Have you ever seen those giant buckets at a water park or splash pad? The kind that slowly fill up, occasionally splashing a bit here and there, before finally tipping completely over and dumping massive amounts of water on anyone below them? It appears that grief can sometimes feel like that. It seems that over time, my tears built up, smaller amounts being released here and there at different volumes, until I suddenly cried more tears at one time than I thought physically possible.
This episode was not the curl-into-a-fetal-position-wracking-sobs, nor was it the slow-leak-silent-tears, but it fell somewhere in between the two. It happened the other day and it was as if the tears simply had to be released; once they started, there was no stopping them until the reservoir was empty. And boy was that tank full!
I was supposed to have a meeting for a personal business matter. It was for something that has been stressing me out for quite some time, although most recently, I had pushed it waaaaay to the side until, much like my tears, I had no choice but to confront it. After much advance preparation and a mental pep talk, I arrived that day only to learn that my appointment had been cancelled.
That news was more than I could take in that moment, and tears began to well up in my eyes as I inquired as to the reason for the cancellation. As much as I wanted to hold it together in that moment and “be professional”, I was unable to be completely unemotional. A nice woman handed me a box of tissues and asked me to have a seat while she figured things out. It took a great deal of concentration and internal dialogue, but I never completely lost it while there. It was after I got things somewhat straightened out and headed for home that I was able to let go.
While driving home, the bucket tipped completely and tears streamed down my face for literally miles and miles. For the most part, there was little sound and even less effort – but the tears just kept flowing, until they finally stopped. No winding down, no real warning. One minute I was crying, the next I wasn’t.
My entire chin, neck and even the front of my shirt were damp by the time all was said and done. But I felt strangely lighter. It was as if I had finally upended my pail and every last tear came out, washing away some of the sorrow that has been my constant companion for so long. Some of those tears had been there for months and months because I had never reached the bottom before they were replaced by the never ending trickle.
Over these past months, I have had moments where I’ve smiled and laughed and enjoyed the company of others, but always with this small, dark cloud (or bucket of tears) waiting to douse me with cold water if I forgot for even a moment that my husband was gone. This was different, and so much better, because it felt as though it was finally OK to smile, that I wasn’t being disloyal or heartless by not grieving every waking minute.
I know this is by no means the “end” of my grief, nor is it likely even the peak, or the turning point. It is simply another step toward healing. It was a brief respite which allowed me to again remember what it was like to feel lighthearted, a feeling which, quite honestly, I had forgotten how it felt.
It felt good. Like a heavy rain that makes even the air seem clearer and more crisp, my tears cleared away the misery for a while.
Even though on that day, the lighthearted feeling was relatively short-lived, it reminded me that there will likely come a time when the joy will again outweigh the pain. And it made me realize that when that time comes, it does not mean I am forgetting or moving on, but rather coming to terms with it as best I can. I will be changed. Different.
And hopefully much stronger. Lighter. And perhaps with an empty bucket that can then be filled with a whole lot of blessings.
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