When my fiancé died, I thought I knew grief. His death was devastating and agonizing. Every part of me yearned for him and every part of my being throbbed with the painful knowledge that he would never again hold me or make me laugh or smile at me from across the room.
He was my best friend, my love, my one to grow old with and then he was gone.
I grieved and I grieved hard. But I didn’t yet know what it was to be utterly broken.
That came the day our beautiful daughter died. She was my hope, my light, my gift – the part of him that still lived and grew within me.
His death left me bruised and battered and scarred. Her death, mere months after his, broke me to pieces.
Much of my memory of those days, weeks, and months after her death are hazy. It all sort of blurs together in a fog of grief and pain and numb shock. I know that I lived, that I functioned and worked and studied and interacted with life, but the specifics escape me.
I do remember the morning after her death. I woke up and every cell and atom in my body and being ached. Tears were streaming down my face and, for a moment, I didn’t understand why.
My body remembered before my mind caught up again. They were gone. Both of them – my loves, my heart, my family.
I remember watching my chest rise and fall and thinking, “How am I still breathing?”
I could feel my heart beating in my chest and I felt confused, “How could my heart still beat without them?”
How could I be so broken, yet my heart still beat?
For years, I woke up and listened to my heart beat, puzzled by its ability to continue to beat while broken and battered and bruised. I simply couldn’t fathom how it could still function when I felt so broken and numb.
But beat it did and continues to do.
Our hearts can beat while broken, our lungs continue to breathe even when it feels like all the air in our world has been sucked out, and we wake up to face another day because that is the human spirit.
We are resilient beings.
I believe we are resilient because we love. Not the hearts and flowers, commercialized Valentine’s like of love – real, enduring love that weaves through life itself and can never be destroyed or broken. This love is what enables us to have human love – to experience and express love as significant others, as parents, as children, as siblings, and as friends.
When we love fully and fiercely, even when the ones we love the most die, that love never ceases. It is what enables our broken, battered hearts to continue to beat in the midst the devastating grief and unbearable loss.
We are resilient beings.
No matter what life circumstances befall us, we always rise again. The human spirit is about hope. Not the false, get-everything-you-want, never-feel-pain kind of hope, but real true hope that brings light into the darkness when we are lost. The hope that love cannot be destroyed and we will rise again.
Life can send us into pits of darkness and choke us with overwhelming grief and pain. It can level the world as we know it, leaving us broken and barren and desolated. But as long as our hearts continue to beat and our lungs still breathe and we wake up to face another day, there is hope.
Hope of finding beauty in the broken pieces.
Hope of remembering that we are loved.
Hope of knowing that we have endless love to give and share.
Hope of light igniting in the darkness.
Hope of crawling out of the pit of grief to watch the sun rise again.
When we love and lose, when those we love the most die and leave us behind to live without them, life is never the same. We are never the same. Perhaps we are broken. Bruised. Battered. Worn down. Desolated.
Grief and loss isn’t pretty. Healing truly is a fight for life.
But there is always hope to be found in the beating of our hearts.
As long as our hearts still beat, our lungs breathe, and we wake to face the day, we can pick up the broken pieces and create a life that is different, yet still beautiful.
We may still have times where we fall into the pits of darkness and grief, but we always rise. We always find the light and the love again.
Because we are human and we are powerfully resilient – even when we are broken.
I woke up this morning feeling lost and broken in the darkness of grief. Then I listened to my heart beat and I watched my chest rise and fall with every breath and I remembered.
There is always love.
There is always hope.
I am human.
I am resilient.
I am broken yet still beating.