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The Measure Withheld

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Grief does not follow the laws of physics.

Our hearts are not bound by the same laws as the rest of the natural world. Logic is useless in matters of the heart, and it fails utterly when applied to grief and traumatic loss.

My logic told me that as time passed, I would miss her with less and less intensity.

And yet, I have found the opposite to be true. With each passing breath, the intensity of my longing only increases. If I can miss her with the sharpness of slivered glass at 13 weeks, how will I ever bear the pain of 13 months, or the sting of 13 years?

Logic told me that as my capacity for joy increased, my sadness would decline.

But even as I make space to feel the glimmers of happiness that are possible in the wake of such tragedy, my sadness is not diminished. It's not like a scale where you move weight from one side to another. Whatever pleasure I can hold does nothing to release the grip of sorrow from my heart.

And then there is the emotional sucker punch I call the measure withheld. The understanding that no matter what strides you make toward happiness again—toward joy, toward blessing, and pleasure, and life—there is a measure of each that will never be available to you now.

Others assure me that color will creep back into my world one shade at a time. They think these words will reassure me, will buoy me against the lash of despair that tears at my heart daily. But there is an unspoken curse in the return to feeling that I think every bereaved parent must hear high and shrill like a dog whistle, while those around us are comfortably oblivious to its ring. That even as we begin to open to living again, as a flower turns to the sun, there is a portion of the spectrum we cannot touch anymore.

There is a happiness I will never be able to know without her here.

There is a cap on the amount of joy I can experience in this lifetime now.

The boundless, breathless span of possibility that once delighted my soul has been hemmed in on all sides, shrunken to a meager fraction of its prior infinite proportions. For whatever measure of happiness I can obtain, there will always and forever now be a measure withheld. And every drop of contentment I find from this point forward will simultaneously serve to remind me of the thousands of drops I might have had and lost the day she died.

It steals a little of the point of it all to know that however hard you pursue a dream, you can only obtain maybe fifty percent of it. To continue with the task of life under the burden of grief, I must invest more than a hundred percent of myself, of my effort, on any given day. And yet, I'll only ever be able to live half a life. That's not a math that makes any kind of sense, but it's the crazy arithmetic of the broken heart.

There is only one measure left untouched, but it comes with its own high price—and that is the measure of love. No matter how time passes or behaves, how things come and go, how the tides of emotion turn, I cannot love her any less. I feel the full force of my love for her with every inhale and every exhale, and so that is my one remaining allotment of infinity. The price I pay for it is infinite grief. Grief is merely love's shadow. As fiercely and deeply and formidably as I love her, I will grieve her just the same.


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