A group of my high school girlfriends came to visit this weekend. We laughed, reminisced, and ate a lot of good food. It was a good and welcome distraction after the multiple heavy sorrows of the past week.
Better days like these are hard, though. I get a glimpse of what it might feel like to just be normal again, and yet, I don’t feel normal at all. I catch myself wondering what I am doing being so distracted from my grief, as if being distracted somehow takes away from my love for my sweet Hudson.
I realize that it will be a very long and arduous process to convince myself that enjoying a day away from the grief does not mean I am forgetting her. I know it in my head, and when I start to feel the guilt sneaking up on me, I try to convince myself that I don’t have to let go of her or forget her in any way in order to just move forward, that moving forward and trying to be happy is the best way to honor her memory. But sometimes that just sounds like a rationalization to me, like I’m just trying to make myself feel better when ultimately what I still feel is guilt for thinking about being happy without her. It feels like the proverbial angel and devil sitting on my shoulders, each tugging on my subconscious, trying to convince me that his/her view of things is the right one. It is a tug-of-war, a constant struggle.
“It’s okay to be happy.”
“No, it’s not—being happy means leaving her behind.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Then why does it feel so much like it does?”
And so on and so on. It’s amazing that my grieving brain can drag me into this struggle even on the edges of my sleep. Often when I am trying to fall asleep, my brain manages to wander off into neutral or positive territory, allowing me to start to drift off. And then, I’ll have one semi-conscious moment: “Wait, how can you be doing such a good job of not thinking about the terrible stuff?” Which immediately triggers recall, against my will, of those images that remain seared upon my brain from those awful final four days, and I am suddenly awake and sleepless again.
The pull of the grief is powerful. It is sometimes overwhelming. It sometimes takes on a life of its own altogether. Those are the worst days. I am working hard at doing exactly what many of you have suggested: when the dreadful images appear in my head, I try to think of counter-images—our many joyful memories of Hudson, how much we loved each other, how well we lived our lives during the short time she was with us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The next step is allowing myself to have better days without experiencing the corresponding guilt and sorrow at the feeling of taking a step away from Hudson. I don’t want to be an inch away from her. I don’t know how long this will take—a very, very long time, I am sure. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just keep hoping for more better days. Practice makes perfect.