Dec 10, 2012

What happens afterwards?

I'm 21 years old, and yet have been told that I sometimes read like a 35-year-old mother of two.  But there are days when I feel more like I'm 21-going-on-3: like today, for instance.  Today feels like a prime day to throw a toddler-sized tantrum because my heart hurts and that's not okay.

Don't get me wrong; I've traveled a long way since the end of October.  Getting out of bed used to be a chore.  But I've finished my exams and am now using these final days to reflect and process as much of the past four months as I can.

And by this time next week, I'll be home!  Yes.  This is a thrilling prospect indeed.
In fact, I'm halfway packed.
Alongside the thrill lies a fair amount of nervousness.  To explain the rationale behind this would take more energy than I have at the moment...but here's the crux of it, friends:

I'm afraid of what you might think if you see me smile.

It happens these days, you know.  I'm trying not to fight it because a few wise ones in my life say it's healthy.  Yet I am terrified that if you see me smile (or laugh, or socialize in general), you might think:
  • I'm fine, or
  • I'm "over it", or
  • I've forgotten, or
  • I don't love her as much as you thought.
May I set the record straight?

None of that is true.

The period immediately following a loss is all bells and whistles, tears and meaningful silences...the fluff of movies and self-help websites claiming to fit grief into five tidy boxes.  In the beginning, people stay close because it's obvious that you need them.

But what happens afterwards?

What happens after the crying jags wane and a deep, less visible ache takes over?

What happens when it's less obvious that I need a hug or conversation or quiet company or tea or to just not be alone...and I feel awkward about asking?

What happens when the ugly kind of grief recedes, way back into the crevices where all of the messy details are no longer splayed out for all to see?

What happens when Christmas dawns and I have to don my best celebratory face because for heaven's sake, it's Christmas?

What happens when winter term begins and I return to the same routines, campus, church, friends...with a heart that's so very different?

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