You don't quite believe it.
You thought you were prepared
But the pain catches you by surprise.
Time slows nearly to a stop.
The longest day is the day after.
This can't be real.
Perhaps you'll wake up and this will all be only a bad dream.
In that magical hour between sleep and wake you hear his voice, you feel her touch.
You sleepwalk through your days, by habit or instinct -- one step, then another then another.
You're told to take one day at a time.
You can barely take one hour, one minute at a time,
You, who live so much in the future, forced to live only in today.
"How are you? How are you doing?" they'll ask, with only the best intentions.
"Fine, OK," you mumble but inside you scream, "What a stupid question.
Of course I'm not fine, I've died! I look like the person I was, but I've died too!"
You, the wife, father, sister, son, lover, friend. You've died too.

They tell you time heals, but how can you possibly survive this sorrow?
Survive the pain that washes over you, taking your breath away.
Survive the sadness that wakes you in the middle of the night, those nights that you sleep.
Survive the grief that sneaks up unbeknownst and tackles you from behind,
Taking you, surprised and unprepared, back to the day your loved one left you.
The grief that is the equal measure of the love.
You try to go around it, but you can't.
You try to go over it but you can't.
You try to go around it but you can't.
You want to find a shortcut but you can't.
The only way is through it, feeling it, living it.
Through it.

It won't be denied, it won't be short-changed
It asks, no it demands to be experienced
But know that, in time, it will simply wear itself out, it will.
"Do I have the strength? Do I have the courage?"
Your friends, your family, your faith, the force of your will.
They have strength and courage to lend you.
Until the time they need it back, and you return it with love, as you received it.

Sometimes you take baby steps, unworthy of even a toddler.
Sometimes a step back, sometimes two.
Your healing is at a pace and time of your own.
No right, no wrong, no rules except the ones you make for yourself.
You're no longer who you were, but you're not yet who you'll be.
You are suspended in thin air, over an abyss.
You want your old life back, but there is no old life to take back.
In the days and months and years ahead you accept that fact and you find a new life, not your old life but a good life nonetheless.

The sadness will never leave completely but you'll make, if not a peace with it, at least an accommodation.
And find a sort of comfort and familiarity with it.
Like an old trunk in an attic that you'll look through now and again
For the memories and the feelings.
But the sadness no longer owns you, has no power to make you fear it.
You can speak of your lost one with laughter as well as tears.
And you learn that the broken can heal
You learn that you can live with loss and grief
You learn that you can know joy again.
You will know joy again.

Sharon Diamen, MD
Palliative Medicine Consult Service
Hartford Hospital