Before and After

Points of reference for loss and grief.

Posted Jun 28, 2020

Photo by Genevieve Dallaire from Unsplash
Source: Photo by Genevieve Dallaire from Unsplash

I placed my phone on the mango table, cradled the steaming cup of chai, and curled up on the oversized chair. I pulled a silky summer blanket over my legs and breathed in deeply as I took in the beauty of my surroundings.

It was early on a summer morning, the house was quiet, and the sun was just beginning to make its presence known. Radiant light passed through the crystals hanging on the window and created beautiful multicolored shapes that danced throughout the room. A gentle breeze wafted over the windowsill and brought with it the sweet-smelling fragrance of the generous flowers planted in the yard. A brilliant mix of birds chirped playfully as they competed for a prime spot at the bird feeder.

As I sipped my tea, I delighted in the happy banter of the likeminded creatures. I momentarily altered my gaze as I reached for the phone to call my youngest brother. Seemingly, in that instant, the cheerful warbling was replaced by angry chatter. I glanced back to the feeder and saw a generously proportioned squirrel awkwardly climbing to the top, forcefully shaking the feeder as he progressed and haphazardly spilling the contents to the ground. There was a disorganized flurry of activity as the birds took flight and the offending squirrel leaped to the ground to enjoy the spoils. I giggled at the developing chaos, but when my brother answered, I shifted my focus. As our conversation meandered that morning from the lighthearted to more serious topics, and as I reflected on the encounter between the birds and the squirrel, I was reminded that much of life is marked by two specific points of reference – before and after.

It has been nearly one year since my (our) mom died. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred sixty-five days. When I say that out loud, when I type those words, it seems like such a long period of time. But in many ways, it still feels like yesterday. Grief is a process. A journey that one does not choose to take. Yet, it is one that all will be forced to navigate at some point in their lives. I am now far enough along in this process that the crushing and all-consuming fog has lifted, and most days I can appreciate the healing that has taken place. I realize that I now smile more than I cry. I remember my mom’s mischievous spirit and feel joy more often than sorrow. I spend more time looking forward — to the life I am creating — than dreading the moments we will no longer be able to share. Perhaps that is one of the biggest tasks during grief. Finding a peaceful coexistence between the before and the after.

Our lives are shaped, and our memories chronicled, by pivotal moments. The death of a loved one. The end of a relationship. The emergence of a pandemic. Whatever the loss, we lament what we no longer have. We feel the void. We resist the change. We grieve. It is important to take that time, but it is equally important to keep moving forward — to be present as life unfolds. Take advantage of the time you have, create memories, and remember that every stage of life has a before and an after.

Copyright Linda Seiford, Ph.D.