Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Always the Limp?

CS Lewis wrote that dealing with grief was like adjusting to life with one leg amputated. He said that your whole way of life changes, and that while you may get around pretty well, you will probably walk with a limp and have recurrent pain for the rest of your life. He didn’t think that he would ever be a biped again.

The deaths of loved ones do not simply remove them from our lives, as if their arrival and departure equal out. This is because we have changed because of them, and part of us no longer functions in their absence.

After the death of someone close, life is not a matter of being worse or better. Mostly it is different.

A few years ago, a rockfall changed Happy Isles in Yosemite. This was not an ordinary rockfall. Two blocks of granite, 200 feet long and 25 feet thick, broke off near Glacier Point and fell 1800 feet, generating a wind of 174 mph that blasted down a thousand trees. When the slabs hit the ground, they pulverized and buried a section of the pine forest, and a trail that I loved to hike, under a landscape of granite rubble. The force of the impact generated a 2.1 earthquake. 
If you haven’t been to Yosemite, Happy Isles might sound like an amusement area for children with cotton candy, hot dogs, and even balloons. But this is where the wild Merced River comes down the steep canyon from the highlands and enters the valley. Three small islands sit in the middle of the river.

Before the rocks fell, Happy Isles was a deeply shaded glen. I’d stop in if I was hiking in the area, walk over a small bridge unto the islands, and eat lunch there, listening to the happy sounds of the water dancing around me.

Without the trees, the islands are open and airy to the sky. It had been Evelyn’s favorite place in the valley, but the place she knew is gone. It is beautiful again, but in a different way, and I cannot be there without thinking of her absence or of the beauty that is no more.

This reminds me of the Dr. Who episode where a human who has been captured by the Daleks on their asylum world thinks that she has been able to fend them off for a year. But unknown to her, most of her has been physically assimilated. Through force of will, she has been able to keep her mind, her spunk, and her humor going.

Part of me died when Evelyn died, and each day I am reminded of this in some way. I see the world through different eyes and I love with a different heart. Sometimes I wonder how much of myself I’ve been able to keep alive.


  1. This post really resonated with me today. For three and a half years I lived a life of a hermit, and of a person who was expecting someone to come home, but they never did... Some part of me knew I couldn't live like that forever and I bought a card at a check stand with the quote "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." I was nowhere near that day. I am now, and I am trying to figure out what is left of what I was, and how to merge that with what I am. My logical mind says this is possible. The reality is that it's hard in a whole other way. Time will tell, as it always does I guess.

  2. What a neat quote! But I could see why it was more pain than comfort in the beginning. If you look at the cover of my Yosemite book, I took that photo and it was my card. I took it at a time when I couldn't feel much of anything, but I knew that image was important to hold on to, that one day the light would reach me as I stood in the darkness. Gradually, when I had the choice, and I gave myself permission, I thought about what I'd like to do that day, and I did it. The next day, the same thing. No long range plans or changes, just day to day. And I began to find out who I still was by what I was wanting to do.

  3. Well, the part of you that has survived and is writing his heart out sounds like a wonderful person. Maybe you don't have to worry about what's left from before. That you are reaching out to others in pain is a big part of being alive. If it doesn't feel alive, forgive yourself. The ones we love and lost take us to all sorts of places we might never have imagined for ourselves. I think it's best to go with the flow. It's change and growth. It's taking the gifts our beloveds left us and making them part of ourselves. It's love. We need to love ourselves a little more even if we don't recognize who we are or where we're going after loss.

  4. I really like what you said - that we take the gifts our beloveds left us and make them part of ourselves. I do like to think that I am helping others in ways that Evelyn would.