what grief looks like

Unless there's rain, dreary days can make me grieve. Gray skies end on end tend to put the glum on me. Damp air chills my bones. Any attempts to walk with spring and purpose are hobbled by icy sidewalks.

These mid-winter doldrums make it all too easy for me to feel deeply some transient despair. Stuck inside, The Turkey is up to his usual antics—manic outbursts, intense, erratic and aimless behavior. He can do a good job of driving me absolutely batty. Hard to concentrate. Impossible to relax. Difficult to get anything done. Despair about how he's turning out feels inescapable. Baseless guilt and gnawing worry shadow glimmers of what might be considered joy.

We take Calvin to the coffee shop and the grocery store when, in winter, there are few other places for him to walk, and roughly zero other activities that he can do—we can't play in the snow, we can't take him skiing or skating, we can't bring him to the movies or for walks in the woods. I watch him limp across the street with his father, his gangly legs stiff and crooked, his feet turning awkwardly inward, one arm circling above his head as if he were riding a bucking bronco. Someone once said my boy walks like an astronaut. It wasn't meant as a compliment. I ask myself, when did what was already wrong with him get worse (in this case, his walking)?

When, rarely, Calvin looks me in the eyes without his glasses, I can sometimes see glimpses of a normal boy—the one he might have been if not for any number of things which we can't make right. But when I pull back and away I see one eye turning in, I see him drool, see him shriek, stomp, bite, bang, careen, drop, flail, wander, perseverate, seize. I see a face and body so handsome, mild and familiar and yet so very foreign and bizarre to me. And, I see my own grief. I wish he could talk to me. Eat with a spoon. Dance. Run. Play with friends. Watch videos. Draw. Sing. Get along on his own.

On a beach walk last autumn I remember musing on what grief looks like. I decided then that grief looks like the curly sprig of a young widow's mane in the wind. Grief looks like a slate-blue day in winter. It looks like khaki pools of water filling footprints left in sand. Grief looks like a messed-up sonogram. A withered rhododendron. A face rendered unrecognizable by sleep deprivation, stress, disappointment and age. Grief looks like a loved one being gradually defeated by cancer. A gorgeous bird found dead on the sidewalk. A mother lost to dementia. A desolate street in an ice storm. A child in mid-seizure. A helpless parent. An empty seat at the table.

But grief also looks like a prison cell. A hungry child. A genocide. A war unending. Raging wildfires. Melting icecaps. Suicide. Poverty. Famine. Abuse. Oppression.

And as the sun briefly climbs out from behind the clouds and warms my thighs this morning, I think to myself, perhaps we have it easy.


  1. Thank you Christy. I don't get to read your posts as often as I would like, but decided to pop into this one. I'm glad I did. So moving and profound, and with such melancholy beauty. Your strength is an inspiration. I hope to see you guys soon.