Thursday, 30 August 2012

Footprints in the Sand

'Time will heal' is one of the phrases I have heard most often as a bereaved child. It is also the most inaccurate. People frequently say it to me when I tell them about the accident, or if I am upset. I wish I knew how to explain to them that grief doesn't work like that, it is endless. Time doesn't heal grief, nothing can ever fill the void left by the death of a loved one. It never gets easier, the hole never shrinks but you learn to grow around it. You become strong enough to carry it with you. Not through bravery, but because there is nothing else.

Whilst grief is endless, it is not stationary. Slowly you pick your way through each memory, each lost dream and unfulfilled ambition. Taking each one in your hands, turn it over. Cry for it and scream for it. Grieve for it. And then you move on.

Forever is just an endlessness of 'nows', all strung together. What people who have never been bereaved don't realise is that you only move on in the 'now' that you currently occupy, that with each new stage of life there comes a new beginning to your loss.

And so you move on. And you grieve again, and search through your memories, and if onlys, and regrets. You build yourself up, and grow around the hole which consumes you. Gradually you learn to be strong enough to carry it with you. But then life moves on. It is strange because, despite the relentless pain it results in, I don't resent the cycle of grief. Each time I go through it, I find new glimmers of hope, new futures and horizons. I come back stronger, with more treasures and fragments of myself than I had before. Learning from the cycle teaches me the most powerful lessons I have learned in my life, and it gives me an insight into beautiful things. 

Grief is like the seashore. The tide comes back in and washes away your footprints, but it cannot wash away the knowledge that you were there. Each time new treasures wash up on the shore, and they are yours so long as you create the capacity to receive them. Some people find seashells or driftwood. But when I look in the manes of white horses, I am searching for pebbles.

Currently I am at the beginning of the cycle. Looking backwards I see nothing but my own awareness of the places that I have been. Before me lies a beach of the broken dreams of my sister. I no longer try to fix them, they are no less beautiful with the sunlight dancing across the sea water on their surface than they were in Louise's mind. Eventually I will reach the end of this one particular journey, and I know that the sunset at the other end will be breath taking. Beyond that there is a new beginning again, but I no longer fight it. There is no reason to be afraid of the blackness after the sun has gone down. Though the night may seem so very dark, we never doubt that the sun will rise again in the morning.


  1. As ever Sophie, you have an insight beyond your years! You are so right about so many things - I especially like the comment about bravery. People always tell me how brave I am, but bravery has nothing to do with it - I didn't choose this path, it chose me and I simply have to get on with

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings Sophie. I expect that there are many bereaved people both young and old who find your writing really resonates with their own experiences. Your writing is powerful honest and very moving. It really gives me pause for thought. You get to the very heart of what it is to be alive and to love.