Things are softening. Memories that used to have razor edges that sliced me from the inside are hazier and the edges don't leave as much damage as they used to.
Talking about him often results in a smile almost as much as tears. Most of the time it's both. And the tears are a bittersweet love story not a fathomless depth of blackness.
The idea of never seeing him again doesn't rip and tear its way through my body like it used to. It floats at the edge of disbelief still, but it doesn't injure me quite like it used to.
Thoughts of the future don't terrify or mystify me anymore. They aren't lost in a gray fog as much. They seem warmer, brighter and ever so slightly more imaginable. A future seems possible. The present is easier to bear.
My therapist said something really interesting the other day that I just thought of as I was typing this.
She said that we often think of grief as traveling on a line that goes from the first, worst moments to many many years away when you're as "better" as you're ever going to be. We think that if we suddenly have a set back and feel worse again, that we think of it as traveling backwards on that line and undoing all our work. We're back at square one. But in reality, she says it's more like we've just temporarily stepped off the tracks. We get back on at the same place we got off. That must explain why, over time, I've had setbacks but have recovered more quickly after each one, and continued to make improvements despite many setbacks and struggles.
It's because I didn't go back. I just went off track for a bit and got right back to the path as soon as I'd gathered my strength again.
I've felt as though it's hopeless when I've have those setbacks. I've felt as though I'll never be better and I'm just retracing my steps, but I don't think I am now. I think I'm just stepping away for a bit but not losing ground. Every day of those worst times made me stronger, though it felt like the opposite. Every day was progress, though I couldn't see it then. Every day got me farther and farther down that road toward better, and the detours just took me off-road, into the woods from time to time.
Even if things begin to feel sharp and dangerous and thoughts slice me up from the inside again, I'll find my way back to the path and start right where I left off, stronger than before. I never turned around and walked backwards.
All those miles were hard-won and have not been in vain.