There’s a moment in grieving when you become aware that the clouds are starting to lift. Maybe it’s that you make it to the end of the day and then realise that you managed to become totally absorbed in that day, that for once your attention wasn’t split between the present and the past. Maybe it’s that you suddenly find yourself doing something that haven’t done for a really long time, like laughing with all of your body or giving yourself over to enthusiasm. Maybe it just didn’t hurt as much today. Whatever the sign, there’s a reason that people talk about clouds lifting – it’s clichéd because that is exactly what it feels like. Something huge is quietly shifting, and you get a reminder of what life felt like before this fuzzy, dulled sensation settled over your world. It really does feel like a shaft of light or a fresh breeze has broken through the fog.
Which is disconcerting, and in fact comes with its own set of mournings. As painful and muffling as the fog is, there is a comfort to it. It lets you pass through days in a state of suspension, allows you to tarry with the life you had even though time is pushing you forwards. It insists that you are gentle with yourself and that normal world rules don’t apply to you at present. It cushions you, acts as a buffer between the past and your future.
So when the clouds start to lift, it’s a bitter-sweet experience. The first evening I got so engrossed in a conversation that I forgot I was grieving, I burst into tears the instant I realised what had happened. I was overwhelmed by a sense of disloyalty, of not being ready to move on, and shock. But even more than that, I was sad that I was starting to let go. It’s like grieving for your grief. And it’s a different kind of sadness, one that’s mixed with a profound sense of peace. I guess this is how we mark the past genuinely moving away from us.
As bleak and aching as the past months have been, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m eager to rush into the gaps emerging between the clouds. After all, it means giving up that sense of suspension, of life being on hold and getting back into the swing and mundanity of everyday life. I know this is perhaps not the case for everyone, but there has been something profoundly productive in this hovering state for me. I have unravelled myself and started to remake myself and my world in ways that I never thought possible for someone like me. Actual loss has released me from the fear of having something to lose. Life is too short to worry about invented consequences.
So I’m not in a hurry to leave this foggy landscape and life solidifying into something definite again. And I’m not in a rush to expose myself to press and callous bumps of normal life either – I want to insist on my fragility for a while longer. But it’s not entirely in my hands, because once the clouds start to shift, they start to evaporate all of their own accord.
The other cliché that crops up time and again because it’s captured a grain of truth is the image of waking up, of having slept-walked your way through the painful months and then gradually becoming aware of your world again. For me, this also encapsulates my current reluctance to rush into the next moment. I’m starting to sense the coming day, I’m beginning to feel the possibilities of that day, but I’m not quite ready to get up yet. I want to slumber a little longer, stay in the familiarity of my mourning, my fog, my dreams, as aching as they have been, so I can carry something of this strange moment into the day that’s breaking over me.
The need to be gentle with myself and with other people. The freedom to remake yourself, to remain unfixed. The time to pay attention to what matters to you in the silent parts of yourself. The ability to put the push of the world in its place when you need to. The astonishing quality of love you’ve discovered in the most unexpected places. And the loss of fear. I want to take these with me, carry them out of the fog and into the day. So I’m going to spend a bit more time experiencing them, learning them, living them, before I completely wake up.