Friday, August 21, 2015

This one life

It's been almost 17 months since Kevin died. In that time I have been immobilized by grief; I have had the startling experiences of feeling sparks of life again; I have laughed and cried, raged and begun to understand who I am in in this world without him. I have decided that, as much as I may miss him, Kevin was the one who died and I am finally willing to be alive again.

Part of how I've survived these 17 months is by being fairly public about my grieving process. If you're reading this, you know that already. I made this choice because I have lived for years with clear lines between the public and private; as a performing artist who bases some of her work on her own life I knew I would have to find ways to bring death and loss into my public voice. This was more for my benefit that anything else. I needed to hear myself think aloud. It seems as though that thinking aloud has been useful for others, for which I am deeply grateful. 

I am not done grieving Kevin, I doubt if I ever will be. But I find myself in a much better place than I was and, I have to admit, I am shocked by it. For the first year and a bit I wanted nothing more than to stop. Nothing more than to disappear from the planet. While I wasn't actively self-injurious I doubt I would have done much to stop my own death. This created some enormous cognitive dissonance. While I've had some pretty hefty struggles with depression my default, my set point is more about being present in the world than running from it. I think that's part of what makes me an effective storyteller; I am present in the performing moment with my audience, whoever they may be. So finding myself not wanting to be in the world, ignoring the small details, was another cause for grief. I had lost myself. Depression and deep grief are very different beasts; one I understood as part of my nature, the other was consuming me.

When I moved from the house Kevin and I shared I realized I had an opportunity to re-engage with the world. Moving sucked. It was traumatic, expensive and I am still not unpacked entirely. At the same time, moving gave me a chance to claim a small corner of the world for me alone and see what that felt like. As I began to relax into my new space, which is full of reminders of our life together but is wholly mine (for example, things are organized so a short person can reach them) I began to wonder how else I might relax back into the world. I wrote lists. I began exploring. I decided I was more interested in being part of the world than not for the first time in a long while.

This, too, created enormous cognitive dissonance. How can I find joy in the world when Kevin isn't of the world? Is this betrayal? How dare I live again?

I live again because it is in my nature to do so, it is in my nature to want to connect. It is part of what Kevin loved about me - and what so many of you who have supported me through all of this also love about me. I live again because after awhile being disengaged from the world has terrible monotony; I just don't find myself and my own pain that interesting. 

I live again because loss is part of life. Throughout mourning Kevin I have tried to embrace each moment fully. I have let myself be cripplingly sad because I knew, even in the early days, that feeling it deeply and allowing myself to express it were the only ways I could survive and that the sorrow would not last. No matter how sad I am in a given moment my body won't allow it to last indefinitely. I can't cry forever. It is far, far better to have loved him, love him still and mourn him than to not have had the love. To live is to grieve.

I am still struggling with cognitive dissonance. I am still struggling with understanding who I am now and who I might become. I am still struggling with grief. Not a day goes by that I don't find myself wondering how any of this - his death and my return to life - could have happened. I am learning to live in this state of uncertainty because there is no certainty. All we have is this one moment. This instance of connection. This one life.

(c) 2015 Laura S. Packer
Creative Commons License


  1. I'm glad that you're finding some good in life. Sometimes people who experience your kind of loss never do.

    1. Hi Cathy,
      I know just how fortunate I am and I am grateful. As I said above, I truly believe it is in my nature to choose to live. Kevin wanted nothing less for me.
      None of this changes the fact that I will always miss him, always carry this grief. But I am still here and I'd rather find a way to be here.


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails