A prayer for grievers: A four month manifesto dedicated to Fuller
If you’ve lost what you can’t survive without, may others breathe for you. May they carry you up and down the stairs, hand you warm mugs, be unafraid of the intensity and length of your cries.
Know that your grief is sacred, that your tears are cleansing not just your body, but the earth, from all that is false, harsh, or unnecessary.
As the shock wears off, an ember in your gut will eventually alight. You will recognize it because it is what gets you out of bed when you have nothing to be awake for. It is what makes you notice beauty for the first time.
It is what helps you do the impossible — make lunch for your child, make the phone calls, stand in front of your community and speak about the person who is not there, the person you can’t survive without.
Pay attention to when that ember glows most, feels warmest. When that happens, go. Move blindly, unthinkingly, instinctually, in that direction — toward whatever stokes it and away from whatever extinguishes it.
Understand the ember as a gift from the person you can’t survive without.
Feel their release, their wild and gleeful abandon into the entire world around you, their long transition from the person you knew to the air you breathe.
Death is not one moment. It is a full, inhabited, textured space. You will spend a lot of your time there now. Whatever you feel is real. That dream, that bird, that song, that coincidence, that voice inside you that is not your’s — it’s real. It is not ours to know the mechanics of this communication, but trust it. Try not to spend your precious energy on cynicism.
Movement is movement, even if you’re moving backward.
When you feel like you can’t stop screaming, can’t breathe, don’t want to be alive — you’re right. When the future feels impossible, it is. When you don’t want to go on, don’t.
Freeze. Lie down. Let the pain suck through you. It has its own life span, and it will release its grip on your body eventually, and you will need to hydrate. Stumble to the tap, shocked and exhausted. You won’t want to have made it through, but you have. Fill a cup with cold water, drink it.
May those of us newly initiated to grief, especially those of us in privileged positions, be humbled by our pain. May we remember how eager we’ve been to brush off the pain of others, how uncomfortable we’ve been with it, how quickly we’ve commodified it, how unwilling we’ve been to see the hurt we’ve caused.
May names echo through us, may we bow to them (just some of the people I’ve thought of often over the past few months):
Michael Brown, and his mother, Lezley McSpadden, who just ran for Ferguson’s City Council.
Eric Garner, and his daughter Erica Garner, who returned to the place of his death and laid on the cold sidewalk two times a week until she passed away at 27.
Matthew Shepard, who was finally interred in Washington DC last month, and his family, who have breathed through 20 years of liminality.
Those who died of AIDS, including Cadwalader Christopher Evans, and to their families, partners, friends who created social services, support systems, and faiths while institutions failed and neglected them.
To the victims and survivors of gun violence and brutality (at the hands of strangers, intimate partners, and police), in Colorado Springs, Squirrel Hill, Laramie, Las Vegas, Thousand Oaks, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, and on and on and on and on.
To all of those whose deaths were at the hands of violent people, violent institutions, violent conditions, racism, sexism, transphobia, and xenophobia: may you mourn your own life and transition into whatever is next with ease and joy. May you trust that we will fight for you.
May our particular pain be informed by the geography of pain. May we send our healing not only through our own veins, but downriver and upwind.
May our pain not make us feel bitter, degraded, and punished, but united, unafraid, and clear.
When you miss them so much you slam on the brakes and hurl yourself onto the side of the road while the sobs wrack your body, may you feel their presence, their unconditional love.
When nothing makes sense, may you trust the person you’ve lost, trust yourself, trust whatever you understand God and grief to be, to lead you where it must — even if it’s away from home, away from what you expected and wanted and worked hard for.
May you tend yourself like you are an infant, something fragile and small and important. When you are so numb that you can’t see what others seem to — beauty, hilarity, hope, desire — may a tiny spark of light persist in your heart.
May your grief and pain soften rather than harden you, may you find spaces inside of yourself you never knew existed. May you be amazed at your capacity to love, to accept, to move. May you straddle the life of this world and the life of the next with peace and authenticity.
One day, the raw material of grief will be handed to you. It was handed to me exactly four months ago.
At first, that material will be sink sand. You will be consumed. There will be no movement, there will be no senses.
Eventually, the material will shift. The weight will be the same, the size will be the same. Some days, it might be an anvil that will pin you to the ground. Sometimes it will be a balloon, whose enormity and power will shock you. It will pull you high into the air, show you perspective and beauty you’ve never experienced.
Eventually, the material will become less like iron and more like clay. It will become workable. You will be able to sink your fingers in, see your own claw marks. May you make something beautiful.