There is no guidebook for grief.
All there is to do is to wake up each day and judge your progress based on your previous.
It’s about finding the way things work as you are learning to walk again.
It’s remembering to wash the conditioner out of your hair or paying that toll bill you now found buried away.
Yes, death does have many faces, but so does does grief.
There is no standing up and facing the world when you feel as though every single thing you touch is betraying your psyche.
There is no one size fits all and there is no time limit.
Traumatic visual events don’t just end when the initial day is done.
They linger and haunt.
They pick at every inch of your mind as you run to escape the room that it meets you in.
And when you finally find a room of solace, it chips the lock and it creeps right next to your resting place.
The fear that trauma brings is deceptively sly.
It reminds you of the best parts of your mind, then FLASH - a still shot of the terrifying memory. Flashing over and over again, you sit shaking your head in your palms as it begins to play back words and you replay the surroundings at the moment of impact.
You cry out for it to stop, and it does for a time.
But, it laughs in your ear as your eyes are shut tight, ‘you really think you’re powerful enough to stop this?’.
You yell for it to stop again. It halts one more time, realizing that this is the second moment that you controlled its malicious intent.
You look at each other, and you realize you have the power - so, you continue.
You open the floodgates of the mind-bending magic that you had your previous day (how soon you forgot that you could) and eventually, you are left with only the good of the thing you revered.
There are the days that you grieve the control you had before you walked into the room of your own visual hell - but, you reclaim those small things.
Structure becomes your best friend as you can now see the messiness accumulated while you sat, staring at a wall.
You stand, you gather, you tidy.
You feel great, and then it seeps again.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
There is no unthinking trauma in the thick of the days after what you’ve seen.
Small victories of standing up again becomes your partner and you learn that paper achievements
won’t come close to mattering until this is over.
You realize that relationships you once had have shifted and you can only communicate with those that have an unforeseen amount of compassion that oozes through your words.
There is no longer room in your world for those that do not accept you for exactly where you are - maybe one day you’ll know how to talk to them again.
Until then, you carefully choose who you lean on because their words can tear you down faster than they build.
At the end of the day, you are there as your own doctor - choosing who comes into your room of healing.
The world believes that it is easy for you to get up and walk out of your house - it is anything but.
The world will tell you, “just stop thinking about it”, but you can’t. Not until your unique senses allow you to.
And until that day of sprinting, you are perfect where you are.
You are refusing things that don’t bring you life and you face your enemy.
You are doing the hardest work that you could be doing - creating a new narrative.
But, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your terrible memories be exchanged for the beautiful ones. One day, they will.
Until then, rest.
You don’t owe the world a thing, except a healthy human.
I am a United States military wife, photographer, & writer - raised on Whidbey Island, Washington.
I recently lost my father to cancer & have endured the truths of watching my mother lose her mind to methamphetamine. (…continue reading)