When they say “the worst is behind us” now that I’ve lowered your body beneath dirt and placed a solid stone to mark your space, they are wrong. The worst is not behind me, or us. Each new day I carry the same pain that was handed to me the day and moment you left this earth. Stepping into this new life and reality doesn’t mean erasing the pain of your passing or the heartbreak of your new forever absence. It gets carried into each new day, just like the sun continues to rise again and again and again.
The worst isn’t behind me, though maybe the harshest moment is, the one where I watched the last breath escape your body and your chest go silent without the beating of a heart. There is a difference between the worst moment and the worst pain, even though both stay with you forever. I know they mean well when they say platitudes like this one. They’re trying to tell me mistruths to provide comfort and healing. Sometimes I wish I was naive enough to believe them. But my heart already knows the hole it now holds and my mind already knows the future is absent of someone I love.
The worst isn’t behind me. It’s all around. It’s getting older without a mother. It’s stepping into a new day without a mother. It’s living and growing and experiencing new things, without a mother. The worst started when I lost her, but the truth is that once that happens, it doesn’t end. You keep losing her, or the person you loved. You don’t just lose them once, you lose them over and over again. In the big things and in the small things. In the joyous moments and in the anxious ones. In the celebratory occasions and in the sorrow-filled ones. You lose them with each new thing, which means the worst isn’t behind me, it’s simply following me like a shadow, unable to be left behind.
The worst isn’t behind us. Instead, it is wrapped around us like new skin. The worst is losing her and that doesn’t stop with her last breath or her funeral. I keep losing her with each new day, in new ways– some expected, some not. While I cannot say that the worst is still yet to come, I also cannot say it is behind us and I’m not sure why they keep saying it either. It tells me they’ve probably never experienced grief and loss. They’re luckier than they know and suddenly their inexperience with death and loss shines brightly.
After the final goodbye, after the last beat of a heart, after the funeral and the celebrations of life, the worst isn’t behind you. The worst is in you. It’s life minus someone you love. It’s life void of a beautiful soul and a priceless love.
The truth is, after grief the worst isn’t behind us. It’s all around. It’s behind us in the moments that have slipped through our fingers and are now only in our past. It’s inside of us, changing the very reality of who we are now, versus who we used to be. It’s in front of us, as each new step and each new day holds the same absence and the same longing. It’s everywhere, and will be forever.
Grief has made it that way.
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.