My Gram and Jada took their first steps hand in hand on April 10, 2009. Jada was eleven days away from her first birthday the day my Gram died. She had been trying to take her first steps for a few weeks. She would get up and get ready and then she would sit down, as though she were afraid. The afternoon my Gram died, Jada took her first steps with her hand at her side, as though someone was holding her hand. I am sure it was my Gram helping her take her first steps as she took her first steps on the other side.
It was the first steps for us as a family without her, and for her without her body. It was a different world for all of us. We were all learning to live this new life. Through the pain I could see the gift my Gram gave us; a story to reminisce about on the day that tore our world apart. That was who my Gram was, she was always helping others, even if it meant she went without. Watching Jada take those steps I knew she would stick around and protect us. I knew our worlds were still connected. I knew she was not gone. Those thoughts gave me peace, but it did not take the pain.
My first steps without my Gram were agonizing. I remember seeing the world as though it were going by in slow motion. Looking at people walking past me and thinking they had no idea how broken my world was now. They had no idea the pain inside of me. They had no idea that I had just lost all that I knew. I felt disconnected from the rest of the world.
People do not understand the pain of losing someone so important unless they have lost someone. The experience has no words to truly explain the feelings, the raw emotions that are rushing throughout your whole body. There is nothing that compares. People want to help, they want to have the right thing to say to give comfort. There are no words. Nothing brought me comfort. Time. Time is all that helped with my healing. Hearing people say “time heals all wounds,” is not helpful. Hearing it only made me angry; my loss will never be “healed” as in “fixed,” but with time I learned how to rebuild my life without her physically in it.
I explain the loss as losing a leg and then learning how to walk again. With determination and help you will walk again; if you want to. You have to deal with the pain and the road to recovery is different for everyone. You can give up, get an infection in the wound and let it kill you. Or you can take the care that you need to, no matter how long it takes and recover. It is never over; your leg never grows back. That is the new you. It is all in what you make of it. Your first steps will not be easy, they will not be without pain. You will think back to when you had your leg and you may get angry. You may get so angry that you start to give up. You may think that it is unfair, that this is not how it was supposed to be. You may have dreams where you have both legs and you are running. Feeling free, like your old self again. Then you wake up and you look down and you are reminded that life will never be the same again. The dream brings more pain than joy as you feel the loss all over again.
In time you are able to smile at the gift of the memory. Every day is a new day to feel new things. To cry new tears. To smile new smiles. To be thankful for the memories that fill the spaces. It will not be easy, it will be some of the hardest days of your life. Time moves on, even if we do not. The first steps are the hardest, but take heart knowing that as you walk those first steps into your new life, you are not alone. If you believe you will feel their presence. The good news is you only have to take those first steps once. It is all in the way you look at things.