One year ago today I visited the cemetery, and I wrote a post after leaving that stayed with me for much of last year (and social media was kind enough to remind me that I wrote the post one year ago today). On this day a year ago, I had a pretty emotional visit to the cemetery. I don’t need social media to remind me of that much. I tend to remember which months, days and moments were particularly hard for me last year. On this day, my struggle was finding normalcy again.
Along with posting a picture of Aaron's grave marker, I wrote: “But the lives of the living do not stop when a loved one dies; time moves forward. . . . For those most affected, time still moves on, and we struggle to return to those elements of our lives that have not changed. . . . But everything is different. How do you go back? How do you go back when everything about your life had so much more meaning because you could share it with the person you love?”
It’s amazing how much of a perspective shift I have a year later. I realize now that I was asking the wrong question. The truth is, you don’t go back. You can’t. When someone close to you dies, the life you knew with that person is simply a memory. Those elements of your life that have not changed—your job, your family and friends, maybe even your hobbies—will never be the same to you. And quite frankly, they shouldn’t be.
Of course, I did “go back” after Aaron died in the sense that I went back to full work days. I went back to paying bills, working out, cooking, visiting with family and friends, etc. But it was fundamentally different because I was fundamentally different. Truthfully, I wasn’t able to look forward and see the promises in front of me until I realized that I was not supposed to go back emotionally or spiritually. And oh is that a difficult thing to realize.
When tragedy strikes, attempting to “go back to the way things were” is an unhealthy, impossible feat. Instead, you must look forward. Instead of asking "how do you go back," I needed to be asking "how do you find meaning?" I eventually came to see that you have to change your perspective on everything in order to find new meaning in those elements of your life that don’t change after tragedy. And I promise it is possible. In fact, there is a sense of balance when you reach a place where you can remember the meaning those things had with the person you lost but appreciate the meaning those things have now.
My relationships and friendships, my walk with God, and my approach to life in general all have new meanings. And that’s the way it should be. God wants us to look forward to all of the amazing things he has planned for us. No going back.