The law of conservation of energy says that, within a closed system, energy cannot be created or destroyed: only converted from one form of energy to another.

In 2023 - a year filled with personal loss - I’ve come to find some comfort in this fact.

If a relationship between 2 people is a closed system, then the law of conservation says that the energy that existed between them endures, even when the nature of their relationship changes.

Even when their lives move apart.

Even when they don’t speak anymore.

I think about the imprints that those I’ve loved have left on me: The memories now attached to that song; the phrases that now form part of my vocabulary; the random facts I now store in my mind about drugs, rats, and submarines.

Loss itself leaves imprints. It weaves its tendrils into your days and changes the way you move through the world. It loads you up with tripwires: heart-twisting reminders of what you once had.

When I was 18, my grandmother died. I was at university at the time and I came home to say goodbye. When I returned the following week I had a persistent thought:

“I don’t want you to be gone”.

I marvelled at the futility of that thought. I knew that thinking it wouldn’t bring her back, and so I waited and I waited and I waited for my brain to catch on and stop serving it up to me.

But it didn’t. It never has.

Nobody in my life died this year. But relationships changed and people left and I left and now what’s left is a lot of space.

In that space are conversations. One-way statements and unanswered questions:

“I miss you.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Are you okay?”

And in the silence that follows I find myself thinking about the law of conservation of energy. Because what’s more comforting, in the face of loss, than the promise of endurance?

When grief threatens to overtake me I remind myself of this, because it helps to just know: To know that knowing someone changed me; That knowing me changed them.

Like two atoms that collided and altered their respective paths forever, the energetic exchange that occurs between two people changes the course of their lives thereafter.

Loss is never really the end, only a transmutation. A conversion of one thing to another.

And so, in this space of love and loss, I hold on to one bittersweet truth:

Whatever happens now, I will stay with you.

And you with me.