C. S. Lewis had it right, in grief “the same leg is cut off time after time.” You hop through life for a while. The pain is acute. You’re in agony. Then, in months or years, the sharp crippling pain is replaced more and more by an ever duller throbbing. Soon instead of being in anguish you’re just sore. One day you realize you can run through the sunny fields of life laughing with true joy in your heart. You marvel at this. And then, some time after that, and without warning, a new amputation occurs.
The span of time between each amputation by grief and the ability for joy is incalculable—unique to each individual and varying at different stages in any particular person’s cycle of sorrow. In grief, you can suffer acutely for months, weeks, days, or hours. It comes when it comes, and it heals as it wants.
Grief is surgery without the anesthetic. You feel every incision. You feel the surgeon’s tools slicing you open—removing important parts of your person and then sewing you up again. In grief, you’re still functional, but no longer whole. Pieces of you are now missing, and those parts will haunt you like phantom limbs—ghosts of memories and specters of futures that will never come.
Grief is both the disease and the life-saving medicine—but the side effects are terrible. Mourning is the only way to heal, and yet it is excruciating. The alternative is to defy reality, but denial is a cancer. If it is allowed to grow unchecked in grief it will eat away at all of your emotions or corrode to the core of your sanity.
Grief is like waking up in a foreign land. You don’t know the layout. You don’t recognize your surroundings. You must find shelter and food and perhaps even companions, all the while learning a complex new language. You will grow more and more accustomed to and comfortable in this new country as time goes on, but living with grief will never ever feel like your former home.
Grief is a ransacked garden you must try to restore. No matter how well you heed the tulips and hydrangea, the persistent weeds will always return. In grief, you must manage to carry more—beauty as well as darkness, healing as well as pain, joy as well sadness, and loss as well as gain.