This process goes on for a very long time. For years, not for days or months, if the loved one has been close. Some losses—a child, a spouse—are never “got over.” But if we are wise and fortunate and have the courage and support to tread the hallowed ground again and again, the loss will begin to lose its controlling power. We will be able to choose. We will be able to walk back from a danger zone if we need to, or save it for a time when we feel stronger. We will be able to feel the spray on our face without a fear of drowning, even to savor the taste of the salt on our lips because, in addition to the poignancy of loss come the rush of love for the one together and are tied together in a love that cannot come untied.
“What is essential does not die but clarifies,” wrote Thornton Wilder. And again, “The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” Eventually, we will find our way through this particular “valley of the shadow,” and while there may always be a tinge of sadness, there will come a sense of our own inner strength and our ability to rejoice in the life we have shared, and to look toward a future in which the loved one, though not physically present, continues to bless us.