Faded, But Not Forever

September 14, 2021

The first time I looked at myself in the mirror after my mother died, I wasn’t completely shocked by the image that reflected. It was me, broken, raw, exhausted and faded. It was as if my light had dimmed. I wasn’t invisible but I no longer held shine or vibrance. I was dull and faded. I was grey in a world full of color.  

It was as if my outside shell had begun to realistically mirror my insides. Of course they were darker, but faded just held just enough truth that it wouldn’t frighten those around me. Grief had stolen chunks of my heart and shattered my soul. Grief had reduced my brightness and my light. Grief hid the beauty and covered it with intimidating tenderness. 

I stood there, faded and new. Not the kind of welcome new, like the shoes I’d get with the start of a fresh school year. The kind of new that isn’t wanted and difficult to understand. Like being gifted an entirely different journey than you planned for, leaving you speechless and unequipped. 

This new had more lines, larger dark spots and faded hope and faith. This new stood with visible loss and heartbreak, but also the knowing that what I was looking at was nowhere near the destruction and catastrophe that wrecked havoc on my heart. The darkest and most shocking portions of grief are tucked so delicately inside that no one can see them and eventually others forget they were even there to begin with. 

Faded. Grief faded portions of the old me and as I stood there I was certain I would remain forever dull, ugly and misunderstood. Others couldn’t possibly understand this remodeling. It isn’t one to be celebrated or highlighted on a screen. It’s the kind that makes people uncomfortable. The kind that makes people turn away and some even run from. The kind the world tries to hurry and fix, which is an unattainable goal. 

It isn’t that simple and it certainly isn’t that easy. Grief cannot be fixed, though it can certainly be hidden and ignored. As I stare at this lessened version of myself I wonder what will become of me. My grief is too fresh to see anything but this very moment and this exact version of myself. 

Will I get to know this version of me? Will I stay dim and worn forever? Will I forever be someone with an ache so deep and loud people hide from me? Will I always be known for what I’ve lost and what became of me when my path became impassable and destroyed? 

As I stare at this version of me, the one that grief created, I wonder how many people I’ve passed and not noticed who were duplicates of this person that states back at me. How many people have I passed without acknowledging their reconstruction and their grief-lined path. How many people have I ignored or misunderstood? 

I stand here grief-stricken and a mere fraction of what I was before. Can the world and those that love me help me shine again? Can they help me want to shine again? And most importantly, can they help me recognize when I need to do the same for others? 

I used to look for the color and expressive glowing that each person illuminated. Now I look for the grey, the dark, the ones whose color has been diminished by the path they’ve been forced to walk. I look for the ones who have been broken, like me, and I delicately try to sprinkle love, empathy and compassion so eventually their color returns. 

I won’t be dull and colorless forever and neither will you. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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