When you are grieving, you lash around like a drowning man, trying to struggle to the surface for air. You get that brief touch of comfort, and for a moment, you can breathe, and then the tides pull you under and you struggle again. You think: “If I could just rest, long enough to recover, I could handle the waves again.” But life isn’t like that. It doesn’t stop while the widow mourns. The bills don’t stop because your husband died. They children don’t drive themselves to school because you have lost your dearest friend, their father. The world doesn’t stop, even if friends and family do stop by.
Like a drowning man, it’s hard to think clearly and at the same time, you worry: Am I going to cause someone else to drown while they are trying to rescue me? People stop by, taking their turn bringing you to the top, helping you get air, but then swim away, leaving you on your own. For a while, you are ok, and sometimes, you even think you are going to make it to shore on your own, then the tide of memory drags you down and you thrash yet again.
You used to be a good swimmer. You remember when you could cross an ocean on your own. You remember when you were the one rescuing drowning people. You wonder how you forgot to swim like that. How the joy of cutting through water, the thrill of the cold, the surge of adrenalin, all became lost with this person who once swam beside you. It’s not like they were cutting the water for you, you still had to swim on your own, but now they are gone, your will to beat the tide, to endure the cold, to feel that surge has gone with them. You think: Maybe I’m not really a swimmer at all and you sink just a little bit deeper.
Maybe you aren’t. Maybe you aren’t a swimmer anymore. Maybe the only thing you were good at in the water was a team sport, and if you can just get to the shore, maybe you’ll find out what you are without your partner.
I don’t know. I’m still treading water. Sometimes I wish I would just drown. I could be with my team mate again. We could swim together again in brand new waters. I don’t think I have it in me to just let go. I understand people who die of broken hearts now, but I don’t think I can give myself to that. I don’t know if that would be quitting, I just know that isn’t me. That’s not the kind of competitor I am.
Before, I had a destination–we had a destination. We had plans. Now the strategy has to be changed. Team sports, you know, are much different than individual competition.
I feel like we are still a team. I’m not carrying his weight, but now I’m carrying his name. It’s like a logo sewn on my shirt. Everyone knows I represent him now. I have to win. I have to be the best. I have to show everyone that *he* was worth it. I want them to remember him. I want them to know him.
People keep coming by. Sometimes they pick me up, sometimes they just leave more waves to struggle in. I don’t know where I am swimming anymore, maybe just in circles, but I know who I am swimming for. All the advice to swim this way or that has directed me to waters even more difficult than the ones I’ve been treading and I can’t swim for him if I am drowning. I think I’ll just try treading water for a bit. The tides will pull me in, eventually, and I might be forced to struggle for air, I might be forced to call for help, but I will acquit myself well in the name of the team, because I’m all that’s left of it.