Grief does funny things to almost every other emotion. It heightens some. Happiness feels bigger, brighter. Beautiful sights seem to radiate that beauty instead of merely being. Your favourite song warms you from the inside out. Rain on the roof makes you close your eyes in enjoyment. Sadness is deeper, tears more violent. Anger feels coiled around you, squeezing you tight.
It heightens both good and bad feelings. But now, even with the good, or especially with the good, there is another underlying feeling. I won’t call it guilt, but it’s pretty close to it.
A lot is going well in my life right now. I have just accepted a new job for next year at a school a bit closer to home where I will be teaching journalism, something I am very excited about. I am making lots of new friends who are interesting and lovely people. I am heading overseas to meet my online Mamas group on the trip of a lifetime in just five weeks where I will get to see almost every corner of the States and meet some of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I have a fantastic boyfriend who is interesting and interested in me and makes me happy. I have a blog and podcast that I am brimming with pride about. I’ve never felt so proud of anything in my life. It feels important and worth while and I want to shout from the rooftops about it. I feel more confident and content in who I am than I ever did before Eva was born.
These things form a list in my head and I feel lucky and grateful and happy on the one hand, and conflicted and sick and sad on the other. I look at my wall where Eva’s photos sit and I know for a fact that a lot of these things would not be happening if Eva was still here. I would not have switched jobs or started the podcast. I would not be travelling across the world for my summer break. My focus would have been her and the rest would have taken a back seat. I would be in a very different place. I would not feel this drive or this surety about what is important. I would be taking each day as it comes and hoping for the best. I would be preparing for her surgeries and contemplating how to get by while working and taking care of her.
So I end up feeling badly for that happiness and a twinge of guilt for feeling happy at all, less than a year since Eva’s death.
I know it’s pointless to think about the what ifs and imagine my life as if she hadn’t died. I know I’m making the most of what I have, and what else can I do? But grief has a way of making you appreciate what you have, and letting you rejoice in the little things, while simulaneously making you mourn the fact that your loved one isn’t the one bringing that happiness to you, as well.
People say there is no right way to grieve, and they are right. There isn’t. But that doesn’t stop me feeling that churning squeeze at the bottom of my stomach while my chest swells with something good.