Walking With Loss


The strangest parts of grieving so far have been this paradox: my grief is invisible, a hidden ailment I carry in my body; my grief is physical, exhausting, as taxing as a body trying to repair itself.

I compartmentalize well. In my day to day, I'm not often thinking about my mom or my grandma. The loss comes at set times. In the morning, a cloudy residue of dreams, I feel hungover with my mom's presence. I haven't remembered the dreams lately, but Mike says I'm usually crying in my sleep.

And she comes at night.

There are parts of life so achingly her - like her handwriting, her voicemails, her emails she used to send as declarations of war - that coming across them makes it seem impossible she's dead.

How can my firecracker, kind-of manipulative, wounded mom be dead? She was a force of nature. It makes no sense for a minute.

There are times I forget.

The accident happened less than three months ago. I count time like I did in early sobriety, except now I'm counting how long I've been without her. One month. Two months. Trying to make sense of a life that doesn't have her in it. I'm waiting for a year without her, which seems impossible, then two years, then ten. The distance solidifying the truth. She still feels freshly with me, like that coffin-sized block of grave soil newly overturned, black in the sun.

I've got two warring impulses going. In one, I want to present myself as someone who has this whole thing together. Mostly this is not dishonest. I thought grief would fling me at the ground and have me howling and drunk over my mom's memory. Instead it's more like a foggy road at midnight: I can't see shit but I'm still barreling forward.

 Taking comfort in Leslie Jamison's   The Recovering

Taking comfort in Leslie Jamison's The Recovering

Tender as the Bud

I am surviving this by babying myself. Extra blankets. All-day Saturday naps. Crying on the floor at night. Long baths with essential oils and Epsom salts, candles and a book. By releasing any designs on a certain future, ambitions like writing every morning, establishing an exercise routine, eating kale. I've let go of it all. The looseness makes me a little crazy. I'm wriggling around in all this extra time. Occasionally I fill it with work, a jittery kind of high from taking too much in and running off with it.

Something pulls me back. Reminds me I'm still grieving even though I want to just get on with it. I want to go back to obsessing over my diet, writing a book, publishing an essay, but my intuition is formidable.

In the weeks after her death, I visited my friend, a tarot card reader, and she told me my heart had opened from the impact, and I was receiving, a straight line from the divine to my heart. It feels that way. Every time I gear myself up to obsess over my job, something big and blockheaded comes to stand in front of me.

Take a nap, it says. Lie down. Go journal about what's underneath.

 I buy flowers for myself almost every week as part of my grocery bill. A little beauty in a hard time. 

I buy flowers for myself almost every week as part of my grocery bill. A little beauty in a hard time. 

Every Monday, a colleague asks me, "What did you do this weekend."

Nothing. Every time the same.

Because the accumulation of the tiny things I did can't explain the energy I had to muster to get them done. I went to a meeting and connected with a man celebrating two years. I had coffee in the pale sunshine of a New Orleans spring. I dug dry strands of weeds out of my garden. I slept. I read. I journaled and worked on a fourth step about her and sat an altar and breathed in essential oils.

I made it, mostly okay and full of gratitude for this lovely and simple life, but still weighted with this loss.