“I like to say that although we are called the Moving On Circle, none of us move on without a backward look. We move on always carrying with us those we have lost. What we aim to do in our little group is ensure that carrying them is not a burden, something that feels impossible to bear, a weight keeping us stuck in the same place. We want their presence to feel like a gift. And what we learn through sharing our memories and our sadness and our little victories with one another is that it’s okay to feel sad. Or lost. Or angry. It’s okay to feel a whole host of things that other people might not understand, and often for a long time. Everyone has his or her own journey. We don’t judge. And that as impossible as it may feel at first, we will each get to a point where we can rejoice in the fact that every person we have discussed or mourned or grieved over was here, walking among us, and whether they were taken after six months or sixty years, we were lucky to have them. We were lucky to have them.” – After You
The above excerpt is from the book After You, the sequel to the book Me Before You. ***IF YOU HAVE NOT READ EITHER OF THESE BOOKS OR SEEN THE MOVIE ME BEFORE YOU AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, I WOULD STOP READING NOW BECAUSE MAJOR SPOILERS ARE COMING***. Just know….I warned you. Okay, so in Me Before You, the main character, Louisa Clark, becomes a caretaker for a quadriplegic man, Will Traynor. Throughout her time taking care of him, she finds out that Will wants to end his life on his own because he has grown tired of struggling and cannot find the fight to live anymore. Despite her best efforts, in the end she cannot change Will’s mind and Louisa not only loses a patient, but ultimately the man she loves. At the end of the book, she reads a letter that Will wrote to her (which left me bawling like a baby) and he ended it by saying “Don’t think of me too often. I don’t want you getting sad. Just live well. Just live. I’ll be walking beside you every step of the way.” Ugh, Will Traynor. Still breaks my heart.
The sequel, After You, begins following Lou’s life after Will’s death. She has moved away from her parents and has begun living in a place that Will left her. She has a new job, but does not feel satisfied. She has stopped wearing all her expressive clothes (bumblebee tights included) and has began to live just an ordinary life according to her standards. In the end, she finally meets someone who cracks her and she realizes that she can be the center of someone else’s world and that Will will be okay with her moving on because it’s what he would have wanted. However, throughout this whole book, Lou struggles to move on with her life without Will. She struggles to date. Struggles to find a good job. She is blinded by guilt. She joins a group called the Moving On Circle where all the participants have lost a loved on and have reached out for a support group. After going through a tragic loss myself, I know the pain and dark place that grief can send you. I know the day to day struggles, even 3 years later, of moving on with your life, trying not to wonder about that person. I know the internal battle of not wanting to share your grief because you think people are going to judge you.
You see, I believe that somewhere along the line, society has decided that the amount of time someone is allowed to grieve the loss of a loved one is limited. However, how can grief be limited, when for the rest of your life, your heart will forever have a gaping hole?
Sam, Lou’s new boyfriend in the book, stated it best when he told Lou (after she realized that he had lost his sister to cancer the previous year), “You learn to live with it, with them. Because they do stay with you, even if they’re not living, breathing people any more. It’s not the same crushing grief you felt at first, the kind that swamps you, and makes you want to cry in the wrong places, and get irrationally angry with all the idiots who are still alive when the person you love is dead. It’s just something you learn to accommodate. Like adapting around a hole. I don’t know. It’s like you become … a doughnut instead of a bun.”
Everyone has their own journey with grief and I truly believe that no one is ever the same after someone dies. Like Sam said, everyone becomes a doughnut. BUT, I do NOT think that grief is a bad thing or a thing that should have an allotted amount of time. One of the members from Lou’s group stated, “I think people get bored of grief,” said Natasha. “It’s like you’re allowed some unspoken allotted time—six months maybe—and then they get faintly irritated that you’re not ‘better,’ like you’re being self-indulgent hanging on to your unhappiness,” and I have never agreed with anything more. I think people think that everyone can only be sad for a certain amount of time and then that person should be able to pick right back up where they left off with no pieces of them still broken. Now yes, there is an unhealthy way and amount of time to grieve, but that will be taken care of if deemed necessary. For everyone else, however, grief is a different roller coaster ride that happens everyday. Some people can recover quickly, but some people tread water, trying to stay afloat for a long time, until one day, they look down and realize they can stand up and not have to swim upstream any longer.
Take it from me. IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. IT IS OKAY TO BE SAD. IT IS OKAY TO BE LOST. IT IS OKAY TO GRIEVE. There will come a day, yes I promise there will, when that person’s name will put a smile on your lips before it brings tears to your eyes. There will come a day when you can remember that person with peace and comfort in your heart and know that they are in a better place, singing with the angels and worshipping God, face to face. See, the Bible tells us in Revelation 21:4, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” The Bible tells us in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Heaven is a better place. We have to believe it! During trials and tribulations, God is never going to leave your side. He will never forsake you. If you trust in Him, He will always wrap you in love and peace and comfort, even during your hardest times. One Bible verse that is good to continuously turn back to and remind yourself daily is Romans 8:18,
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Our present sufferings are NOTHING compared to everything that will be revealed to us. Like Revelation states, when we get to Heaven, God is going to wipe every tear away! There will be no more sorrow! No more death! No more crying! Heaven is truly going to be remarkable and I can’t even begin to imagine the magnitude of how glorious it truly is going to be.
I pray that if you are going through grief right now, you can find peace in these words. Do not be afraid to grieve. It is healthy to. It is natural. Be sad. Feel loss and know that one day, you will learn how to float on top of your ocean instead of drown. One day, the sun will start to shine a little brighter. The birds will chirp a little louder. You will feel a release of pain and sadness, as the weight is being lessened off your shoulders. Carrying this person with you is NOT a burden, but rather a gift. In your heart, that person will live forever and no one, I repeat NO ONE, can take that away from you! Just like me and Louisa Clark, you will be able to see better days. You have to be willing to crawl through the valleys in order to really enjoy the view from the mountain top.
You can do this.
You will be okay.
And one day at a time, just live.