The last few weeks have been rough ones for me. I can't go into the details, but I lost something I put a lot of hope in. I didn't even know how much hope I'd put in it until it ended. Don't worry, I know I'll be okay, but it's got me thinking a lot about the grieving process, about how we as humans deal with the hard things we face.
We all have moments in our life that hurt. And as a good friend said, "Pain is pain." I don't think we should go around comparing who's suffered more—who wants to win that contest?
Times like these remind me that those moments, while they do fade, never really go away. It's like that scar I have on my chin, from when I fell out of a wagon as a kid. It doesn't hurt like it did when it was oozing blood, when the stitches itched and my mom kept telling me not to touch them. Most of the time, I don't even think about it.
But then sometimes I rub my chin or, uh, pluck a stray hair from there, and there's the scar. I remember for a moment turning that corner too tight, toppling to the right, and my face skidding across the sidewalk corner. The blood is warm as it dribbles down my neck. The barely-attached skin flaps back and forth in the wind. My friends' faces fill with horror.
It's as if I relive it all over again, just by seeing that scar.
Grief seems to be that same way for me. Most of the time I'm fine—I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the hard things I've gone through. Mostly because I don't think my life has been that hard. I constantly feel blessed. There are so many good things in my life.
But when something sad or awful does happen, it's like touching those scars. The memories come back, almost as vivid as experiencing it all over again.
I was teased as a kid. And I'm not talking the little jokes here and there. From kindergarten to around my sophomore year in high school, there was someone "out to get me." Someone who made sure I knew what an awful person I was. And sometimes they were once friends. I want to think I've grown out of it, but when I struggle with my self-esteem or loneliness their voices always come back:
"I hate you, Natalie."
"You're not cool enough to hang out with us."
"You don't belong."
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. A horrible lie, in my opinion. I still live with the mental scars from words wielded harshly. Every time I fail or "look stupid," it's like touching that scar, remembering the pain.
It's like a chain reaction, because that, of course, makes me think of my grandmother. She always made me feel important and special and worthwhile. I lost her 18 years ago, and yet the memories smacked me across the face yesterday. I was driving home, and bam, I ached for her like I haven't ached for her in a while. I wanted her to be here, to tell me I was the most brilliant writer in the world. Because when she said things, they were true or she would make them true. She was magic like that. A fireball.
So then I end up living through all my grief because of one sad thing (I won't go through all of them for you, this sad post is long enough). It plays in my mind, vivid and real (though it's probably more like over exaggerated and melodramatic). Logically, I can see what's happening and why, and yet at the same time the feelings are still there. The scars.
I know as I heal up from this last emotional wound, the pain will fade and I'll be fine. I might be changed in ways I may not even know, but fine. I also know that as much as I heal, there will always be this scar, a reminder of what I've been through.
But maybe that's not such a bad thing, to remember those hard times once in a while. Our scars are as much a part of who we are as the rest, right? They shape us, but it's up to us to decide what shape that'll be. I'm determined to come out of this one stronger, even if I'm not quite sure how to do that yet.