She was still, her hands in her lap. Tears streaked her face as she told me her story about loss and aching sadness, loneliness that met her everywhere she went. The sun didn’t shine for her anymore. Life was too much, hard and hollow. “I’m trying to fight, to have hope. But, I can’t. I don’t know how to do this anymore. My family is gone.”
I had told my story on a stage that evening to hundreds of people. 20 minutes of how my life fell apart and how I picked up the pieces. Afterward men and women made their way to me and shared their stories of fallen pieces. Some spoke haltingly, the words stuck in their throats. Other losses spilled out fast, fast. My sister, my baby, my husband. Blindsided by tragedy. They lifted their heads. They wanted to know. “When did it get better for you?”
I couldn’t give them a definite answer. There wasn’t a timeline. I just knew that one day I began to feel better, lighter. Sorrow didn’t disappear, but joy found me. I could laugh, a body-shaking laugh, and I felt that joy and sorrow could exist together, side by side. I didn’t have an explanation of how or why, only that it was true. One day it wasn’t only about what I had lost, but what I had learned. One day I didn’t wake up and wish I could return to the numbness of sleep and shut out a world I didn’t want to be a part of. One day I made peace with my scars and saw them as a map of what I had fought for and how far I’d come.
As we sat across from each other, one by one, knees to knees, sharing heartache and hope, I told them it is possible to get to the other side where the pain isn’t as wide, so deep. The only way to get there is to go through. You did not ask for what happened, but you are capable. You cannot hear one more person talk about ‘the journey’ without growing nauseous, yet you go on. You fight because your life is worth living. You find strength you didn’t know you had. It surprises you, this strength. You will carry it with you and one day you’ll give your strength to someone who needs it. You hang on because you are loved. Have hope even though you’re afraid. You have days where you are angry, so angry it blurs your vision and crushes your chest, but one day it won’t be anger that fuels you. There is more for you than this. Because you’re not a victim. You’re a survivor.
in my new nephew Brennan! I just want to squeeze him. All the time. This sweet photograph was taken by my friend Lesley.