Karolina Grabowska STAFFAGE

500 Pictures, 100 letters, movie stubs, discs, poems, cards, concert tickets all carefully placed into a brown woven box. The same brown woven box that used to hold my shower towels now held the last seven years of my life.

One box, that's what it came down to.

I stared at it for days, before I finally realized, I couldn't stand to look at it anymore. I couldn't stand to have my life in arms reach, but not ever be able to grab it again.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a special sort of pain. It's a lingering ache in your gut that feels like a 50-pound weight on your chest.

It was as painful as I always imagined it would be, losing somebody. I used to say to my sister how bad I would be at grieving because every single person I had developed relationships with in my life, I emotionally invest so much of my heart into.

While I've dealt with nostalgia and missed old friends, I've never actually lost a close family member before, so this one swallowed me whole and has yet to spit me back out.

If you haven't ever spent night after night on the bedroom floor begging God to take your heartache, begging for a do over, begging for your comfort zone, then you are among the group of people whose life is still considered one part.

As for the rest of us, we have two lives - life as we knew it, and then our life after loss.

I've heard grief comes in waves. I never got that, until one came. Not just any wave either, it was the tsunami of all waves. It took my appetite, forced me to stay awake at night as it replayed every favorite memory in my mind like a broken record. It took any drive I had to leave the house to have any human connection.

The thing I loved the most became the very same thing that sucked the life right out of me. I couldn't muster up an ounce of strength to pour into anyone. Despite how much you care about the person on the other end of that text, there is one thing consuming you, and it's who isn't there anymore, so responding doesn't even seem like an option.

You lost someone. Maybe you are mourning the loss of a child, the loss of a marriage, a brother, or your very best friend. Whatever it is, everyone who loves you, is now left with the half version of you.

They say time heals most anything, and I have slowly found that to be true. After awhile, I started feeling hidden blessings that stemmed from my deepest heartache.

My friendships thrived. God placed people in my life, gave them all the right words to say, and allowed each one of them to play a specific part in my healing. Without my grief, I would have never got the chance to be comforted in such a way that took my friendships to such a vulnerable level.

Next, I developed a love for Jesus like I have never known. I have thanked Him for every good and decent thing in my life over the years, but the way His love carried me while I was broken is something I will never forget. He is my steady hand, and I can't even fathom life without His arms around me when I was at my worst.

After I was done being a mess, I became a new, better version of myself. I had an unshakable desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. I poured myself into information that allowed my mind to grow, my spirit to bloom, and surrounded myself with people who had hearts as pure as the ocean.

I felt stronger. I overcame the most painful thing I have ever endured, and even though the waves still come, they aren't as often now and I can look back and thank God for the good years, instead of wishing things were different.

I can let my pain go, and press forward to an unknown future guided by a known God and know that grief is just a normal part of life.

We can choose to wallow in our loss, or we can take that loss and use it to be more intentional with the people who are still in front of us.

In a world that is moving way too fast, our losses remind us that nobody is guaranteed anything. So make the best of today, because tomorrow isn't promised.

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