Matt, an aftershock is defined as a smaller earthquake that follows a larger earthquake. It generally occurs in the same area as where the main shock occurred and is caused by the displacement of the earth that followed that first main shock.
Part of living through earthquakes is learning to live with aftershocks. It’s obvious I lived through my first major quake. January 3rd 2015 my world was hit with a quake of unmeasurable magnitude. That day my life was knocked off it’s axis and left free spinning into an atmosphere of shock and immeasurable grief.
Since that day these unexpected aftershocks hit just when my mind is starting to feel stable once again. I’ve read aftershocks can last for years. I’m living proof of that truth. Four years and ten days have passed and the ground beneath my feet remains unsteady.
Grief is a lot like aftershocks. One never knows when that shaking, unstable feeling will strike. Usually there is no warning. A thought, a memory, a word can bring on the most unsteady of feelings. Almost like the ground is moving under my feet. It’s a feeling of being out of control. Of wondering what is happening and why now.
I’ve come to understand that most of what has been written about grief is untrue. Grief knows no time limit. It doesn’t lessen as the years pass. It doesn’t let go after you have passed all those “firsts”. It certainly doesn’t follow any stages or steps. It knows no boundaries. There are no certain series of programs or steps to follow to get you through to the end. Because there really is no end. Grief is the journey of aftershocks that hit unexpectedly and can be as powerful as that first major shock.
I have days where I feel pretty steady. Days where I can think of you and smile as a memory flows through the projector in my brain. Days when I can tell your story without feeling that jolt of reality hit my piece of earth. Days when I can enjoy the warmth of the sun on my face as I remember our talks on the beach. Days I see your smiling face as a breeze blows my hair gently across my cheek as if a kiss is coming from heaven. I treasure those days. Those are the days I feel like I will survive even when the aftershocks hit.
Just when I’m feeling the illusion of joy, I feel the shift. Some days the jolt hits as my eyes open and reality is there waiting for me. My brain starts screaming, “He is dead”. “Matt really died”. Its then the aftershock throws me off balance. I see the cracks opening in the earth beneath my feet. I catch my breath as I try to navigate through the rubble that was once my intact heart. The immense power of the aftershock of reality put me on unstable ground and has me questioning my surviving the next one.
I want to scream. I want to punch. I just want not to be. I want to disappear. I want to run as far away as I can. To leave this unstable ground and find a safe place to dwell. I want my ground not to shift on a dime. I want to walk on a steady path not this twisted, shattered piece of earth.
There are days the aftershocks leave me paralyzed as I try to navigate an escape. Days when the grief is relentless and nothing I do helps erase the pain. What I once thought about life has shifted. I used to think life would go according to my plans. Every belief has started to crack as I continue to live with your loss. All my hopes and dreams fell through the earth and have disappeared from my life forever.
Aftershocks have been noted to be more dangerous and damaging than the original earthquake. I once thought that had to be a falsehood. But as I continue to live through years of aftershocks, I realize they are far more powerful than the original assault. The aftershocks are constant reminders that my ground will never go back to what it once was. That I will always be at risk for an aftershock to hit and knock me off my feet. That my terrain will always be full of fault lines and my grief will find a way through.
Grief and aftershocks have a lot in common. We are never given a warning. They hit. Making us unstable. Shaking our once steady world changing the way we look at life. Aftershocks like grief can be deep or close to our surface. What matters most is we recognize them when they hit. We stop and feel them. We allow ourselves to be where we need to be as the earth shifts. We allow ourselves the time to learn how to navigate through our fault lines.