As The Tide Recedes
By Jeanne Lyet Gassman 
It has been four years since our son Nathan died, and I am often amazed at how much our family has changed during that time. I think of our grieving process as being a lot like a stroll along the beach at high tide. In the beginning, when our loss was fresh and new, the waves of pain were unbearable intense, coming at us without pause. They seemed to hit us everywhere at once- in the face, in the stomach, in our hearts- knocking us down to the ground.

The grief and anger we felt swelled up over our heads; we were drowning in the emotions we could not understand. And we began to wonder if we would ever be able to breathe normally again. “How can life go on,” we asked, “when it hurts so much?”

But time passed, and the tide receded. The water had dropped to the level of our knees. The waves seemed to strike with less frequency, and when they did hit, their power was diminished. And yet, we sensed that we were still not free. Sometimes, when we least expected it, a huge wall of grief seemed to rise up out of nowhere, pounding us with the memories. We stumbled but did not fall.

One day, we looked up and discovered that we were walking only on wet sand. We had been battered by the waves, but still we stood erect. And we recognized that our loss had given us an enduring strength.

Scattered on the shore before us were numerous beautiful treasures that had previously been hidden by the deep water. These treasures, which sparkled like jewels in the sand, were all our priceless memories of our child that we had submerged in our pain. Now it was possible to gather up our thoughts of the happy times and hold them close to our hearts.

Today we walk through the shallow, lapping waves with a new confidence, leaving our wet footprints in the sand. Following behind us, however, there is another set of footprints, invisible prints which are quickly washed away by the swirling water. These are the steps that our child will never take.

The past, like the salt of the sea, clings to our skin. We know that the tide will return – with anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and special family occasion – but the grief will never be as powerful or as strong. We have learned to live like the flotsam which floats on the surface of the water; Ride gently with the waves; let the grief carry you forward, so that you will be ready to stand strong and upright when once again your feet tough solid ground.

The End