Grief? I can only explain it one way to those who ask how I am. To anyone who dares ask if I am getting over it.
My son’s death was like having a leg cut off, the edge where it was hacked off remaining raw and exposed, scabbing over at times, just waiting for someone to rip the scab off with a question or comment to again expose the raw meat of pain to the air.
Once you’ve lost a leg, it is always gone. I constantly miss it, phantom pain reminding me of the loss. I’m secretly jealous of all those who still have both legs but I cannot say so. It would be unseemly. So I live with one leg.
It’s Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. A tiger rips a man’s leg off. And as the doctor, stiff upper lip and all, is walking away, the patient who lost the leg calls out, “So it’ll grow back?” The doctor just shrugs, says “ahhh, no” and walks off. The man is left in his bed to ponder the loss.
I am the man in the bed. “Will it grow back? Is my son really gone?” “Ahhh, yes.”
I am now a one-legged man. No matter what I do, the leg cannot grow back. It’ll never come back. It is gone forever. I may have moments when there is a sense of it. A ghost sensation of what was my leg. Maybe even a fleeting feeling it really is not gone. But it is.
The rest of my life is one of grieving my lost leg. Every day is merely one of trying to balance on one foot. Trying to find a way to go through life on one foot while pretending to all those who can’t see the empty pants leg that it is somehow full.
That’s it. Standing and balancing on one foot.
Some days, balance is elusive. I fall over. Crumple to the ground with a thud. And lie there. Mourning the lost leg. Forever.
Other days now, I am able to remain upright and balanced. The leg gone but somehow able to hop through the day without the loss knocking me over again and again. In the beginning, those were rare days. Very rare. But as time passes, I am learning how to balance better and even some days walk as if the leg is not gone. Rare days but getting less so.
Practice makes imperfect because at any time something can come up to shake my balance. To remind me with searing pain that I lost a leg. Had it ripped away never to grow back.
This is an excerpt from Neal Raisman’s book Standing on One Foot: A Journey from Deep Grief into Re-Emerging into Living Fully. Available at www.StandingonOneFoot.com.