I have been shattered before. I remember this feeling.
This aimless wandering around my house, not sure what to do next. The holding my daughter close and smelling her hair and being at once comforted and afraid. The explaining to my son that it is okay to actually feel something about this, that the pasted smile on his face doesn’t have to stay, the joke at the ready can remain unspoken. Worrying that the weight of this will mark them in a way I cannot prevent or erase. Worrying that the universe has just taught them a lesson I never wanted them to learn, and naively, did not prepare us for.
Shattering is paralyzing
Shattering is noisy. It demands to be known in its entirety, immediately. How did this happen? What does it mean? What will we say to the children? What will people think? These questions won’t be answered today or tomorrow. The answers aren’t neat or readily available. The answers don’t matter. These aren’t even the real questions. The important things reveal themselves much later in the process. Rebuilding begins by shutting the door to the noise.
And so, with this shattering as with the ones before, I shut the door. I avoid my phone and the television and music. In the quiet, I remind myself, gently, that I’ve been here before. The reminding is gentle because diving deep into the pain of the past is too hard today. It is not today’s work. Today is for gathering strength. Today is for rebuilding.
The rebuilding starts with returning to what I am sure of, what I know. With tears running down my face, I walk the dog. I load the washing machine and pour the detergent. I turn off the lights in empty rooms. I light a candle and make the bed. I remember.
I remember what is certain
Fall leaves, children hungry for dinner, friends who know my heart. I remember who I am, without the context of my marriage and my children and my job. The shattering does not destroy who I am, it does not destroy my truth. It does not have that power.
I remember and allow for pain. This outcome is different from the one I’d hoped for. This is not what I wanted for me, for my children, for my friends or family. It is not the example I’d hoped to live. I remember pain is normal. I remind myself that it will pass. Things that are hard today, that are simply too much to contemplate, will be easier tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. The pain won’t be rushed, but it will evolve.
I remember I am not alone. It feels dark and lonely, and I know this feeling. But I also remember that when some of those closest to me walked away, others came closer. They reminded me–fervently, angrily even–that they stood next to me in the darkness. They took my hand.
I push myself to remember that those who walked away, who made choices that caused me pain, were people I cared about. This one hurts, but it is important. I loved people who made a choice that caused me pain. I believe in making those choices, they did not intend to hurt or betray me, they simply made a difficult choice to honor their truth. It is a truth that I do not pretend to know and I do not make assumptions about. Their choice is rooted in the same truth mine was, and I respect that. It does not diminish who they are or color my love for them and our time together. I remember that some returned to me, and am reminded of the power of an open door, an open heart.
I remember that the shattering has not defined me, has not defined us. We have been defined by the actions we took in the aftermath. We are defined by what we do next. The shatterings of my past, in many ways, started the best parts of my story. The hardest, truest, best parts of my story.
The shattering is sharp and loud and shocking
It stops time. It scrambles reality. The rebuilding begins quietly, sadly, slowly. It feels hard and lonely. The rebuilding doesn’t leap forward with optimism, shouting a plan and promising a brighter tomorrow. The rebuilding doesn’t speak glibly of hope. But it begins today.
You are not alone. Take my hand.
This post originally appeared on This Life in Progress. It has been reprinted with permission.