I’ve had a lot of experience with grief already in my short life. In high school, my childhood best friend died. A few years later, a girl from my youth group was killed in a school shooting. A year after that, the younger brother of my friend who had died killed himself. My younger sister’s had friends who killed themselves as well.
At one point my mom, shaking her head in disbelief, told me that she had never experienced death the way me and my sister’s had. She was a woman approaching her fifties and had never known someone personally to die yet. The revelation came after a friend of my father’s had died from cancer – that was the first time they had experienced grief like that and they were both middle aged.
Consequently, I thought I was hardened to the sorrows of loss. Not consciously of course, but I went for years without losing someone, overcame the depression and self-mutilation that had accompanied my grief over my best friend’s death and I felt pretty strong for having gone through it all – until about 4 years ago.
The summer of 2015 was a turbulent one. I was officially divorced that spring, quit my cushy job and left everything behind for an unknown future. While away, I got the news that my sister’s fiance had died.
I remember the feeling like it was yesterday – all my breath left my body and my heart stopped, sinking heavy into my chest. I had not concurred grief. It’s not that simple.
It would only be two weeks before we lost another member of the family, when my sister-in-law took her own life. Our family was devastated. In many ways, we still are and always will be…
The following year, my grandfather died. Not a month later, my sister lost her baby. I was still reeling from the previous year’s losses and these subsequent griefs just piled on more suffocating sadness.
It wasn’t until this culmination in 2016 that I realized I hadn’t really dealt with my grief at all. Not losing my friends, not the losses of 2016, and I had no idea how to even begin processing these new deaths… So I finally just gave in completely, surrendering fully instead of resisting the pain. This poem was a result of that experience.
Grief is not such a simple thing
Not like an insect bite that itches
or the swelling that eventually dwindles
Grief is not a glass of bitter water
you can eagerly chug and be done with
It is wide as it is deep, wildly moving
Like a mighty river flowing fiercely
Winding, swirling and pooling at its sides
Somehow pure and true, yet still murky
It gets dirtier as it slows down
Somedays, you wake up drowning
Other times you float quietly along
memories swirling around you
your head filled with old songs
Tonight though, I’m wading in. Slow –
It’s so cold it hurts in my bones
the grime at my feet sucking deeper
into a blackness without end
into the darkness, into the ether
winding down, in, back and between
Still – as far as I go, there is nowhere
No place exists without the missing
No absence distorts all the others
No sleep without all our dreams
Nothing but grief itself lingers –
I will feel this, I will let the pain mean
I will cry for all the invisible angels
whose beauty would destroy me –
could I ever see it again