almost a right even, to declare when suffering is over and when our grief is done. But God saw fit to give us a Book which is not silent about the nature of our human condition and the long road through this valley.
I do not have to know what is next. Right now, I must feel about. I have been blinded. Much of the world I saw through her eyes. I chose to love deeply and must carry the deep loss such love requires when death comes. And, I am convinced, if I am to truly live and love with abandon again, then I must walk this valley of suck knowing all the pain of the days past and the days still to come. The pain has been, at times, nearly unbearable but it is true in my observation, all the pain of suffering and separation was worth it, knowing I love her, imperfect though it was, with reckless abandon and I would do it all over again. Twenty-two years of loving her was too short but if it had only been one day I could have loved her? I would walk the valley of suck gladly.
Much love from the valley of suck.