The thing about life after death- someone else's death, of course, not your own- is that it has to go on.
No matter how you think that life should NOT go on, that it could not POSSIBLY go one... it does. For everyone. Those departed are gone, those living keep going, and what was once normal is now memory.
Since my mom passed away, some days have been easier than others. I suppose that this is just the way it goes. Some days feel normal- I wake up, take care of my kids, deal with the dogs, talk to my friends, prepare meals and wash laundry. I laugh, I make jokes, I watch tv and grumble about toothpaste in the sink. Life carries on.
Then I will just be sitting at a red light and my mom will cross my mind, and suddenly I am sobbing. I will watch a movie where a parent dies, and my heart will feel like it is breaking anew. I will picture her smile or remember something she said or even think about things she did that annoyed me, and out of nowhere the grief hits me again. Laughter can turn to tears in the blink of an eye, but the tears are quickly wiped away so that no one sees that I am crying yet again. Be strong, be strong. Time marches on, but it doesn't do so without leaving indelible footprints.
I have heard many people say that, after a loved one passed away, they would just look around and wonder how people could just keep living their lives as if nothing had happened. Don't you know that something terrible has happened? Don't you know that the world is a completely different place? When your world feels like it has come to a crashing halt, it feels like everyone else's should have halted too... or at least slowed down for a few minutes. Once my mom died and I was walking in that same valley of disbelief and anger that other people should continue to carry on like nothing happened, I had a sort of epiphany.
I was sitting at one of my children's interminable field days, surrounded by a hundred people who didn't know my mom or me. People who couldn't look at my face and think, "Her mom just died." People who couldn't tell that, beneath the smiling picture-taking exterior, my heart was broken inside my chest and I would rather just be alone in my bedroom than sitting in a crowd. They had no idea that anything traumatic or life-changing was going on beneath the surface. As I looked around at those people- the hyperactive mom totally reliving her childhood through her son's relay, the dad with one eye on his phone, the grandmother sitting uncomfortably on the steel bleachers- I wondered how many of them were sitting there with their own broken hearts, unseen by the crowds around them. How many people are sitting here, in pain, with a smile pasted on? I will bet it was most of us.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if, when someone asks us how we are, we tell them the truth? "I spent all night crying, actually. I miss my mom every second, but I am still so angry. It was hard to get out of bed today, but sometimes it is hard simply because I remember that I am not sad every second and I feel like I probably should be. How are you?" Just picture the look you would get. How uncomfortable it would be. So we don't. We just say, "I'm ok."
We are the walking wounded. We are the people, hurting beneath our smiles, broken-hearted behind our laughter, fighting battles than no one knows or cares to see. We are an army of wounded souls fighting battles all by ourselves.
We hurt, but we deal. We grieve, but time continues to pass. We sit, surrounded by hurting people, alone in our grief and pain, learning how to mask it so that time can continue to march on and we can figure out how to carry our burden without anyone knowing there is a burden to be carried.