I would make an assumption that we all have experienced loss. It comes to us in various ways. Loss of privileges, pets, objects, memories, money, physical capabilities, friendships, jobs, loved ones, the list seems never-ending. While some losses seem small and can be more easily overcome, other forms of loss overwhelm and consume those who experience it. Loss happens and nothing stops for it.

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What really sucks about loss, and in particular, death, is just that. Nothing stops for loss. Nothing stops for death. Everything and everyone around you continue to live life as normal. Even you must continue living, going through the motions, taking care of all of the things that won’t stop because you are suffering. You may be able to take time off from your normal responsibilities, such as work, doing the dishes, responding to emails, or whatever is on your daily to-do list.

As a result of losing a loved one, funeral services must be planned, paperwork signed, legal procedures initiated, and flower arrangements accepted. There are condolences to process emotionally and family scavenger hunts through the deceased loved one’s home. Eventually, the bereavement days run out, the laundry basket overflows, and you have to start preparing real meals for yourself or your family again. Nothing stops when you desperately need time to stop for you.

My emotions are still in a constant state of rawness. Tomorrow I have to step back into my classroom with the weight of my world heavy on my mind, my heart, and pulsing through my body. I have to be fully present and pretend to perform with the energy of my happy, supportive self to hundreds of little artists who also carry the weight of their worlds with them, coming to art class, and finding safety in expressing what’s on their hearts and minds in order to process their worlds.

Colleagues and kids will welcome me back, telling me they are glad to see me. People will ask me how I’m doing or if I’m happy to be back after a long absence from Covid wreaking havoc in my household while losing my mother. They might even assume that I’m glad and ready to get back to normal. Others may extend condolences because they didn’t get to do so personally.

I’m not ready to respond to any of those things. I’m not ready to put on a smile and pretend that I am magically happy and over all of it. In fact, as I typed those words and envisioned people of all ages interacting with me, tears welled in my eyes and my skin began to crawl. I imagine that when people talk to me about anything, I’m going to be an emotional mess. I’m burned out from all of this. Emotionally and mentally drained. Unfortunately, my sick days are also depleting, so there’s simply no rest for the weary.

How do you pick up the pieces after loss?