Made of Grief

The hallmark of a human life is loss, it seems. And the body is a vessel for grief.

It’s not if, but when. When’s that loss gonna hit? And then it’s how. How do you carry it? All that grief. And don’t even ask why. Why is not a question that grief ever answers.

I only know this because I have my own grief. And I’m not really looking for more, but it keeps coming anyway. And it makes me feel like I’m getting nowhere sometimes, and yet closer to something at the same time.

Maybe that’s because loss doesn’t just take. It gives, too. Like a trade. Like, here I’m going to take this from you but give this to you instead: more space, cleansing tears, better questions, compassion, pathways to the center, maps to deeper wells, less distractions, blankets of darkness, little pools of light under your skin where he touched you but will never touch you again, holes in your heart that nothing but pure love can fill. And then, go. Go into the world and carry these things the best you can. Let them move around and make love messes and surprise you in the mass of bone and blood and skin vessel that you are. Grocery shop with them, chop vegetables with them, go to parties and smile at people with them. Be yourself, only different now, with all that grief.

Like that woman I saw on the beach playing with her dog. The way she stopped and looked at the ocean and folded her arms across herself. I saw her grief then. The way she carried it in her core. Tucked away so people might not notice. But then it sneaked up on her, like the ocean was pulling it out of her. And she sat with it for a moment, bowed her head, maybe feeling like it was going to shatter her into a thousand grains of sand before she caught herself and tried to shake it off.

But grief isn’t like that. You can’t just shake it off. It doesn’t ever really leave. It just changes. And it changes you. It shapes you. Your stance, your stride, your ways of loving and being and moving in the world. The things you do and don’t care about anymore.

And there you are twenty years later. Sitting in your car outside the supermarket and all at once you’re paralyzed and can’t go in because a song just came on the radio that reminds you of the person you loved and lost. And the grief that you thought you’d already felt just rises up like an ocean in you. Pummels your heart with waves and pours out your eyeballs like stormwater. And you’re thinking, “All this fucking time and I still feel this grief?” And your body is saying “Yes. Yes you do.”

You wonder what the point is, then. You wonder if you could find a way to drain those grief waters out of you for good. Only if you could take the air out of the sky and the carbon out of the stars and the forest out of the trees.

You see, we are made of grief. And we are meant to be. It means we’re here. It means we’re alive (even though it can make you feel like you wish you weren’t sometimes). It means we’ve risked. It means we’ve loved and lost and risen and fallen. It means we’ve been unlocked and held open despite ourselves.

And I can’t think of many better reasons than that for being human.

 

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