Grief Lessons III: What Really Happens When We Peel Off the Band-Aid

I HAVE A CONFESSION.

 
 this summer in front of our village home in kleileh (south lebanon) - my father's pride and joy.

this summer in front of our village home in kleileh (south lebanon) - my father's pride and joy.

 

When my father passed away, I thought I could get ahead of my grief. i thought my wounds were temporary, that i just needed a year to heal from the gashing injury that losing him left me with.

before you call me unrealistic, you have to understand how i am. i try so hard to stay ready. it's not because i'm pompous - it's quite the opposite actually. it's because i'm humble, and because i know i have so much to learn from others - specifically those who have experienced the inevitable before i have.

so, like a thirsty sponge, i absorb their wisdom, their key-takeaways, their mistakes so that when it's my turn, i'm as ready as can be. and honestly, staying ready has worked pretty well for me in the past. but losing my father, a role model, a professional mentor, my favorite love supply, well, i couldn't quite be ready for that. besides, underlying the word "grief" is a grave lack of readiness. 

so it took me to this third edition of my "grief lessons" to learn that, sometimes, we have to get ourselves ready to never be ready. 

sometimes, when we peel off the bandaid, years later, decades later, we're left with the same wound we once covered up.

time doesn't heal all. 

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this is not a depressing or morbid post. 

it's an important one. 

if you've read my first two "grief lessons" posts "the emotional alchemist" and "Unthinkable (i'm ready)," you know that i've made peace with my grief. i understand that - like many other rites of passage - grief is a part of life. you'll know that my grief has made me a better person in every way possible. 

dare i say i'm even grateful for my grief. 

seriously. i am loving the person I’ve become as a result of this. I like her way more than the person i was before it (though i empathize with and love them the same). i have never in my life felt better than i feel today, and that is only because i have been able to be so honest about all of it: the pain, the growth, the growing pains, the yearning, the hope, the mourning, the confusion, the lack of identity, the rebirth. i have allowed this process to teach me something new every day.

as for my father, i don’t want him to come back because he’s in a better place and i am happy for him. i miss him everyday, but i choose to celebrate once having someone this worthy of being so missed. i don’t want to change a thing. but i do want to say that "time heals all" is a myth. it's simply not true. i will never heal from losing him.

the day he passed, i didn’t know that time didn't heal all. i didn't know that time was an illusion when dealing with grief. no. i loved time. i loved the future. i obsessed over it. time gave me so much hope. time was my everything. time was the light at the end of the darkest tunnel I’d ever been in.

time was the sun.

what happens when you realize that the one thing your entire world revolves around is an illusion?

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this is not a depressing or morbid post.

it's a real one.

so i want to discuss this illusion of time because i don't think we talk about it enough in conversations about grief.

this leads to a lack of empathy towards ourselves if we are dealing with grief and even a lack of empathy for others dealing with grief.

and for the sake of this post, grief can be any form of loss. it can be death. it can be divorce. it can be a break-up. it can be mourning a version of someone who has become someone else. grief comes in many forms, but in all its forms, it can leave our hearts deeply injured. and depending on the depth of it, time may never heal this kind of wound. it will always hurt.

trust me, i know. i am peeling off my bandaid as we speak and the wound looks the same as it did on march 13th, 2017. please do not mistake my candor for pessimism. i am a deeply hopeful person who ironically only learned to wear rose colored glasses after experiencing this tragedy. i am very hopeful about the rest of my life. 

but the rest of my life will be stained by my father's death. and that's just the truth. you just don't "heal" from something like this. time does not heal all. that is an overly simplistic way of talking about loss. we need to complicate it so that we can better empathize with ourselves and with others experiencing loss in its many forms. 

time is an illusion when dealing with grief. 

when my father passed away, (and i mean like moments later), my brain went into problem solving/damage control mode. this was me being me - the girl who stayed ready. i tried to prevent my grief from getting the best of me. so, i slapped this band-aid on and told myself it would help me heal. i told myself that i needed a year. that on march 13th, 2018, i would peel off my bandaid and find a beautiful scar to remind me of all i've been through. 

i set myself up for failure thinking there was a "successful" way to deal with grief. i was mistaken to think that, after the year mark, this kind of grief would be over. sure, i would cry and mourn and reminisce from time to time, you know, the "normal" kind of grief that you see in movies, but i thought that this kind of grief - like my gashing wound - would heal with time. i even used the words "temporary wounds" in the letter to my father that i read at his services the next day.

BEFORE WE DISCUSS HOW WRONG I WAS TO THINK TIME COULD HEAL THIS WOUND, I WANT TO CALL OUT WHAT I WAS PARTIALLY RIGHT ABOUT: 

i chose the right band-aid. 

i covered up my gashing wound with a relentless focus on my mental health at all costs, and i mean by any means necessary. i cut out any toxicity, i took care of my health, i quit my job, i applied to school, i channeled my pain into this brand (I’m not kidding when i say my writing saved my life), and i committed to a monogamous relationship with myself for that year.

i wasn't wrong in needing a band-aid, i was just mistaken in believing it was there to help me heal my wound. the band-aid was there so i didn't bleed out, it was there to keep me alive. the band-aid was there because i wasn't ready to see the depth of the cut or the color of the blood. that sight wasn't going anywhere, but i needed to get ready to never be ready: you simply cannot ever be ready to lose the love of your life. but let's be clear: no healing was happening under that band-aid. how could healing be a priority when my body was still in survival mode?  

from March 13th, 2017 to March 13th, 2018, i needed a bandaid because the moment his heart stopped beating, mine was getting ready to burst.

this is not a depressing or morbid post.

it's an urgent one. 

my wound looks exactly the same as it did on March 13th, 2017. and something tells me it will look this way on march 13th, 2077. 

time is an illusion when dealing with grief.

and i think we need to talk more about that. at least so we can better empathize with others dealing with loss. it shouldn't be taboo.

because what anyone who has dealt with grief will tell you is that it doesn't get better, we just get better.

it doesn't get better after year 2. and year 3. and 30. and 50. it doesn't get better after the “first” birthdays or first memorials. after people stop looking at us with pitiful eyes (though i can't say i'm not personally happy when they stop). it doesn't get better when others have moved on with their lives and we’re still trying to determine what this new one will look like without our loved one(s). the shock and disbelief and dreams don't get better. the tears are still as fresh as they were on day one. the triggers are still triggers after the trauma subsides.

the pain doesn't get better, we just get better at using it.

many of us ironically learn to find our hearts by following the pain. we get better at allowing our grief to teach us gratitude. we become so vastly different from others our age because the little things just don't seem to matter as much. we learn to be sad and happy simultaneously. we learn to channel our pain into productivity, purpose and passion. the inevitable success that comes from our newfound flame often tricks others into believing we've successfully masked our pain. but little do they know how lonely it feels to be so deeply misunderstood, how the wound often bleeds the most during our happiest moments. 

time doesn't heal all. the pain never gets better. we just get better at using it. 

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this is not a depressing or morbid post. 

it's a brave one.

i am getting ready to never be ready. 

as self-aware as i am and as truly gentle with myself as i've been since losing my father, i am only now beginning to lift the corners of this band-aid and prepare to peel it off. i am only now getting ready to let this gashing wound air out, to witness its depth and the color of the blood. i am only now feeling as though the stinging sensations and blood that pours out will be bearable. i am only now ready to accept that some wounds were never meant to heal.

i want to share my reflections because i think this perspective could relate to many others dealing with loss. and if my words resonate, i want those people to feel understood, because this process can be a deeply lonely one, even among people sharing the same loss. grief is so vastly different from person to person, but i want us to feel like - if we choose to - it's okay to still talk about our loss in year 2 or 20 as if it just happened yesterday. because it did just happen yesterday.

time is an illusion when dealing with grief.

and that's okay. we don't need to subscribe to "time heals all." we understand that it's simply not true. and we can keep the band-aid on for as long as we want to. until we are finally ready to never be ready. until we can see our wounds for what they are. and we don't need to place such a value on "healing our wounds."

i've learned that some wounds must stay fresh to ensure we continue learning from the pain.

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this is not a depressing or morbid post.

it's a hopeful one.

because if time heals all. if time was real. if time was the sun. if my world revolved around it like i once thought it did. then that would mean, one day, i would struggle to recall what your beautiful face looks like. if time was real, then that would mean, one day, i would forget what the texture of your hand feels like when i hold it or when you playfully pinch me. if time was real, then that would mean, one day, the sound of your voice wouldn't be as vivid as it is today. that would mean your words would one day stop giving me peace and fire simultaneously, that replaying our favorite moments would one day stop sending goosebumps down my spine.

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that would mean i should transition to past tense instead of believing you've merely transitioned from one life to the next.

so i don't believe in time anymore.

 i'd rather get ready to never be ready. even if that means my wounds will never heal.

if believing that this wound is forever means your love is forever, then let it be. 

LET TIME BE ILLUSORY, BECAUSE I WILL NEVER BE READY TO FORGET YOU MY LOVE.

only love,

ri