Out of Grief Comes Loss

Photo of river running over rocks

C.S. Lewis wrote that dealing with grief was like adjusting to life with one leg amputated. He said our whole way of life changes, and that while we may get around pretty well, we will probably walk with a limp and have recurrent pain for the rest of our life. After his wife died, Lewis didn’t think he would ever walk smoothly again.

Others have compared this feeling to an arm being cut off or there being a hole in their heart that they didn’t think would heal.

The death of a loved one does not simply remove them from our life, as if their arrival and departure equal out. This is because we have changed because of them. They have become part of us, and part of us no longer functions in their absence.

The death of a loved one does not simply remove them from our life.

A few years ago, a rockfall radically changed Happy Isles in Yosemite. If you haven’t been to Yosemite, Happy Isles might sound like an amusement area for children with cotton candy, hot dogs, and balloons. In reality, this is where the wild Merced River comes cascading down the steep canyon from the mountains and enters the valley. Three small islands sit in the middle of the river, and the area was named “happy” because of the cascading sounds of the water. 

The rockfall was not ordinary. Two blocks of granite, each 200 feet long and 25 feet thick, broke off near the top of Glacier Point and fell 1800 feet, generating a wind of 174 mph that blasted a thousand trees down. When the slabs hit the ground, they pulverized and buried a section of the pine forest, as well as a trail I loved to hike, under a pile of granite rubble. The force of the impact generated a 2.1 earthquake.

Before the rocks fell, Happy Isles was a deeply shaded glen. I’d stop in if I was hiking in the area, walk over a small bridge unto the islands, eat lunch in the cool shade, and listen to the sounds of the water dancing around me. Without the trees, the islands are now open, airy to the sky, and exposed to the sun. 

I cannot be at Happy Isles in Yosemite without thinking of Evelyn’s absence or the absence of the beautiful glen that is no more. 


It had been Evelyn’s favorite spot in the valley, but the place that she loved is gone. It is beautiful again, but in a different way, and I cannot be there without thinking of her absence or the absence of the beautiful glen that is no more. 

This reminds me of the Doctor Who episode where a human (Oswin Oswald) has been captured by the Daleks on their asylum world. She thinks she has been able to fend them off for a year, rather than be assimilated, but unknown to her, most of her has been physically converted into a machine. Through force of will, she has been able to keep her mind, spunk, and humor going.

Part of me stopped working when Evelyn died, and the journey through grief has changed me. I am more open, and my heart feels more compassion for others, but I see the world through hard eyes. Although I love again, it feels like it’s with a different heart, one that is still bruised. 

Sometimes I wonder how much of my old self has survived.

I would love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below, and I’ll respond.

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7 Comments

  1. Karen Thomas on May 7, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    We lost our 19 year old daughter 12 weeks ago, Valentine’s Day, a day of love, love celebrated, my parent’s anniversary, the day my ex-husband, now best friend proposed, a day of loss, a day my mom started chemotherapy, the day while sitting with my mom I was called about my daughter’s death. This day is forever changed in my whole being, and life his been lived through weekly anniversaries . . . grief

    • Mark Liebenow on May 8, 2019 at 7:13 pm

      Not only has that day been changed forever, Karen, but I suspect that you have been changed as well. How could you not? A day that celebrates love now carries with it the weight of a loss that, in our minds, should never have happened. No one should die this young. It rips a hole in the fabric of our universe. No words can calm the fire of this sorrow or undo our despair. I am so sorry.

  2. Jane Connolly on May 4, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    I am struggling, both my parents died within a few weeks of one another. Hate being without them & feel like a tiny version of myself. Miss them desperately, each day is another without them which is so sad. The horror of both their deaths are harsh memories. I cared for them both for years & would have them back in an instant. Waives of intense grief completely floor me. Feel locked into this sadness & so much more.
    In a 10 month period 9 people died. 1 friend I had known 16 years & saw infrequently. 2 friends were younger than me, I saw them both twice a week, one of them I had known over 30 years. 2 were neighbours whom I saw several times daily. 2 were older, saw both weekly. I cared for my dear parents for 9 years, tried to have a couple of days a week without seeing them for the sake of my gorgeous teenager who needed Mummy-time. I am a solo parent. My daughter went to University in September ’18.
    My GP is supportive I am being helped with post traumatic stress & bereavement anxiety. Medication hasn’t suited me, I am on the third attempt now but it is making me nauseous & sick, under regular review.
    I have had bereavement counselling with Cruse Bereavement Care but they are only able to offer 6 sessions. I have an appointment next week with a counselling service for an assessment.

    • Mark Liebenow on May 5, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Keep talking to people, Jane. I’m not a counselor, just a writer. To lose both parents so close together, along with your other losses, is brutal. My parents died six months apart, and that was hard, even though they were elderly. They were in nursing facilities at the end, so we didn’t have the daily caregiving that you were providing. Now suddenly you don’t have them to take care of, and your daughter is also out of a house that must feel so empty. You’ve liked taking care of others who needed help, and I’m sure they were so very grateful. My sister, who helped my parents the most, is still feeling the gap in her days.You’ve done your duty. Now it’s time to take care of yourself, to listen for what you need. And this may be hard to do in the beginning. Be patient.

    • JaneConnolly on May 5, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      Thank you Mark

  3. Sarah Dawson-Shepherd on May 3, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    It has changed me beyond my recognition. Sometimes I feel strong and able to be of service to others, after all, I have gone through the worst (for me) and thus can be compassionate to others, but sometimes, their pain is too much and I have to walk away until I have shored up my strength again. He was the one person who didn’t necessarily “get me”, but who loved me anyway and would never have voluntarily left. Now there is a gaping wound where he was. A leg cut off? No, more like a gouging of entrails. I am told that I am strong, but it feels like a hard strength, with hard edges.

    • Mark Liebenow on May 4, 2019 at 5:34 am

      Be gentle with yourself. Take your time. You have an understanding of grief that many people do not. You will not forget. The hardness you feel is a protection against being hurt again. In time the hard edges will soften and you will be ready to share your compassion with others. With grief we become new people, and it takes time to figure out who we’re going to be.

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