Trauma strikes and the world I once knew catapults into the unknown and I just do what I have to do. I don’t know how it happens, but I go into remote control. My emotions are put to the side, numbed in their overwhelm. The mind submerges into an emergency state. And the body does what it has to do. It is heightened awareness, shattered consciousness and an unconscious doing.
I reflect back on the moment death changed life and see all of that, but in the midst of it all, there is no time for reflection. There is no time, period. Time is torn just a space is shredded. I was dropped into a surreal world with so many surreal things that needed to be done.
Something snapped. Then something clicked in. And in those early days I felt I was living in another world, in another life, in somebody else’s nightmare.
But the nightmare was mine. This was my life. This was my tragedy, my loss…our death. For when the ones I love died, I died, too. I was left not in the world of Before, not in the Afterlife, but in the Afterloss.
When the numbness began to subside, the onslaught of pain clothed in shattered emptiness surrounded my Afterloss. I was left with the world that once was gone. And fading from my reach the people in the world that once was. I watched as everything was drifting beyond me. Then I realized I was the one drifting away, not the world.
I was the one who walked empty streets full of people on their way to somewhere. I was the one who went to the office and sat alone in meetings listening from an echo chamber all the “things” that needed to be done that day. I was the one who opened the front door expecting to see her, feel her touch, hear her voice only to find an empty room awaited my emptiness.
Trauma can’t bear time. Over time my pain had to change. Such intensity had to find respite. My sorrow went from a sprint to a marathon. Loss did not relinquish me. Loss simply changed shape. The sharp edges that left me sleepless turned into a mist that encircled my sleeplessness.
This mist of mourning gathered into a fog. I would inch my way through the density of my anguish in slow motion, in a world moving so fast. As the world moved on I was tethered to the place where death left me in the threads of the living. I was not here. I was not there. The mist turned fog left me without a present reference point. My point of reference was the moment death took me and left me.
I would come to in the morning from my exhaustion into my exhaustion still alive, but not living. I didn’t want to go on, but I had nowhere else to go. I could not go back to hold them. I could not go forward to find them. I had to find something, but the only thing that I could find was nothing.
So, I held on to the nothing that woke me in the morning, carried me through the day and sat beside me at night. Each moment I would lean into the nothing unwilling to believe there wasn’t something to be found.
I started to find the shrapnel that still pierced my sorrow. That was something. Shattered pieces of my life that carried a faint pulse started to appear. That was something nothing offered me. Remnants of love began to emerge and reshape the heart.
Nothing started to give me something. Then, something turned into everything.
Everything I hold now has evolved from leaning into nothing and finding something in its core. In the center of all I lost, everything was found. Love, my unending love for them and for life, did not end. Everything changed, but love was not lost.
I didn’t know how I cold live without them. I translated that into I didn’t know how I could live without their touch, their presence, their scent that said they were here, that we are here.
Out of nothing I found a new way to touch, to experience their presence, to go beyond the senses and find that nothing became something and something became everything.
I don’t know how I got here from that first moment death took them and left me. Others have said to me, “I don’t know how you survived.” I don’t either.
And when the numbness subsided and the pain set in, I did what was in front of me, sometimes with great effort.
And when I came to and found I had nothing left, I leaned into the nothing as far as I could, and something appeared.
And as I tenderly held the something that survived the devastation, I found everything.
Love had been with me all along. Love was in my nothing. Love was in my something. Love is in my everything.