With or Without You: A Reflection on Grief

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Grief is something I frequently run away from. Its impossible to grieve if you don’t admit its existence, right?

Unfortunately, I’m wrong. Grief always catches up. You can’t run forever.

It finds you in the car, sitting at a stop light and having a random thought cross your mind and feeling your chest constrict and reminding yourself not to freak out while you’re driving.

Pulling over to the side of the road and reminding yourself to breathe, that you want to be alive, that this feeling will pass and you’ll remember.

Grief is like a bill collector that never forgets, never forgives a debt, never stops hunting you down until it finds you.

When it does, its all I can do to stay conscious, to not start sobbing, to feel it rip through me and not run again.

There’s a score of things to grieve in February.

But the most recent one always catches up first.

Then they all pile on like an avalanche and I just disappear.

Into the songs I know I can’t listen to without backup nearby.

Into the grief that always seems to disappear and then pop up, ready to go.

When will I stop grieving the past and the present?

When will this go away?

The problem is, I see the loss everywhere I go.

I see the things I can’t do, the memories I won’t have, the moments that would have had the possibility of being magical reduced to rubble.

Like a gorgeous house gutted by fire, standing as a monument to all the dreams it once held.

Entering my grief voluntarily is like deep diving into a cold deep pool.

I have to remind myself to breathe.

I have to be careful.

Its too easy to slip, to stay down in the deep, cold dark.

It hurts less here, because I feel less.

Its captivating, but its a lie.

But sometimes lies taste so sweet.

Sometimes, lies are all I have the energy for.

Sometimes, lies are what get me through the day.

Lies to coworkers that say I’m fine.

Lies to bosses that say I’m sick.

Lies to friends that say I’m having a good day.

Lies to my parents about how bad I’m feeling.

The only one I don’t lie to is my partner.

Because there has to be someone who knows.

There’s a toll it takes on him.

But it also helps.

You see, grief is not something that restricts itself to sensical days or reasons.

Grief happens and keeps happening.

I grieve what’s lost, I grieve what I found even in spite of it.

Because I can never know what else might have happened, what else might have occurred.

I am stuck in limbo with grief, because to end it feels like something is also lost.

And I can’t bear to lose much more, it feels like.

I feel stripped down to the bone as it is.

But that’s not true, is it?

I have a family.

I have a home.

I have a life, a job, an existence.

I could lose all that.

I should appreciate it.

But its like those moments when my parents told me to be grateful for the food I have, because children in Africa didn’t have any.

All I can think about is the vacantness, not the abundance.

Drawing my eye to it just makes me fear its loss.

I thought that God didn’t hurt good people.

thought that people were kept safe.

I had a child’s vision of karma, good deeds like a shield from the world.

But its not like that, it truly isn’t.

The guilt seeps, the dread creeps.

I clutch people to me tighter and tighter,

Knowing its all just a throw of the dice.

Knowing mortality has its price.

But its also not forever.

Its not every moment.

Somedays, I breathe and its easy.

Somedays, I can see how it is now, instead of how it could have been.

Some days, I don’t hate everything.

Some days, I can crack my back and roll my shoulders back.

Some days are just days and soon, I hope they last.

I miss you. Like the stars in the city,

knowing they are still out there,

but I just can’t see them.

I miss you like the wind across the plains that fills my lungs,

Making me feel like I could fly.

I miss you like the sense of home that used to fill this place.

Now, its a mausoleum. Dedicated to the space you can’t occupy.

Because you’re not here. And you never will be.

And somehow, that will never really be ok.

Written by

A writer focused on the intersections of race, mental health, social justice and gender.

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