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Two Sides of A Coin

Stepping off the airplane, I was finally able to get away for vacation. That’s not time off for grief following my husband’s death, but real vacation. You know, the time when you get on a plane or in a car and go somewhere else.

It’s the opportunity to unplug from work and responsibility in order to catch my breath. To reconnect with the me who cowers inside because life demands so much from me. The part of me that strives to cope while grief is ever knocking at the door of my soul.

In the aftermath of my husband’s death, all I wanted to do was run. Run away from the house we shared that was filled with memories. Run away from the responsibility of parenting, bill paying and work obligations. To lay on a beach and pretend that my life had not been devastated that September Saturday morning.

So the thing about vacation is that there is time to relax and think. There is time to catch up on sleep and read for pleasure. Time to do the things that bring joy, and not just the things that life and work require. Opportunities to try new things and experience wonderful adventures.

Vacation can also be a time that accentuates grief. Because I had been to this vacation spot before with the one I loved and lost, it was also a time to grieve. Memories flooded in and consumed me. I had not expected such a thing to happen, but it did.

I found myself going to places we had visited as a newly married couple. We ventured to sites that had been a joyous time for our family over the years. Eventually experiencing a time of joy from the other side of loss created space for sorrow to bubble up and hijack my vacation.

What I quickly discovered was that the challenges of work and the responsibilities of home life creatively masked the grief that was always lurking just below the surface. All of that responsibility, and the many events on the calendar, melted away when the relaxation of vacation set in, leaving me with time.

Time to remember, time to cry, time to do the hard work that is grief. And it is work. To not work on grief is to rob oneself of the richness of life. Whether it is the hard things that come or the joys that show up unexpectedly.

Day by day, I have learned that life is like a two sided coin. The grief of loss is ever present, seeking ways to be resolved, but often taking a back seat.

The other side of the coin is the life that exists on the other side of loss. The one that learns to love again. That seeks out new adventures. That clings to the memories of the past, while not getting stuck in them. It is living in this tension that provides opportunities to release the tears and sorrow that are difficult to contain.