I have a stack of journals in my bedside table, “blank books” that are no longer blank. Some of the handwriting is indistinguishable, because they were written in hurriedly, often in the middle of the night with the lamp dimmed so that my husband wouldn’t wake. The dates when the entries were written were 11 years ago, when my life, family and heart were shattered, when my son Alan took his own life.
Now I am writing about feeling gratitude. Eleven years ago I couldn’t imagine feeling grateful about anything. My life had been dramatically changed by the worst loss. I scanned the journals today and grief returned, surprisingly painful and tearful. But as fresh and acute as the grief is, I am also very aware how quickly it can be replaced by feelings of peace, love and yes, gratitude.
I have gratitude for the times when I am playing in the ocean waves with friends. It is my meditation, when I am “in the moment”, mindful, and not thinking about my next appointment, my shopping list, the household tasks, financial issues, my losses. My world is calm and beautiful.
I am grateful for the holidays with my family that feel “normal” once more. Anniversaries of birth, marriage, death. The candle on the curb on Christmas Eve, where Alan always parked, makes his siblings and me smile because he loved Christmas so. I don’t avoid those times but embrace them. I share them openly with love and laughter with friends and family. And sometimes tears.
I am ever grateful for the people I would never have known except for that heartbreaking event in July 2003, the people that I met because they also lost a loved one. We don’t dwell on our losses anymore, but celebrate their lives and ours. That includes:
There is no formula for how to survive loss, or how long it takes. Time heals but does not erase. I never want to forget Alan. I read recently that no one is dead as long as their name is spoken. I am grateful that I hear his name often and with gentle memories.
Christa Jewett Stahl
August 12, 2014
“The cure for anything is salt water: Sweat, tears or the sea”
– Isak Dineson, author of “Out of Africa”