Inspired by My Grandma and My Son

Grief is like being naked in a lake full of people with swimsuits.  It makes you feel raw, exposed, at times embarrassed, especially when people are staring at you while someone else is leaning close with words you know have something to do with you and your situation.  Your situation, whether it be a tragedy, a major devastation, is really only yours to tell, to disclose.

Grief is like doing a triathalon.  You can have people cheering for you from the sidelines, running beside you, but it’s you that has to will yourself to keep going.  It’s like when I wanted to walk after transitioning off the bike to the run but a kind man ran beside me for the first mile saying, “Come on.  You can do it.  Follow my steps, it will only hurt for this first mile, until the lactic acid is worked out of your muscles.”  I was twelve; the man, significantly older and not worried about his final time.  I tried to stop a couple of times, but he was there, reminding me that my legs would get used to this new motion — running.  He was helpful in getting me through the tough stuff, the stuff I couldn’t have done on my own because my mind wouldn’t let me but I’m the one who ultimately had to make the decision to run instead of walk, to take his encouragement rather than listen to my legs screaming, “Stop! Stop!”  Grief is this way, people come along beside us but they aren’t feeling our debilitating pain, or thinking the thoughts of our own death because the pain is so great or making decisions other than taking that drink, that smoke, that sniff because surely it is all too much to bear without substances altering our experience.    Ultimately, it’s me who has to choose to lean into the pain, to bear the pain, to move through the pain until it eases, isn’t so sharp.

Grief feels like it reaches inside and squeezes your gut, your intestines, your appetite.  It makes you feel like something has gone terribly wrong and somehow it will never be made right.  It’s a signal, the signal, nothing will ever be the same.  It cannot possibly be the same.  Humpty dumpty will never be put together again, and really, how could those million little pieces fit together to make the whole it once was?

Grief is like a pause button.  An interruption to the regularly scheduled program.  Like a mass shooting.  Or an earthquake.  A change in power.

Grief is like returning home only to find the barn has burned.  Then 20 years later, when it still smells like ash, the tears come.  The visions of the rope swing, the saddles, the canister of oats, memories of stalking wild cats and groundhogs.  I can still see them waiting at the gate.  For me.  Ladybug, my Shetland pony.  Thunder, my Quarter-Thoroughbred mare.

I can still feel you against my belly.  Swimming.  The color of your eyes – never determined.  I miss you, Baby Long Beach.

I can see you in your recliner, sleep-watching the football game.  Stuck in 1990.  I miss you, Grandpa.

I can see you in your garden picking raspberries.  Waving at me while I drive by on the golf cart.  I never saw you in the hospice care facility, you didn’t make it before I could see you one last time.  November 27, 2004.  Cancer.  I miss you, Grandma.