“Does it ever go away?”
“No, it doesn’t. But it does change.”
— Rabbit Hole (2010)
In the movie Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman and Dianne Wiest's characters have both lost children. For Kidman’s character, the tragedy of her four-year old son dying in an automobile accident happened only months before. In contrast, Wiest’s character lost her adult son to a drug overdose fifteen years earlier.
Feeling the suffocating weight of acute grief, Kidman’s character asks Wiest's, “Does it ever go away?”
She compares lingering grief, over a long period of time, to a brick that you now carry in your sweater pocket. Yes, it is heavy. Yes, it continues to make its presence known. But you can still function. Most of the time, people don’t notice the weight you are carrying, and that too is a sort of relief.
In my own life, I’ve found that to be true. One day, you make your way out of the rubble, the crumbled foundations of your “before” life. And there, you may even pick up a brick and stow it in your pocket. It’s now a part of you. It’s what you have instead of whatever it is you lost.
And while the brick is heavy, burdensome, you carry on. In the future, you may find yourself being gentle with it, caressing it, knowing it’s a souvenir of the war you survived. You live a weightier life now, but one worth embracing.
When walking through life, no matter the scope of crisis (read here about why competing and comparing levels of suffering is a lose-lose situation) or the time that has passed, carrying this brick in your pocket can feel really isolating.
Does anyone know what I have to carry? Can they see it? Does anyone understand how heavy it is… Will anyone ever understand the life I’m now living?
In carrying that weight, it’s easy (almost natural) to feel alone. People don’t always know the right thing to say, or how to stand beside you as you move your way through. Plus, they may have their own perspective or loss surrounding the one you’re going through, and are struggling to be there for themselves, let alone another person.
Even if you don’t believe anyone can fully understand, even if you don’t always feel better after receiving what someone else can give as support, you are not alone in living it.
If we are going to love, we will suffer. It is part of what makes us human.
But suffering together, with compassion, can strengthen and renew our souls as we emerge from the crucible.
You may feel alone, isolated, shocked, scared, depressed, relieved, panicked, hopeless, hopeful, and any other number of combinations of human feelings. Whatever they may be, you are not alone.
This is a modified re-telling of a few pages from Chapter 12 of my book Never Waste a Crisis. The other parts of that chapter explore the various, changing layers of grief and how we move through them over time.
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