Thursday, March 22

The Hole In My Heart

I started thinking this thought over in England, and I’ve found my mind circling back to it constantly during this past week. I share it now with the hope that these words will be able to help others who have suffered or are suffering the pain of losing a loved one. 

I seem to live my life in metaphors.  I think it’s because I’m a very visual learner: if I can physically see something, or at least be able to connect an abstract idea with a concrete mental image, I can better analyze it, better understand it, better make sense of it.

I have spent the past eleven weeks trying to analyze, understand and make sense of what happened.  I have also spent an overwhelming amount of mental and emotional energy trying to analyze, understand and make sense of how I – or anyone who has lost a loved one, for that matter – am supposed to move on from such a tragedy.  How am I supposed to understand and articulate the pain that accompanies death?  How am I supposed to respond to the daily inquiries of “How are you doing?”  I think the truly honest response of “I feel broken and dead inside, thank you, how are you?” would completely stun the inquirer into an awkward silence and end the conversation before it even had the chance to begin.

But seriously, how are you supposed to explain what it feels like to lose someone you love to someone who has never experienced it?  After many hours on a train (and then a plane, and then many sleepless nights since), this is the best way I can articulate my feelings of the past three months:

The moment the words came out of my parent's mouth, I felt something break inside of my chest.  A fissure opened up in my heart and created a hole, the size and depth of which I have never felt before.  Upon first inspection, this hole appeared to be filled with nothing but darkness, despair and devastation.  I lived in this hole for the first six weeks after Z’s death, and all I could see was blackness.  The sorrow that I felt was so frighteningly real.  The physical weight of missing him held me down for so long that I was afraid that I was going to take up permanent residence at the bottom of this abyss. 

After Z’s memorial service, my eyes started adjusting to the darkness and I could just make out scattered images all around me.  I soon realized that these half-obscured images contained all of the memories, reminders, words, feelings and emotions of our time together: the emails back and forth over the summer, the first time we met, trips to Wal-mart, an awkward favor (by the way, you still owe me $15, Z), our first hour and a half phone conversation, our first date (dinner and a concert downtown), more late-night telephone calls, unexpected texts, hummus and pickles and goat cheese, a lunchtime phone date, a lunch date in Afghanistan at the Waffle House in Grapevine at midnight, movie nights, more late-night telephone calls, a three and a half hour phone call from overseas, Thanksgiving road trip to Houston, talking at his house until 4 in the morning (on a school night!), more movie nights, talking at his house until 5 in the morning, game night with the family, New Year’s Eve/Really Early Morning, our last movie night; his smile, his eyes, his laugh, his unique way of looking at the world; his stories and experiences; his fears and struggles; his dreams and desires; his testimony and feelings…

Everything that I loved about him and our relationship could be found at the bottom of this hole.  The only problem was that all of the despair and devastation prevented me from seeing clearly all of the happiness around me.  Too impatient to wait for the darkness to fade completely away, I somehow managed to crawl out of the hole.  I thought I would be able to just ignore it, stepping over it or around it as I went about my day-to-day life. Another problem, though, was that the hole was not getting any smaller.  If anything, it was getting bigger.  Even if I could successfully avoid the hole for days at a time, eventually I would fall right back into it, falling down, down, down into suffocating darkness.

And falling into the hole always happens without warning, always surprises me with its rapid descent.  Even sitting by the edge of the hole, peering down its dizzying depths just for the chance to catch a glimpse of the happiness results in a tumble down, down, down into blackness.

The constant falling and subsequent climbing to the surface is exhausting. Not that I want to fill the hole and forget the happiness – it’s one of the only things I have left of him – I just want to stop falling in the first place.  I don’t want to feel the pain of despair anymore.  I want to create some sort of clear protective covering over the hole so that I can safely stand guard over the memory of him while the darkness dissipates.  And I don’t want a glass covering, because with enough pressure, glass will break and shatter.  I need the emotional equivalent of the material used for the Grand Canyon Skywalk.  Something solid and sturdy and strong.  Something a lot like Z, actually.   Once that covering is securely in place, and when the images are once again bright and clear, I will be able to think of this emptiness in my heart, not as a hole of despair and devastation, but as a well of hope and happiness.

Time.  I know it will take time.  Until then, though, I’m just going to have to watch my step.  And trust that He will catch me when I start to fall.

Miss you, Z. Love you always.

1 comment:

  1. Katie - I read your beautiful post with a knot in my thoat. I am sorry for all of your pain and I hope you continue to heal. Life is precious and your writing is a reminder to hold near those who are dearest. Hugs and prayers coming your way...Tressa