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Grieving the Loss of Our Jersey Shore

broken gazebo
(Photo by Liz Jeressi)

It should get easier every day, right? Instead, each day I am reminded of just how great the loss is.

I am blessed to still have a home to go to. We suffered only the loss of power and a screed door. Meanwhile, some of the children in our town are still living with relatives elsewhere while their parents apply for insurance and loans and are down on their hands and knees ripping up floors and hoping to rebuild. Or the parents who were renting and now need to try and find another place to live, all the while hoping to be able to keep their kids in the same town and school that they love.

And then you look at the bigger picture. Our beaches. Our ocean. Our boardwalks. Some are saying that even if we can rebuild enough by next summer, the water quality may have suffered tremendously.

It really gets me on an evening like last night…when it’s balmy enough that I would normally have said to the kids “let’s go down to the beach and look at the moon and stars.” Oh yeah. We can’t get there.

Or, for many at the shore, instead of planning lunch or dinner dates with friends, we’d agree to meet for a walk on ‘the boards.’ Nope. Can’t do that anymore.

In fact, when you think of the scope…you really and truly CAN’T DO THAT. Anywhere in Monmouth or Ocean County. Or anywhere on any beach ALONG OUR WHOLE COASTLINE. That’s the scope of the devastation. Our. whole. shore.

That’s big. That’s a loss. That is grief. The memories. The pictures. That’s all we have left.

Last evening I just had to go to the place where I would spend my favorite ‘alone’ time. The place where I could take a break from the stress of life and just take a few breaths, look out over the ocean, and pray.

I already knew what I was in for, and braced myself. Because now I can’t just walk up the sidewalk to the boardwalk, past the gazebo, and onto the beach. Now there are barricades. And broken sidewalks. And destroyed planks of boardwalk strewn everywhere. A cracked gazebo. There are mountains of sand that have been shipped in to try and replenish. There is ugly yellow ‘crime scene’ tape. There are metal poles sticking out of the ground.

But…beyond that…when I carefully stepped down a little path that I found…I came face to face with the ocean I so adore. The same ocean that beat the crap out of us. It looked calm. It looked peaceful. I was able to take a breath. I was able to say a prayer. And I was able, for a moment, to remember that if I look straight out over the ocean and don’t turn around to look at the destruction, there is hope.

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