A little over three years ago I suffered a loss that took my breath away. It literally swept my feet from under me and changed the way I saw the world. Grief is like no other feeling on earth. It is vast and deep and terrifying. Until you have lost someone who is so much a part of you, and so much a part of your world that the rooms in your soul echo after they leave, you cannot begin to imagine the coiling monster that is grief.
My sister passed away unexpectedly at the age of twenty four. The cause was not known at the time, and an autopsy took months, but still came back largely inconclusive. In the months between her death and the autopsy results, my family lived in limbo. There was no closure, no real explanation – just time passing, without her.
Losing my sister shook me to the core. It raised questions that I had never considered. It brought my own mortality into view. Whoever you are and however you view the world – at some point something is bound to turn your focus to the big questions. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What happens after death? What is our purpose?
The big questions never baffled me when I was younger. I held easy and confident answers for all of them. Knowledge and experience are very different animals. All the philosophy in the world won’t bail you out when you are sinking.
For months I lived in a world of questions, platitudes and terrible advice. The things that people say in these circumstances are senseless and horrible. I was told to be glad I had her for that short while at least. They say that time heals all wounds. You need to put it behind you and go on living, people advised. It was her time to die.
Three years (and a bit) later, I can say with absolute certainty that time does not heal all wounds. The body is so much easier to heal than the spirit. When it is a matter of tissue and blood and bone, healing is a natural progression. The spirit does not simply clot and form a scar tissue by itself. You actually have to do the work.
It took me a long time to find the bottom of what I had thought was bottomless grief. Layer after layer I searched for answers, and only unearthed more questions. When I finally made it through the sadness, hopelessness, bartering, guilt, rage and fury of the many stages of grief, I discovered the journey was directly into the center of my existence, and the road back was a process of examination of everything I knew. It was a road composed of the big questions.
Strangely enough, my answers to the big questions are the same now as I would have given a decade ago. They have not changed, just grown in perspective and conviction. Time has not healed my wounds. There are wounds that never heal. The nature of our existence is experience. What we believe in theory often holds true when we must live it. It is the living that matters.
I believe that when we die our bodies return to the earth. I believe that the essence of our being lives on. Energy does not cease to exist. She is in every sunrise, every blade of grass, every bird call and every star in the sky.
We live on, but never without her.
Republished with permission. Post originally appeared on Treewise