Life after loss is life with an asterisk.
At least, this is how I’ve always described it.
Because when people ask, “How are you?,” you reply, “I’m good…” then finish the statement in your head.
“…considering the circumstances.”
After the death of a parent, a child, a marriage, a career or a dream, you aren’t good. You’re good*.
*Considering my world is so off-kilter that I’m trying intently not to tip over right here.
*Considering it’s been months and I still can’t picture myself with another person, real or imagined.
*Considering everything hurts.
So this is the question, then, for those of us who have lost something:
“When will I stop being ‘good*?’ On what blessed future evening, as my head hits the pillow, will I realize that I didn’t think about it all day? When will I be, as Amy Poehler so insightfully wrote, ‘51% happy?’”
Here is the answer:
I don’t know. But you will.
I would never dare to say this if I didn’t know it to be true. It’s too costly a statement – to promise that things will get better, easier, after experiencing some of the cruelties life is capable of serving up.
But I am telling you with steady hands and steadfast heart: Your asterisk will dissipate. I know it.
I do not say this because I am an optimist.
I don’t say it because I am a Christian.
I don’t say it out of naïve idealism, never having known suffering, struggle or death.
I do not say this because it is what I have been taught, or what I have hoped for, or what I have seen from afar.
I say this because I have found it to be true, experientially.
Today, I lived the day I used to wonder about.
This morning I woke to find my youngest son and his stuffed bear in bed beside me. My cat, Miles Davis, was sleeping on our feet. I kissed each of them on the head and was struck that my bed was so full of living things I love.
We went to a pumpkin patch and left with such bounty that the kids had to scale pumpkins to get into their car seats.
While the kids napped, I read Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me” and laughed out loud on no less than 5 occasions.
Everyone got haircuts, and they look like ACTUAL DOLLS. On the recommendation of a friend, we got pumpkin frozen custard from Goodberry’s and ate it for dinner. On the couch. While watching a movie in our pajamas. I regret nothing.
This evening I opened all the windows, lit all the candles, drank red wine, painted my nails the color of red wine, and breathed.
Two years ago, I didn’t know that a day could be perfect with three kids and no husband. I thought it could only be good*.
But today was perfect, no asterisk.
I know that life is not linear. Grief, frustration and fear are rascally bastards that aren’t wont to be put to bed for good. I cannot promise an end to all hurt, but I can promise an end to the asterisk.
It will start with asterisk-free moments. Then hours. Then days. You will be 51% happy again. Even 100% happy, which sounds like a fairy tale now, I know. But it gets better. It gets easier. One day, you will be plain old great.
I do not know the depth of your suffering. I do not know where your asterisk comes from. I don’t know a lot of things. But I know this: There is life after death.