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The Duality of a Grieving Heart

“There is no such word as ‘loved.’ Love has no past tense. If you ever stop loving someone, then you never truly loved them in the first place.” - unknown

Peter and I in happier times.

Duality is defined as the circumstance or condition of being dual. It is an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts. It is the yin and the yang. It is two sides of a coin. For widows this polarity is grief and loss. It is both the pain of loss and the joy of remembrance. As a widow takes her journey and begins to move forward, there is a duality in merging her former life with her spouse and moving forward with her new existence alone. As time goes by, the feeling of duality merges one’s new life with the memories of one’s old life.

When you begin to have a new relationship, you can hear your love saying “right on.” When I had to break up with a guy after a few dates, it was Peter who said “he’s not good enough for you my love. Dump the SOB.” The duality of my life is blending together as I move forward with heartbreak and also joy. I am learning to exist in the world of now while clinging to the memories of my wonderful marriage. This is the duality of a grieving heart.

I liken my duality to a shrapnel wound. When Peter died, there was an explosion in my heart and the sharp, jagged pieces of my former love got embedded deep into my heart. The pain of the explosion was so horrific, I didn’t know if I could move forward. I was keenly aware that it was too dangerous to remove these jagged pieces, so I learned to live with the sting and soreness and adapt to a life with this sorrow locked inside me. Sometimes the pain throbs unexpectedly at anniversaries or when Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah strains waft by me. But, I have learned to move forward, with the knowledge that I have remembrance pieces of our love tucked neatly inside my heart.

The shrapnel is a good image for me to grasp. The shrapnel is inside me and like grief, I have to let the pain of it ease on its own timetable. I have been educated in a full course of grief. I have earned a major in melancholy and a minor in sadness. The pain is a reminder of my love and my memories of my former life, but it is also a way of keeping Peter close to me as a trusted advisor as I move ahead. I am living with the dichotomy of pain in the form of the shrapnel and the longing to move forward, but knowing that I have wise counsel and memories to help me on my journey. I have to be a champion of my own life. I have to play out the repellant cards that have been dealt to me. I have to fight for my survival and live according to Nora Ephron’s wise counsel: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

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