This piece is in commemoration of those lost to the injustice of the opiate epidemic,
those whose lives have been stolen from us, their families and loved ones.
Grief hits: every fiber of your body heaves.
You sob with and from every pore for 23 seconds and then drop into numbness,
like a stone into water:
quiet, inevitable, sinking.
Plunged into ice cold oblivion,
you can't feel your fingers or toes because your body is protecting your heart.
The ripples that follow are your thoughts:
Quickly followed by.
To do lists.
People to tell.
Plans to set in place.
Texts to send.
Sentences to utter.
I lost. I have.
I don't know what I need.
I just wanted to tell you.
I just thought I should.
Hear your voice.
There's Important Tasks To Do that feel Essential and
Urgent, right now.
Quickly followed by
formerly-important tasks to be swiftly cancelled
that feel absurd and
senseless right now—an affront.
laundry has to be done.
And replacing your lost wallet.
You feel like you've done something. Something essential.
The stone hits the bottom of the lake bed;
the sound is on mute.
Grief is packing your bags and hitching a ride on a thought that promises to take you somewhere where things make sense.
Where people who have all the courage, grit and grace in their hearts are met,
by the world, with the same of what they so generously offer.
Grief is riding the reverie train through the night.
Someone taps your shoulder and lets you know you've been circling.
Grief is realizing you should, but deciding not to, get off this circling thought train you assure yourself is taking you to a place
where we all ought to go. Where 16 year olds don't die of overdose.
Grief is the sudden compelling urge to collect and assemble words;
pressing deliberately shaped lines,
curves and dots of ink into a page,
arranging them side by side along a faint horizontal line,
forming a scrawl of hieroglyphs that some people call
the English language.
Sentences pour through your brain and out of you like you've been struck by lightning.
All the while,
There are no words for this that can be uttered out loud
that you're feeling
or not feeling
to be written.
Though nothing you write makes enough sense to be comforting
The ink, though
is the solace.
Leaving a trace on a page like (s)he left a trace on your heart.
Grief is time moving slower, faster, stopping. Cliches thunder between your temples to a dull rhythm.
the cliches they bring you,
the cliches they feed you,
the cliches they urge you to swallow:
Time will heal. Tomorrow's a new day. The show must go on.
Grief is spitting in the face of those slanderous attempts to make things tidy,
to make tragedy sound necessary,
to make what happened sound reconcilable,
to reduce a life--
a human being—
into a sentence of cheap Hallmark sentiment.
All the while. Grief is
spoon feeding yourself a medicinal dosage of those same cliches just so you're able to go to sleep.
Nothing is lost.
At least (s)he is no longer in pain.
Heaven's gained an angel.
(...But hasn't it?)
Grief is profound, shattering gratitude. For all your pain and all your privilege—just the right amount of each to be useful to people, or so I hope. Just enough pain to get it, to have the scars to show, and just enough privilege to have the kind of scars where the old cut marks are now traceless, just enough for you to be able to bear witness to another wounds without your own wounds getting in the way of the sacred process whereby their wounds turn to scars—to sources of power.
But it's a privilege to have that opportunity for transformation.
Or so I tell myself.
Grief is an overflow of blessings coursing through every cell of your body
—and even outside your body,
a little bit of wonder glows.
Grief is profound, shattering heartbreak.
Not everybody lives long enough to see the alchemy of wounds turning to wells of magic.
Even those who do live to see it still go.
Still are stolen from us.
Still have their lives stolen from them.
Grief is for the gross injustice of this opioid epidemic.
— like "climate change"
Pathetic euphemisms for something far uglier.
calculated, and criminal.
Grief is starting a revolution.
Grief is asking to be little spoon tonight.
Grief is rehearsing conversations you had,
conversations you wished you had, and
wished you hadn't, conversations you're planning to have,
conversations you don't know how to have with the others who remain.
"Grief rituals are for the living," my friend says over the phone. But are they?
Michael said grief is the other side of love. And love — if it is anything it is not one-sided.
Grief is for you
For you and me
For the experiences and people and places that cannot be so neatly untangled.
Grief is remembering her sitting there; you asked her "how the hell did you get through all of that?" She stares at you and without missing a beat she says, speaking through words but mostly through those big, wide, Larimar-blue eyes:
"it was my spirit",
she tells you,
Grief is remembering those afternoons with him, indulging in sticky chocolate croissants, espressos and the most decadent of all: gossip. Seeing your Buddhist teacher/friend/mentor/boss smile so big with guilty glee and messy teeth (what were we, ultimately, to each other?; "my friend Stefanie," you wrote). You laugh together at the story of your mutual, ultra-hippie friend whose wife did't want to join his polyamorous Burning Man crusade, and all she wanted was a baby and when they tried out swinging (albeit her reluctantly so) she got pregnant from her first sexual encounter with this totally square jock guy.
You're definitely rolling your eyes, presenting yourself superior to that naïveté.
But he's not mocking that; he's not mocking anybody.
He's enraptured with the aesthetic of the story, the irony.
This gives him total delight, unabashed mirth.
Grief is remembering the instant and telepathic connection between you and her;
knowing you are seen and being seen; remembering how fucking cool she was, and
how her wisdom made you shiver.
Remembering her text before she died, acknowledging
'that special connection' that existed from the moment you met and her hopes that this was the beginning
of a long 'journey'; remembering reading and re-reading that,
did she die not knowing you loved her?
She'd asked to come see you dance and you declined.
I'm shy, you said; some other time.
I pretended not to be worried when she told me she went off her meds
My partner can't know, she said, she
Was craving heroin more than anything whilst craving never wanting it again more than anything.
You responded right away
Invited her for coffee.
I can't come to your side of town, she said; too risky.
A phone call?
I'm awkward over the phone, she said.
You pretended not to be too afraid.
You said something validating, encouraging—like you were trained to do.
I want this girl to know I see her as strong. I want her to see herself how I see her
I didn't see her
before she died.
Grief is remembering all the conversations you had—because there were far too little of them,
because you were "busy." You were
afraid. You were polite, and
reserved; perfectly contained
with "good boundaries."
Grief is a confrontation with everything you've left unspoken and unsaid:
i forgive you
i love you.
Grief is being enveloped in a womb-like atmosphere where some umbilical cord to the cosmos is
feeding you its primal fluid,
wisdoms about life and death get absorbed
right into your blood stream and inhale you
Grief is being reborn and dying yourself,
all before toast and tea.
Grief is seeing everything sparkle:
luminous, clear, impermanent
(and therefore) dazzling with reality.
Grief is bursting from the staggering preciousness of
every living being; hot on its heels with the banality of DoorDash.
Adding an extra order of fries.
Grief is pausing the dinner you ordered in off the internet because you can't cook right now--
like you definitely shouldn't have a knife in your hand when you keep dissociating.
Grief is heaviness and dizziness but then cracking a joke,
or laughing at someone else's—and hoping the levity of humour could congeal and swell
beneath you like a cloud, one that carries you off and holds you, suspended in space, forever.
Grief is writing this sentence in your notebook while you're on the toilet and then staring
at the stains of water droplets on the shower door to your left as you lose yourself in
solemn yet i-must-say poetic reflections on the ephemerality of life and
then realizing the hot water has been boiling for 10 minutes in the other room and
you still haven't wiped your ass.
Grief is the opposite of loneliness though far too many are alone with it.
Grief is knowing nothing starts and nothing is finished while not knowing where you start and where you end.
Grief is all this "boundaries talk" becoming some sick joke. People live inside of you and
you in them and
everything is connected and
everything is love.
Grief is knowing that to live is to forget this—grief is the pain of this forgetting;
grieving is the process of remembering.
A ritual not of letting go but of holding on.