A few days ago I came across a photograph of me from several years ago and I had to laugh with relief. There are so many things I miss about those years, when it was easy to be hopeful and optimistic. It was easy to boundlessly dream and believe I could do anything—I hadn’t been tested yet. But the dark days came, the days that made me feel empty and cold, the days I withdrew from the world and from everyone who loved me. Sorrow washed over me like a cold, ominous wave in a storm-tossed sea and I was not fortified or ready to resist it. I crumbled beneath the weight. In those days I held onto my memories as precious reminders of joy in my life. I clung to those golden days and years. They were tinged with sadness now because they were gone, but they were my own once, and that was comforting.
Nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen.
I had never felt this way before, so unreachable, unrepairable, and unlovable. To me it seemed things would never change. I woke up each morning not knowing what I was getting up for. I walked half-awake through every single day, unaware of my surroundings. I mingled with strangers because they didn’t come with the painful reminders, not like my pictures and the faces of my friends and family. I went where no one knew me, where no one was afraid to speak to me; afraid I might shatter if they said the wrong word or dared to speak his name.
Nobody knows the price of this dream.
Then one morning the light changed. I am not really sure what made it change. There was nothing new about the bed I was sleeping in. There was nothing particularly significant about this day. And so I knew it had to be true. Something had changed inside of me. I wanted to wake up and get out of bed, though there was nothing special to look forward to on this day. But that’s how I knew. Days had come and gone, happy special days had come, days I knew I should be excited and happy for but had still left me aching and empty. But this day was different. The ache was gone.
Nobody knows what it took to believe.
That’s the funny thing about grief. There really isn’t any cure. It’s easy to say that Jesus is the cure and while I believe he is powerful and able to wipe away our every sorrow, I don’t necessarily believe he’s guaranteed that in this life. He never promised an easy, happy, successful life in this mortal flesh. He promised to wipe away every tear on that last, glorious day when we are finally reunited with him forever. But in this life, who knows when grief will end if it ever does? I’m not sure it does. But I do know things get better. I know the sunlight does not always feel heavy and oppressive on your eyes and your head and throat will not always hurt from crying. I know God gives sleep to his loved ones and while joy does not come on this morning, it will come, even if we have to wait until eternity.
I found a picture taken a couple years ago, during the year I felt suffocated by sorrow, and for once I was glad to be here. It was a refreshing revelation, because up until this point I have always wanted to go back. Things were always better back then. I had never lost anything or anyone back then. I had never hurt anyone. My heart was still intact. When did it all start going downhill? And yet as I review these photographs and memories, I notice a strange correlation between myself and these events. As I turn through journal entries and read words I regret ever writing, I realize how easy it is to romanticize the past without taking into account the way each and every one of these circumstances has shaped and molded me and while I mourn everything that was lost, I don’t mourn for a second the version of me that was lost, the old man I am fighting each day to shed. God knows I still have so much to learn and so far to go, but something tells me I won’t get there without a substantial amount of suffering, loss, and regret. You can’t really get one without the other.
She wants to break free.