The hole in your heart, with you wherever you go

Isn’t it amazing how quickly our senses begin to awaken the moment we lose someone we love?

It’s almost as though this gaping hole in our heart causes the rest of our body to take over, just to keep us alive.

Our memory becomes stronger, perhaps in an attempt to rescue us from reality, give us a chance to vacation with our loved one again, control our fear of forgetting them—maybe all three.

Inside jokes become funnier, roller coaster screams become louder, ocean wave crashes become harder, and you almost forget if life even happened before you knew them. You definitely wonder if life is capable of going on without them by your side.

Suddenly, a beggar and pleader you didn’t know existed escapes from somewhere within your broken heart. You will do anything for just one more day, hour, minute, second. You’ll pray every night, go to church every Sunday, give away every dollar you’ve ever earned, never ask for anything again—anything.

Anything for one more smile, one more hug, one more goodbye.

It’s incredible how suddenly your fingers give rise to a mind of their own. One minute you are attempting to call the doctor or the pizza guy or your friend, and the next minute you hear their voice on the other end of the line. For a split second you want to leave a message, and a small part of your heart believes that they just might call you back.

Your fingers dial their number as though it’s the only path they’ve ever known. Sometimes you even call them on purpose—just to hear their voicemail pick up on the other end of the line.

Just in case they pick up this time.

Your ears search for the sound of their laughter in the next room, the grocery store, sometimes while lying in bed, completely alone. It feels like no sound exists aside from their voice, their laugh, their cry. You never realized how many people said their name until it was the only name you listened for.

Your eyes frantically flip through photographs as memories flow freely with the crocodile tears escaping them. You have a picture in mind, and you can’t find it. You have to find it. Sometimes you wish you had just one more picture to show how close you were, how many memories you shared, how much you loved each other. Sometimes you wish you had just one more picture to prove to yourself that there was a moment in time when they were really here, a moment frozen on a small glossy rectangle that you could hold onto the nights you’d give anything to hold them.

Your eyes see a piece of them nearly everywhere you look. The places you traveled together become sacred, sometimes it feels wrong to go there without them. Everyday errands and tasks feel like something is missing, and it is. And it always will be. And that’s okay to accept.

You start seeing them in crowds, in the smile of a friend, in your reflection in the mirror. You see them while you’re sleeping and you see them when you’re awake. Sometimes you daydream about the moment you’ll get to see them again. What will you say? What will they look like? Will they remember you? They will.

You never really had the best sense of smell, but suddenly you remember exactly what it smelled like when you hugged them, or walked into their house, or got into their car. You close your eyes and breathe them in, and it almost feels like they’ll be there when you open your eyes. Sometimes that’s the best therapy anyone could ask for—to sit alone, half broken and heart pounding, cross-legged on the cold tile floor, eyes tight, lip quivering, –just breathing them in.

It’s fascinating how quickly the universe is set in motion and how instantly the stars align just right as your loved one makes his or her way into their favorite constellation above.  Songs on the radio feel like they’re playing just for you, fortune cookie strips of paper scribble notes from heaven, and feathers somehow find a way to your doorstep, or your car seat, or tucked inside your notebook in the moments you need them most. You almost don’t want to speak about these secret messages aloud in fear of jinxing it or breaking a promise or doing anything to make them stop. You wish, more than anything, that you knew their address in the stars so you could send them a secret message back.

It’s a heartbreaking moment when you realize how many questions you forgot to ask, how many stories you wish you’d written down, and how many memories you wish you could replay as they suddenly flood your mind as though a dam has broken with no sight of the river’s end. Sometimes it feels like you can’t stop crying no matter how hard you try. It feels wrong that the world is going on without them, it makes you feel mad to see other people laughing and smiling and it feels like the only thing your heart will ever be is broken.

I used to think this was a bad thing, this “heartbreak,” that occurs when we lose someone we love, but I’ve since learned otherwise.

The heartbreak that occurs when we lose someone we love is absolutely necessary, because when our loved one leaves us, they leave a pretty big piece of themselves for us to keep.

Memories, secrets, promises, and love—lots and lots of love.

Our heart must break in order to make room for them; it must break completely to create a special warm space for them right in the middle.

A space for them to ride in while we travel the world, a special seat for them to sit in at all of the milestone events of our lives, and a space they can build a fire in when we need to be reminded that we are loved.

A space in our hearts where they can live forever,

a heartbeat chorus to guide us down the path,

no matter where we go.

*****

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