Grieving the Grief Years

Image © Sarah TreanorI had an all-out breakdown a few days ago. The kind I haven't had in at least a year. I am chocking it up partly to hormones and the damned full moon, but also to everything else going on.

Nothing is settled in my life. Most of the time I am used to this, and I ride the waves well. But sometimes it piles up. My career as an artist is sort of like hanging off a cliff on one finger right now. Every now and then I get a better grip, a few more fingers on the ledge, but yeah... this whole entreprenuer thing feels trecherous. All the time. I constantly have no clue what I am doing. And just keep trying my hardest to hold onto the ledge of blind faith sometimes faith is all I've got

Next week, Mike and I will have known each other for 6 months. He and his daughter Shelby will be coming down to visit for a long weekend in just a few more days. We've spent countless hours on Skype, but this is the first time I will be meeting her in person. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous about that. I'd be lying if I said it didn't begin to trigger all kinds of future thoughts.

Suddenly here I am, in the midst of so much change I barely know what happened. This time, it's good change, but that doesn't mean grief isn't still part of it or that it isn't still scary and hard...

Their visit next week has triggered the big question in a more real way: Will I move to Ohio to be with them if things keep going well? I was prepared to move anywhere with Drew for his work, but that was a different time and place and we had 3 years together already by then. Mike and I don't have that luxury, the distance means looking at these things earlier. I've never even lived outside of Texas, or more than 8 hours from my home town. I would be 1000 miles from my best friend. 1400 miles from Drew's gravesite and from his family. 1600 miles from my parents' gravesite. This is all upsetting. Of course, I can't stop myself from thinking about it all... and overthinking it. 

Last week, I ended up in a complete emotional breakdown over all of the above. Life. Love. Work. Future. I have felt so tired and so worn down from trying to keep at it with my art that I've really wanted to quit. I've wanted to give it all up and go back to a regular job. So tired of not knowing where it's all going. So tired of wondering how I will ever make any decent money doing what I love. And while that was going on, I worked myself up into a frenzy over far-away future ideas about moving... about having to leave certain things behind in order to bring other things into my life.

I am realizing all this potential change is about so much more than I had ever realized walking into it. It's about more than keeping up with work or opening to new love and new adventures. It's about the fact that I am beginning the process of greiving this life... this shitty, traumatic, painful, chaotic, terrifying, overwhelming three years of clawing my way through the pain and agony and anger and sadness. Somehow, as I stand now, I realize – yes - I will actually miss these years. Truly, deeply, miss them – on a soul level. Because there has been something incredibly sacred here. It has been painful, but it has also been the most pivotal time of change and growth in my entire life. I have spent these years trying to answer the questions about life, death, and my place in it all. I have dug deeper into knowing myself and my own fears than I ever thought possible. I have opened my heart more fully than I ever knew I could. I have done things I never imagined I could or would do. And I have always been acutely aware that this precious period of solitude would one day pass... as all things do.

And so with the introduction of one new person, suddenly I am beginning to see for the first time the way that one of the most pivotal chapters of my life beginning to close. Looking back at what these year have meant to me, there is no wonder as to why it's been so upsetting as of late. It isn't about moving. It isn't about leaving my home state. It isn't about being further away from my friends. It isn't even about leaving Drew behind – because I know now, that he'll go with me into every new chapter of my life. It's about starting to say goodbye to one of the most special times in my life. It's about knowing in my bones that it's time to do so... even if I hadn't met Mike - I was time for change to come. 

How strange... to be looking at the worst years of my life as a thing I will MISS. But you know, I will. In much the same way I miss the years I had with Drew. There have not been the happiest years - since he died - but they have been some of the most important. And I will have to go through greiving these years in order to make room to move ahead into new and beautiful things. Into new chapters. Holding the joy and the sorrow – closely beside each other. It's going to be rough, but I'm trying to remember that whatever those next chapters are... they will be just as important and sacred, in their own beautiful ways. They will hold new joy and pain all their own. And I will one day be looking back on whatever those future days are and missing them, too. Onward... yet again, into the grief - and life - I go. 

Photo "Let Go" © Sarah Treanor, from my "Still, Life" self portrait series on grief. For more images of the series, visit

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  • Alison L Miller
    commented 2015-08-04 16:00:21 -0700
    Oh, Jeez, Sarah, you nailed it down hard with this. I’m not where you are, really, but I’ve had the thought in my head that at some point even these deeply grieving years will be behind me and I panic because does that mean that Chuck will truly be just a memory in my past and that sends me into such panic that I have to stop thinking at all.

    These couple years since his death have been…continue to be…devastating and horrifying and your blog makes me wonder at how it’s possible to miss them but I expect I will. Because, as you say, these are sacred times…
  • Kathie Lafortune
    commented 2015-08-03 13:40:12 -0700
    Yes! At at just under 5 years out now, I recently remarried. Greg asked and asked before I finally said yes. We were already committed, had bought property and begun the building of a new home. But until I was ready to let go of the grief years, until I was ready to stop being the sacred widow, until I was ready to commit completely to the unknown rather than cling to the painful, but also poignant, known….I was not ready to say yes. Jump in Sarah, and keep your feet firmly planted in the flow.
  • Kelley Lynn
    commented 2015-08-02 18:30:01 -0700
    Wow. So many changes coming. And so many changes within you. Its a lot to take in and process and live. But youre doing a beautiful job ..