During my mom’s eulogy I described cancer as a grenade. Its damage primarily affects the person living with the horrible disease, but it leaves shrapnel wounds and scars on loved ones. The reality is, the analogy can be associated to any kind of death, not just cancer.
When I lost my father a few years earlier I felt I had been shredded, torn into little pieces and unsure how I would put my life back together again. The pain was nothing I had ever experienced before. The weight of it was indescribable. Crushing. It felt like all the air from my lungs was compressed from the tightness in my chest. I would look at people driving in their car, singing along with the radio and I would think, “How do they not know? How can their world keep spinning when mine has stopped?”
One afternoon weeks after my dad passed away I was sitting on my therapist’s couch. I had a tissue in my hand as I slowly worked through my feelings of grief. Halfway through the session, I said something that provoked her to tell me “Your life is never going to be the same.” I can still remember that moment. I felt as though the wind had been knocked out of me. I began to sob. The tissue I had been holding was sucked into my mouth as I struggled to catch my breath.
I had been grieving my father so deeply, it never occurred to me to grieve the life I once had. Of course, life would be different. How could it not? In those few words, she broke me. Every last little piece of thread holding me together was gone.
Up until that point I had been working so hard to piece myself back together just the way I had been before he died. I was trying to claw my way out of the darkness to attain the happiness I had felt before. But what she gave me that day was a gift. Those words broke me and helped to heal me all at the same time.
Life was never going to be the same. By thinking it could be, I would continue to struggle to achieve the happiness of my old life. I would have been left feeling empty, less fulfilled and discouraged. However, knowing I needed to create a new blueprint made me reevaluate who I was, what life meant to me and how I wanted to live.
Many of life’s challenges will make you feel like you are buried under its weight. You will fight to dig your way out, and eventually you surface. The pain and struggle will become part of your character, part of your strength. When you surface, your perspective on life might change. You will find laughter and happiness again. But most importantly, you will find hope.