Learning to Live With Loss

“You taught me the courage of stars before you left. How light carries on endlessly even after death.” –Sleeping At Last

I’ve spent the majority of my life running.

Running from one job to the next, one event to another, from appointment to activity to coffee date to work and to the gym. The hustle felt good and productive and it kept me safe. It kept me warm as I worked up a sweat to prove I belonged on the planet.

I wasn’t born to run.

Some people are, but not this girl. I have short legs and an awkward gait. I never really know where to put my hands and I don’t enjoy running in the slightest. I only enjoy having run and seeing just how much ground I’ve covered.

So I’ve found myself longing for stillness and solitude. I’ve grown weary of running a race that was never mine to run in the first place. But I was so accustomed to sprinting that I forgot why I started running at all.

That is, until this morning.

This morning I was so tired from sprinting that I finally gave in. I listened to my weary body when I couldn’t drag it out of bed. I tried my usual tactics- the shaming, the guilt, the reminders that if I didn’t accomplish the day’s tasks then people would be, dare I say it, disappointed. But there was simply nothing left to give and I was forced into a morning of rest, excited to finally sit still for a minute and catch my breath.

I should’ve known what was coming. All the signs were there. The exhaustion, the loneliness, the aches and the growing pains. They were all bubbling under the surface but they couldn’t catch up because I thought I had learned to outpace them. If I could just keep going then eventually my sadness and grief would grow weary and I could leave them in the dust. I could shake them between activities and lose them in the woods as I learned to bob and weave between the people, places and things I look to for distraction.

It turns out you can’t wrestle on the run.

As I slowed down this morning the darkness caught up with me and it stuck to me. I couldn’t shake it, not this morning. I wish I could find the words to describe the darkness of loss, the ache of grief and my need to sprint away from it but words always fail me. The closest I can get is to say I can feel it coming up behind me and chasing me down. It is black, pure black and I know that if it catches me it will bring with it all the feelings I’ve worked my fingers to the bone to try and erase. It is black and sticky and it managed to get caught on my shoes and slow me down. Like bubble gum on the sidewalk it pesters me and it pulls at me, ever so lightly at first, until I try to shake it off. As I wrestle and shake myself free it just gets stronger, messier, thicker. It’s the tar of my hurt and pain from the losses I saw coming and the ones I never knew existed. It grows blacker and my legs feel like lead until eventually, exhausted, I let it come for me and swallow me whole.

I fear the darkness because I’m afraid it will never end.

I’m afraid that if I lie down I’ll never get up. I’m terrified to cry one tear because then I’ll cry them all. I’m desperate to stay positive, to be happy, to keep moving because what if this is my forever?

But everything, even life itself, comes to an end.

The darkness can’t keep me forever. Eventually it will spit me out and while I’m a little banged up from the fall, scratched and bruised from the wrestling, I know that I’m free to go once more.

If you’ve lived you’ve lost something. You’ve lost a loved one or a job or a relationship. You’ve lost yourself somewhere along the way, the unashamed child with a glimmer in her eye who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or make a friend or pursue her passions. Maybe you’ve lost bits and pieces of yourself to people who thought those parts of you were theirs for the taking. Maybe you’ve lost a baby or a marriage or the very life you thought you would live. Maybe you’ve lost some joy in the midst of unmet expectations or harsh words exchanged with someone you once loved and it broke open your insecurities and you’re wondering if you’ll ever be able to lead or love again.

Those are all loss, all little funerals, all part of the darkness that will chase after us.

Darkness’ greatest lie is to trick us into thinking of forever.

What darkness doesn’t want us to know is that grace gives us seasons. Grace ushers in summer, fall, winter and spring. Grace gives us a new day with new people and a clean slate with a fresh start. Grace is the promise that the darkness can’t last forever, that every single morning there’s the tiniest beacon of light scratching at the surface. Grace is the ability to slow down and sit in the darkness knowing it cannot and will not win out.

Grace is the unimaginable gift of knowing it’s okay to fall apart.

We don’t have to keep it all together. We get to let the darkness come after us and slow us down so that things like love and mercy and forgiveness can be ushered in.

What are you running from? When will it catch up with you? Are you willing to be brave and fall apart or are you going to spend this next season with a closed fist and a closed heart in a dead sprint?