There is a difference between the two, just as there is a difference between the two worlds my loss has come to know. I can go on in this world. I may not be able to go in the pace I once had. I may find it difficult to keep going, but I can go on.

Benjamin Move OnYet, I have no need to move on. The world of Before, where I must go, go, go is not the world of my Afterloss. The world of my Afterloss is where I must be, be, be – being, not doing.

Others may want me to move on, but my question is “From what? And to where?” The world Before is now long before. I do not fit. I make do. I pull myself out of bed and push myself out the door. I’ve sat in cubicles confined to small memorabilia of my Afterloss next to a computer screen. I sat in traffic. Sat in cafes. Walked when the light changed. And returned to a house that was once a home. I went on. And I go on.

But instead of moving on I move deeper into my Afterloss. This is the world that heals me. This is the world that hurts, soothes my hurt, and hurts some more. The Afterloss is the labyrinth of my sorrow and my solace. It is here I walk in the dark night of my soul. It is here where I breath differently, see differently, feel differently.

Benjamin Move on nowThe world of Before in which I must go does not understand the world of the Afterloss in which I must move. If I am to find healing, it is in the exploration of this new world that I must explore. By candlelight I enter the inner chambers of my sorrow and sit in silence. By daylight I walk the trails behind my house with footprints stepping into the loss.

Out in the world in which I must go, I disguise this inner world of the Afterloss. In the beginning I had to live my Afterloss in secret. Under florescent lights and windowless workstations I pretended to work, lunch with co-workers, force myself to meet deadlines all the while feeling dead in the world of Before.

I had a framed picture Matt drew at the age of six leaning against the padded wall. I didn’t even tack it up against the corporate light blue fabric. It stood as a reminder of the temporary nature of going on, the lunacy of moving on and the depth of my Afterloss. The second hand on the wall slowly kept saying go on. The picture in the frame said, “Move in here. Follow me. I have something to show you.”

Matt’s drawing became my portal to the Afterloss in my world of Before. It was where my pain, my loss and my life could rest in authenticity. It hurt, but at least the hurt was real.

What is there to move on from? My love? The tenderness time stole? The scent of her favorite fragrance? I can no longer touch them, but to this day I feel their touch in my world of the Afterloss. And the deeper I lean into my sorrow, the more expansive is my healing. Is that what the world wants me to move on from? I have no need.

I need to explore both the labyrinth and the landscape of my Afterloss. Yes, there are dark chambers that draw me into darkness, but there are beautiful vistas that color a majestic expanse. I have found I cannot see one without the other. I must go through all of my interior world, moving into layer after layer. I heal when I touch those places. I become more open when I make my way into the expanse.

And I cherish the dark moments in this timeless world for I have experienced that they take me from my deepest solitude and sorrow, through the passageways lit by candlelight, into the common chamber where we can meet. When I lean into my deepest, most anguishing breaths, I find my way to you. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how it works, but I move into this place where I meet others in their Afterloss.

I used to speak to groups about HIV education in the late 1980s. Many were conservative church groups. They did not know my wife and child were HIV+. They didn’t know our youngest child had died two years before of AIDS at eight and half months old. They didn’t know the world in which I had to go on was not the world I moved in. In order to keep Matt with some sense of normalcy, Lydia and I decided not to reveal our plight just yet.

There were some there who wanted to quarantine everyone with HIV. Some suggested putting them on an island to keep everyone else safe. Others complained about spending too much money on research. According to them, those living with HIV deserved to die.

Then there were others sitting next to them living in the Afterloss. They had the well-worn traces of loss in their eyes. I knew those eyes. I saw through those eyes. I, too, had those very same well-worn traces of sorrow.

The only way I could walk in and live through the anger, hate and cruelty was by looking into the desperate eyes of those living in the Afterloss, those with the hunger for hope. I could offer them hope. Not the hope that their loved ones would live, but that their love could live, that they could go on but didn’t need to move on.

I still go on. I still wake up sometimes pulling myself out of bed and pushing myself out the door. But I still have no need to move on. If moving on means I can’t keep healing and expanding, or I can’t meet you here, then I truly have no need to move on.


Share Button