“The assumptive world concept refers to the assumptions or beliefs that ground, secure, stabilize, and orient people. They are our core beliefs. In the face of death and trauma, these beliefs are shattered and disorientation and even panic can enter the lives of those affected.”
I never planned for this spring and summer to be so difficult. But does anyone ever? It isn’t as though people pencil in traumas on their calendars or dutifully schedule major losses.
No, these things happen to us. And on their own schedule. We have no say.
A few months ago, I lost my sister to a sudden heart attack. In an instant, she went from a quirky, generous, vibrant person to a historical figure, something now entirely in the past. I have written almost nothing about my sister since then. Almost nothing of the loss. And there’s a good reason for that — I can’t. I’m not ready. That loss is too fresh to talk about vulnerably in public. I am barely discussing it in private. It was the biggest shock of my life.
At roughly the same time my sister passed without warning, I received bad medical news. A chronic condition I’ve been struggling with for some years had taken a turn for the worse, and my workup showed that the only responsible course of action was now major surgery.
The dread and worry leading up to my operation were immense. I’m happy to say that I underwent that procedure two weeks ago — and I’m writing this post on the very first morning that I can successfully sit in a chair at a desk for any length of time. I pulled through great, with only a minor complication with one of my incisions (nothing that antibiotics and dressings can’t handle). I’m healing physically. Never quickly enough for my liking, but I’m doing it. Bodies are so slow. It is what it is.
The pathology that came back affirmed the procedure and then some. Better yet, my chronic pain has disappeared. The medical staff was apologetic about my postop pain, but it couldn’t hold a candle to what I’d been dealing with.
And I wish this was all that has happened, because that’s enough to adjust to, but it isn’t. My 21-year-old cat passed away this past week. I am understandably gutted by this. He’s had a number of medical issues over the years. We thought we’d lose him long ago.
And yet… it doesn’t diminish the sense of loss. Of sadness.
I frankly don’t know what world I’m living in anymore.
I hear friends say something similar — regarding the radical shifts in the American legal climate as of late. And I know what they mean. And I agree.
But my personal world is so broken. It’s very hard to see beyond a few inches from my face these days.
“I suppose what I’m struggling with the most is this sense that there’s no point in getting over anything… another big loss is always just around the corner. What is the point in healing when those wounds will just be ripped open again?” I say to my partner.
“That’s just the depression talking,” they say.
“You’ll recover from this,” they say. “It won’t always feel this way.”
“I know,” I say. “And I know it’s always hardest in the beginning.”
“Exactly,” they say.
We talk a bit about how grief makes you feel like things will never feel good again. And how it feels like reality. But that it doesn’t last forever. True, the loss always exists. You don’t really get over losing people (or cats). But a new life comes in bit by bit and grows around the loss, and it’s possible to feel comfortable again. Possible to feel joy.
But until that happens, you’re left in pain, in this constant fog of wondering how this even happened and how you’ll possibly go on.
Grief isn’t just about what you lost. It’s also about how your world will never be the same. And that takes time to sort out.