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Learning to Bear the Unbearable

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

I regularly hear that a loved cannot bear to go on after losing a loved one. And I get it. When Tom passed, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to live anymore, I simply wasn’t able to picture a life without Tom. Somehow, I had secured a position of longevity for him in my future life, of him always nearby. We both said we wanted to become friends again, we both adored our children. He was younger than me, he was strong, resilient, he took charge of things and made things happen. Why would he not be in my future?

A serious drug addiction took us both by surprise. Methamphetamines are not something to play around with. They are not a “recreational” drug because they immediately change the chemistry of the brain. In a matter of months I witnessed changes that would lead to a very painful and dark outcome. And with that, the end of his life.

I did not see that coming. Perhaps I should have. I don’t know. All I know is that I was involved with him for 17 years. He was the love of my life, the man I created a family with. We had years of history together, things that happened, moment up moment. All built up to years in relationship. Even with the addiction, I assumed he would get through it and rise because that is what Tom did. And that gave me comfort. Knowing he was strong, knowing he would survive and knowing that he would always be around. That all gave me a feeling of security. I wasn’t alone. Tom would always be there.

And then, he was gone.

The grief experience is different for each person, but for myself, I needed time, a lot of time to just get used to the idea that he would not be around anymore. This is where shock helps us absorb such catastrophic information. It acts as a buffer and helps our mind reframe reality. Develop new ways of seeing things. For a long time, there was no future, no dreams, no desires, no wishes, no plans because all of those things, always had him in the background. For me, Tom was always there, in some shape or form – popping in, sending an email, calling, picking up the kids, meeting me somewhere, asking me something. Engaged, involved. For a long time, all I could do was catalogue moments. I could only plan for the future in a limited way.

I also didn’t realize how much I still loved him. And this is where loss meets unbearableness. Where grief feels never-ending. I think honestly, I didn’t want to love him, because he had been changing into a not-so-nice guy.

As the saying goes, distance does make the heart grow fonder. And this new distance between us would give me years to absorb the shock of its existence and the fact I would never see him again. And come to learn things about myself, like the fact that I actually did still love him. And what that meant in my grief process and in my life moving forward. What it meant for writing a new legacy for our family, for how we would tell stories in the future. For creating a future that our children could look forward to.

Finding out I still loved him, was revealing in a good way. And not so good, in the way that it also made the loss feel unbearable. There is a duality there. We don’t want it, yet we tolerate it. We feel them but they are not here with us anymore. We are close but yet so far away. We know them so well, but we do not see through their eyes or feel their experiences. And this love I felt helped me see how much I had been missing about him.

Unbearableness is a powerful experience. It’s when we feel the most vulnerable, the most connected to the loved one and when we feel the most alone. When we feel the agony of the separation. Never ending separation. When we are asked to start picturing and living a life we didn’t anticipate, one without our loved one.

This is sometimes where the partner passes on shortly after their spouse dies. With tragic loss, it can be the part where the family splits up because the grief and accompanying feelings are so intense, everyone disconnects. It’s when friendships disappear. When relatives stop calling. Or it can be when the drinking and bad habits can start. When mental health can turn because the grief goes unchecked and things in the mind spiral. And it can be when health issues arise. It’s a miserable space. There is suffering here. Endless agony and often, no room hope.

And it can be a really difficult space to get out of.

People don’t move into this space knowingly or willingly. It happens simply because we are human, we are complex, and we are vulnerable. Losing someone you love is a direct hit to the heart, the space in our mind and bodies that is completely vulnerable when fully open to receiving and sending out love.

I’m simply a mortal that has been there and transcended it. And I’m still there sometimes. I had to transmute most of that energy into something that would help me move on. That came in the form of parenting, simplifying my life, writing our story, and helping others. It comes from a spiritual practice that is a mix of Catholicism and Buddhist beliefs and practices. It’s imperfect because I am imperfect. And it’s an ongoing work in progress because I am continuing to change and grow. I had to make a conscious choice to live, and I have chosen to commit myself to our children 100% from here on out. I’ve chosen to live my life at 100% and live a life that has meaning and is purposeful. I’ve promised to offer our children a view of life that is more hospitable. A life that is filled with love, hope, faith, peace, gratitude, and engagement. And to do that I must model that, invite it in. Our lives now are peaceful and so intricately intertwined because I have so many lessons, I am weaving into their sense of being and living. So much to teach them, so much to say, and so much love to give.

I still find losing Tom unbearable. Part of my work was to stop putting a timeline on my grief and my suffering, on feelings like that. Now I know I will always feel that. And the missing. That never goes away. And I’m ok with that. I am aware of the moment he is missing, and there are so many. Of the needs of all of us that will not be met, the wishes, dreams and hopes that got taken away with the wind. So I write, I pray, I learn, I study, I love, and I move on. I hug my children; I kiss them and tell them I love them more than life itself.

And I surrender regularly. To all the unknowing, the unfinished business, the unanswered questions, the confusion, the pain, the suffering, the missing. I give it all back to the universe around us.

And just for a little while, things feel better. It’s when I feel the immense love purring onto me from our cat. Those moments when I hear our children’s laughter down the hall and feel their genuine happiness. When I see that fragile beautiful hummingbird flutter for a brief moment in front of a flower. From those quiet moments when I look out into the trees and feel peace. When I see that baby in the grocery store suddenly catch my eye, focus intently on me, and then smile. When I feel those long lanky arms of our son enfolding me. Those are the moments that actually make it bearable. And there are lots of those moments, you just have to find them. You have to seek them out and make them a part of your experience.

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