I cannot tell you how grief will look tomorrow, or even how it will look tonight as I go to sleep. All I can do is describe how it has been. And here’s something that has stood out to me: the times of my deepest joy in the last few weeks have brought simultaneously the deepest sorrow. Some of these instances have had to do directly with the loss of Chris. This has been happening since the beginning, and now that Chris is gone, the sorrow and beauty sear me at the same moment. When we stood in Chris’s hospital room the morning he died, I said to my brother-in-law, Charlie, “I’m gonna need you.” The implications were understood: I have four children without an earthly father present. Charlie replied, “I’m ready.”
The beauty in those two simple words. It overwhelms me still. There’s an ocean of grace and love behind them. But it’s the same ocean of my sorrow–the same water that engulfs me in an anguish too big to understand. It’s the same ocean.
More recently I’ve experienced this in a somewhat more inexplicable way, where the link to Chris isn’t so overt. I had a gathering for my birthday–just women–that was a thing of love, through and through. No stone was unturned in communicating care, beauty, truth, goodness. I didn’t anticipate the deluge of sadness in me during the gathering. The best way I could understand it at the time was that even such heights of love couldn’t touch the emptiness of losing Chris. But I think I have a slightly different understanding now.
Sunday we spent the night with my sister’s family, specifically so that I could watch The Greatest Showman (my niece’s favorite movie) for the first time. The joy of that film opened me. The space in my chest just expanded with air and lightness, the depths of my heart felt reached by joy. But I had to leave partway through to cry in the bathroom. I texted Chris’s phone, I miss you so much, babe. I sat on the toilet seat and looked at his pictures on my phone while the rest of the family waited for me to resume watching. When the movie was over I cried on the couch and tried to explain to my niece that, in fact, I really did love the movie.
Al and Charlie tried to articulate for me the link to Chris: the story is about enduring love. But no, that wasn’t why I was sad. And of course there will be times I will want to share things that I love with Chris, and that will bring a fresh anguish, but this was not one of those times. I’m pretty sure Chris would, at every level, hate The Greatest Showman. Nothing about the movie specifically made me long for Chris.
But what I see happening, perhaps, is that when my heart is opened up in joy–when something reaches in and gives air to those deep places–air and light and opening is given to everything those deep places hold. It’s the same ocean. To access the depths is to access it all, and right now the depths are holding so much.
As I wake up each day and do what is required of me, I don’t know what my grief will look like. The sorrow is there, and it will be plumbed one way or another. Sometimes it just wells up out of nowhere, of course, or in the context of talking and thinking about Chris. But sometimes, the deepest times, it has come alongside a true joy I am experiencing. Al said with tears, “What a kindness.”