grief is

Grief, with its infinite faces, rises up then swallows me whole, pulls me under like a rip tide. Fight it and drown in its grasp; surrender to its tangled current then dissolve into bits which, down shore, wash up onto a sun-drenched beach. I know.

Grief, I’ve been told, is a suicidal daughter, a dying child, a cancer, an empty cupboard, a parent forsaking their child. It is a failed crop, a starving nation, an innocent captive without a voice. Grief is a stillborn babe, a failed marriage, a suspicious glance, endless rejection, a miserable addiction with no clear escape. It swims amongst the throngs in cramped subways, steps between pounding feet on cracked cement sidewalks, buzzes around drunken heads like smoke in rooms as dark and lonely as grief itself, follows us into the woods.

Grief is a blown-off limb, a child riddled with bullets, a failed or broken dream. Grief is war and exploitation and abuse, a sickening social condition, an empty pocketbook gaping at its hungry family, the stubborn stain of dirt under rugged nails. It’s a dark apartment, a hospital room, a burning building, a putrid alleyway, a silent god. Grief is the black hole we all fall into, frantically scraping its sides for salvation. But like the old mule who fell into the well and whose cynics endeavored to bury, each handful of soil we scour is earth upon which to step until we can finally emerge.

Grief is a broken home, a traitorous mate, a dead parent, a failed venture, a misunderstood child, a sick lover, a strung-out friend, a lost soul, a lifetime of lies. It’s a black laden sky, a harsh sunlit field, a dismal twilight, the clink and sour stench of another empty bottle tossed into the corner.

Grief is a life full of seizures, a child with no future, a mountain of medication, the lines cutting into my weeping face.

But one thing grief is not is hierarchical. Grief is our own, named by us, as unique as the look on our faces. And when grief comes to us in its inky, sable, starless night we can crawl into it like a cocoon. We feel its close embrace and, with no denial, settle in for a time: a day, a month, a year, perhaps longer. We wear our grief until its thin web breaks into pieces and falls free, when the sun’s angle, once dismal, appears promising and bright.

Associated Press


  1. To the writer of this, I can only say you have riven every cell in my body. I have known grief, but now see its global reach--that's no longer academic. Thank you for enlarging my sensibility... for inspiring our humanity.

  2. Yes. There is so often an impulse to say that "things could be worse" or to belittle one's own experience of loss in trying to put perspective on it. You've managed to say something here quite different, and despite the pain of what is acknowledged, there is relief in it -- relief in its "global reach."

    1. thank you, eee. this means a lot, coming from you. xo