If you meet me now at the grocery store or pass me in church, I probably won't cry.
I will most likely ask you how you are, what you've been doing and smile when you share the latest family news even if in the midst of the words a thousand alarms go off in my head, reminding me of the son that I lost.
Because I'm stronger.
There's a common misconception about grief among those who have never experienced the loss of a close loved one.
It goes something like this: The first few weeks, months and the first holidays celebrated without them are the hardest. But once the bereaved make it through THOSE, things get EASIER.
I'm here to tell you that, at least for me, it's just not true.
A better picture of how I am continuing in this grief journey is to think of it as weight lifting. I started with a 250 pound barbell raised over my head-no warning, no training-that knocked me to my knees and threatened to press the life out of me. But friends and family came alongside and helped me lift the heavy weight for a season.
And I survived.
Each day, I have to get out of bed and lift that weight.
Over time, my muscles have grown stronger.
Over time, I've become more adept at keeping my grip.
Over time, I've learned a few tips and tricks to balance the bar more evenly, to situate myself more strategically beneath it and to breathe through the lifting so that I don't become light-headed and faint.
But there are still days, still moments, when my balance is off and I can be crushed by the weight of grief. There are times when life adds a few more pounds onto the bar and even my stronger arms are unable to lift it up and carry on.
And in those moments or on those days, the full weight of sorrow and pain and longing overwhelm me. That's when I understand how Paul felt when he wrote:
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don't know why things happen as they do, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe."
2 Corinthians 4: 8-10
I sit in my floor and cry out to God for mercy, cry out to Him for strength, cry out to Him for grace to rise and carry on.
I am thankful that it's no longer every day. I'm relieved that I can do routine things more easily. I can smile. I can even laugh.
I am stronger. I am more capable.
But I am never completely free of the load.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at email@example.com.