The next thing you know a normal day turns into a day that will change everything, one you will never forget in the cruelest of ways.
The next thing you know, you’ll be forced to say a final goodbye– the kind of goodbye unlike any you’ve ever experienced. The kind of goodbye that will impact every single thing to come and every single piece of who you are and who you will be.
The next thing you know, you’re making arrangements and attempting to choose a casket, urn or headstone, items that feel impossible to select, for they are items you never knew you’d need so soon.
The next thing you know, you’re standing at the front of a church next to a casket filled with someone unforgettable, someone you’re not sure you can live without, though the world keeps telling you otherwise. You stand still and listen as countless people come to pay their respects while you remain in denial, numbed by a reality that simply cannot be.
The next thing you know, you’re looking at a hole in the ground that will serve as the final resting place for the greatest woman you’ve ever known. You’re staring at the visual representation of what your heart feels like, emptied and hollow. You will bury someone you love while also burying portions of yourself too.
The next thing you know, you must stand and walk away from the fresh grave and the unmarked plot. You will walk away from all of this in survival mode, while all the passersby see strength. They don’t know the delicate differences between the two. You do.
The next thing you know, life goes on for everyone around you as if nothing has changed. As if the world hasn’t suddenly become a foreign place– harder to stand and harder to breathe. As if you’re not paralyzed by an absence that you cannot comprehend and certainly do not accept.
The next thing you know, the holidays arrive with an empty seat. The ‘firsts’ that everyone warned you about, are arriving at a rapid pace. Birthdays without her. Holidays without her. Celebratory moments and sorrowful moments, all without her. You want to scream. You want to run. You want to hide. You don’t have the energy for any of those things, so you sit, motionless and hurting. Memories are the only thing to carry you through.
The next thing you know, it’s been a year, then two, then three, then more than you can comprehend since the day you lost her. It feels like both yesterday and like a million lifetimes away. You realize that grief has touched every part of your life in that complicated structure. You realize somehow you keep surviving, which feels like both a triumph and a betrayal.
The next thing you know, the grief has been overpowered by the legacy and the reminiscence of everything she was. It still sneaks up and knocks the wind out of you from time to time, but you find yourself breathing easier and with a smile more than a tear. You think of her everyday, just as you always have, but now it feels lighter and more like the way she’d want to be remembered. You live for her each day instead of pausing life to grieve her. I’m sure she loves this fact about you too.
And the next thing you know, you smile again. You find joy again. You find peace and comfort. You find her again too– in new ways, but still ways that feel like love and beauty.
And the next thing you know, you’re living again, completely different than before, but living again. And she’d be so proud.
The next thing you know…
A 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.