Friday, September 10, 2010

Heartache - Living the Definition

Julie looking out over a great divide
Until the death of my daughter in May, I had never really experienced grief.  Yes, I've had my losses.  Who can reach the seventh decade of life without experiencing loss?  Those losses, some of them quite significant, pale in comparison to the death of a child.  

A few months ago on an especially painful afternoon, the acute sorrow that I felt gave me new meaning to the word heartache.  Heartache was no longer just a word to me.  Heartache, a noun, a thing, could have become a proper noun and been capitalized as it applied its meaning to my life.  

I felt as if I were actually experiencing the origin of the word.  In fact, I said to my husband, "My heart hurts."  The pain I felt during those first few weeks after my daughter's death was visceral in nature, constant, and debilitating.  Many times I felt terribly alone in my pain, not because I did not have support or love surrounding me, but rather because the external love and support around me could not break through to touch the deep heartache in the core of my being.  

Heartache is a condition that is experienced internally.  Even as I went through the external motions of life, the internal reality of loss, shock, pain, anger, and sorrow never seemed far from the surface.  Thankfully, during that time, and now, I have been able to accomplish the external motions of living.  

A dark black line was drawn down the timeline of my life on a Saturday morning in May.  That line marked life before Julie's suicide and after her suicide.  At times, the divide seemed too wide and too deep to ever cross.  The divide that seemed too wide and deep to ever cross will always be there, but the depth is not as deep as it once was, nor is it as wide.  Somehow, carrying on traditions from the past link the two periods of my life together.  

Gardening, walking, reading, writing, journaling, those activities which have been a part of the daily and weekly fabric of my life, have helped me transition into the resumption of life before I walked through life with great heartache.   Lunching with friends gave me a feeling of normalcy.  

Last week as my husband and I attended the first football game of the season for the high school where he served as principal, I was aware of how important it is to continue many long established traditions while one is on a grief journey that involves great heartache.  Sitting on the 17th row of the football stadium, surrounded by a sea of black and white, listening to the high school band play, felt normal.  

Heartache's intensity has decreased as I have gone about the business of living and grieving.  I believe I am somehow melding the those two opposites into the whole of my life.  I was once told that one must integrate all the events of one's life to truly heal.  Perhaps, I am integrating the ability to live each day the best that I can with the process of grieving.  By doing this, I realize that I am becoming a the person who will be forever heartbroken, but I will also be one who strives to live a rich and productive future.