1. cissy says

    My grief is the 30 pound dumb bell in my heart that takes up too much room and makes me tired from lugging. My grief is the sleep I can’t wake from though my body rises from bed to tend to the machinery of the day.

    My ex used to say, “Put down the phone,” when I had the desire to call my mother, when I was in agony and had the primal need to be soothed, cared for, nurtured, literally held. He, who had seen my try to get a fix from that needle too many times, said, “Don’t.”

    When in my early twenties I was having terrible anxiety and I asked if she had felt it and what she did. “I tell myself to knock it off,” she said. I tried to explain that didn’t work for me, only made me feel worse, that the boot camp newbie in my soul had stopped responding to tough love and barking commands and I was completely lost when screaming at myself no longer motivating. I knew no other approach.

    I thought if there were a way I could present myself, be myself, explain myself better I might be the thing my mother could love and with mother love I could get rooted, flower and eventually bloom. I didn’t even know it was longing, unrequited longing for a mother that I was experiencing. It would take years before I had the strength to abandon hope and see that I would have to grow my own mother inside and allow others to mother me and maybe even one day stop hating my mother for being who and how she was rather than what I needed.

    But it didn’t feel like thoughts. It felt like urgency, a need to pick up, to pick up the phone, to call and to connect and to be heard and soothed. It felt like a beating heart, a frightened child saying, “Mama. Mom, Mommy…” and wanting a wordless hug, a human pillow to hold my head. It felt like a case I couldn’t stop mounting evidence for as though a good argument would turn my mother into a judge who would see my merit and that would make her capable of being just and kind.

    I wanted quick fixes and pain relief. I asked her to hug me once, to just hold me if she could and she said, “I don’t do that,” and my heart finally gave up from battle fatigue and weariness and the feeling of being unworthy to extract what I had thought were maternal instincts from my own. I failed at being a daughter, is how I felt, and must have been a child wrong. That’s how it felt, at first, until I learned to protect it better and stop going to wells that were dry when what I needed was water. But it wasn’t any water I needed and no other woman was my mother… it was relentless wanting what I wasn’t getting.

    I could tell total strangers, “She’s a wonderful woman,” and mean it. I could brag that she was only sixteen when she had her first, 18 when she had me, 21 when she had my mother and 22 when the cancer came to her causing a total hysterectomy but that she still worked, kept a roof over our heads. I could tell people how she didn’t graduate high school but she was smart and worked her way up every job ending up as manager. She had people who loved to work for her, who could be out and put pictures of their same sex partners up at their office thirty years ago. When people went through divorces, they became regulars at our dinner table; my mother opened her heart and home to them. I used to joke she ate books for dessert as she used to go through one a night it seemed. I’d tell my closest friends, “She’s a good person she just sucks at mothering which sucks for me since that is what I need most from her.”

    I didn’t have a father, it was a fact I was raised with and so I needed so much from my mother and the things she did provide, food and housing and shelter, I didn’t appreciate because I had them because she worked to get them. And so to her, I was an ungrateful child. And I was.

    Emotions were luxuries and I was a sensitive. Emotions were extra and she was a rational. I was thirsty for foam topped dark and thick beer from someone who didn’t carry it on tap or in the bottle. I was wanting a drink and she was offering vinegar potato chips.

    Grief felt like a certain shade of desire, an unrelenting want and need for a rock to become a tree.

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing.

      I thought your juxtaposition of ” I was wanting a drink and she was offering vinegar potato chips” was extremely effective on several levels: One biblical, as when Christ was offered a drink and then was given vinegar. Two a social level of wanting drink but all there is on the table at happy hour is vinegar chips. Three the child wanting love, the stuff we cannot live without in some form, and given the brush off as being given something of no lasting nutritive value.

      “Grief felt like a certain shade of desire, an unrelenting want and need for a rock to become a tree.” was the best conclusion for this piece. Profound.

    • Jeanne says

      Cissy. I related to your writing about your mother on so many levels. I too had a mother who was (and is) a wonderful woman, just not able to love me in the maner in which I needed and wanted to be loved. I too went to the well one too many times and came up empty. It is an ache I have felt in my gut as long as I can remember. I also internalized this as the fact that I was therefore an unlovable child. The longing is a grief. You are right. You are also wise to recognize it so that the anger and loneliness does not creep up insidiously into other relationships in your life. I am glad you posted this. I learned from it, not only about you but also that I was not alone. Again, your writing connected with me. Thank you. Jeanne

    • says

      Cissy, this was powerful and profound and real and beautifully written, too. I loved these lines, ” It would take years before I had the strength to abandon hope and see that I would have to grow my own mother inside and allow others to mother me and maybe even one day stop hating my mother for being who and how she was rather than what I needed.

      But it didn’t feel like thoughts. It felt like urgency, a need to pick up, to pick up the phone, to call and to connect and to be heard and soothed. It felt like a beating heart, a frightened child saying, “Mama. Mom, Mommy…” and wanting a wordless hug, a human pillow to hold my head. It felt like a case I couldn’t stop mounting evidence for as though a good argument would turn my mother into a judge who would see my merit and that would make her capable of being just and kind.”

      Powerful, powerful piece. Thank you.

    • Karla says

      I really like your closing sentence, a gripping image as well as a summary of your story that came before it. Thank you for posting, and it’s really brave to be the first to post!

    • Judy says

      Cissy, oh, how my heart ached when reading these lines: ..”that the boot camp newbie in my soul had stopped responding to tough love” and this line, “I thought if there were a way I could present myself, be myself, explain myself better I might be the thing my mother could love and with mother love I could get rooted, flower and eventually bloom.” My expression would be about my father.

      Your well crafted experience with grief has given me great pause about my parents. Your writing is so sensitive to their feelings as well as the well of your deep emotions. Thank you for this beautiful telling. Nicely done.

      • cissy says

        That was one vulnerable to post but I’m so glad I did. I’m not “glad” others relate but glad to own all of it and that it speaks to others.

        Hazel, I am not religious and did not know about Christ being given vinegar. Thank you for your education as well as your comments.

        Thanks everyone for the feedback!

        And Laura, I’ll be ordering your book, I Thought We’d Never Speak Again. Thank you for that and this space.

        • MaryL says

          Cissy, your observation: “It would take years before I had the strength to abandon hope… ” really resonates with me, though abandoning hope of the magical finally empowered me to see that reality is, after all, still livable. Very powerful! Mary L

    • Ilana says

      Absolutely stunning. You draw such an engrossing picture and your images were so clear. Thank you for sharing your words and for trusting us with your pain. Ilana

    • Wendy says

      Cissy, Thank you. This is honest and brave. I love the way you ended it. It is poetic, funny, and imaginative.

  2. Terilynn says

    Grief is sneaky. One doesn’t need to experience an ending or a death to feel grief. It can simply be a day frittered away by mindless distractions, futile endeavors or self-sabotage. How many times have I grieved the oncoming darkness of night, remembering the things that mattered most were neglected?

    Grief, for me, is profound. I finally learned to let myself cry it out. Crying is cleansing, even if you look like crap for a couple days after a good hard cry. Leaving L.A. felt like a divorce. I was tired of the town and yearned for the green and the rain of Northern California, the peace and the quiet. Yet it was like severing my history. I raged that the city had let me down. I felt guilty about leaving friends who depended on me. But I don’t think I felt denial – I just had to get out of there. I was being drained.

    Grief is subtle. For weeks after my 19-year-old cat died, I habitually pulled out seven bowls at feeding time. Reality struck, and I would sadly return one bowl to the cupboard.

    Grief seems natural. Stuff happens. We are never fully in control of our external world. Our internal worlds are also subject to the fickle nature of genetics and biology.

    I would have to say acceptance is a bigger hurdle.

    • cissy says

      Grief is sneaky and acceptance is harder. The first and last lines really get me. You cover so much ground, from a move, to the grief of a day that didn’t get what had been planned to losing your cat. And your ease or acceptance of grief is wonderful. Love the last line. Fabulous.

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing the less conspicuous aspects of grief. Your final statement: “acceptance is a bigger hurdle” is one that I would have to agree with; a rational conclusion.

    • Judy says

      Terilynn, you speak of grief on cats paws…the poetry of Sandburg. I loved your piece–your citing of crying as cleansing. An insightful post, especially of ‘stuff happens.’ Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.

    • MaryL says

      TerryLynn, grief may be sneaky, but it is palpable. As for acceptance, I can’t wait around for that. I still remember, and I can use my energy on healthy things, but I don’t need to pressure myself to accept what was terribly unacceptable. Your message is nudging me to process my own grief more openly and I thank you. Mary L

      • Terilynn says

        Acceptance for me is allowing the stuff that happened to us as kids or whenever just be. This is not denial, but more of a “taking-the-other-road”, one less of fighting than of sighing. You can’t change the past and all that pablum. You build on the future and all that pablum.
        I guess I am finding my own “pablum.” I still feel resentment and anger at times, too.

    • Ilana says

      Terilynn- Nice job. You really opened my eyes up to a lot of truths about grief that I had not thought of before. It was kind of like you were saying, “It’s okay to grieve even a wasted day.” Thank you for your post and welcome to our community. I know this isn’t your first post but I have not had the energy to respond to as many posts in recent weeks. I still wanted to welcome your voice here to our forum. All the best, Ilana

  3. Cherri says

    This last winter my sister had another psychotic break. She wasn’t making any sense, talking fast, sometimes whispering and mentioning the same things over and over in a loop, small bouts of crying with the reason being unknown and confusing. The look in her eyes was so strange, frightening; like she was seeing me, but not seeing me, as if what she was seeing outside herself didn’t matter. It wasn’t registering in her mind and she never seemed to focus on anything or anywhere.

    I kept seeing that look in her eyes over and over again for days, even a week or two later and cried or nearly cried each time, life was to hard, painful. Was I in grief, oh my, I am grieving! I felt heavy sadness and was horrified at the same time. I noticed I was feeling and thinking about a reality of life that seems cruelly and starkly harsh, empty and painful, senseless, and replaying it over and over again in my mind’s visions and thoughts. I slowly began to think and feel deep sadness at the realization that I’d lost my sister.

    What was worse, having her actually die with no more body, mind and spirit for me to hug, touch, feel, see and talk with? Or, having my sister still in her in body, but not be the sister I loved and needed. I could hug her, but I wouldn’t feel her essence/soul there. I could talk to her, but she wouldn’t relate back to me, only babble about incoherent subjects in loops, on and on. I honestly, sadly didn’t and don’t know which was worse. The stark reality of the power of our minds to crush us, destroy our being, is abhorrently frightening as well, more than the reality that someone who’s just died and will never be with you again. That was like hitting an invisible wall that was actually contained in ongoing life, that could happen, but we don’t live our lives as if it will happen. It’s very similar to losing our loved ones in death, but the body is still there with a kernel of they’re being still in there. But with this situation, I began to slowly realize that I was feeling traumatized too. Does that happen when someone dies? You have to face the finality of the loss with death, but there is no such thing, finality, when having to forcibly hospitalize a loved one who seems to completely break with reality and is not “really” there.

    There’s an added immense confusion as to how someone could so break with reality in such a frightening way and the lingering question, “Will she come back to me”? My sister has partially come back, at least she is very slowly, with lots of medication. In fact, it was stopping her meds quite suddenly that caused this abberation, at least this time. This has happened with her before, I just hadn’t been the one to deal with her “up close and personal”, to see the deranged look in her eyes and behavior. I’d visited her in the hospital afterwards, when she’d been calmed and restored with medications. This time, she’s not fully back! She’s having memory loss, a lower threshold of irritability and a lack of being able to focus. Is this how I will lose her slowly in our old age? Do I grieve now?

    My grief is still there, but something’s different about it, like I can’t feel it fully, like it’s on hold, just waiting to return at any moment, not accessible, but ever present. Let’s not forget helplessness in all this. I can’t make myself to blame for this to help explain it in some way. And, I can’t fix it! There’s hurt, pain and hopefulness all tied up together in a bundle. The possible restoration of my relationship with my sister hangs like dangling bate just out of reach. Yet, I cling to the possibility, the hope and what little there is in my sister at the moment to be with.

    The process now is also to accept and fit it into my new “life happens” motto. How to hold onto and continue with being grateful, as I know now to learn to thrive not just survive! Grief is a pond of mud that is a struggle to walk out of and onto the banks of life again.

    • says

      Hi Cherri, welcome to the Roadmap Blog. Your first post is a powerful look at the impact mental illness has on the rest of the family. You raise such important questions–ones many of us have to grapple with. Thanks for posting–and I hope you keep coming back.

    • Hazel says

      Wow! You have described so thoroughly how it is to lose someone you love to a mental illness. I never thought of it before as grief, but it is. Been there done that.

      You statement: “Grief is a pond of mud that is a struggle to walk out of and onto the banks of life again.” says it all.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Jeanne says

      Cherri. Since grief is so real to me for so many of the same reasons that it is for you, relating to losing a loved one to mental illness, I decided to write on this prompt before I read any of the other posts and only now came across your brilliant reflection of this experience. I KNOW. Been there too. YES. . . I have thought that physical death may be easier at least easier to understand from the perspective of grief, and YES I find myself constantly traumatized by the experience and trying to learn from it rather than recoil in fear of when and how an episode might strike again. I try not to dwell on worst case scenarios and to live our lives as they come. My expectations are different now. . . very diffferent, but the joys are richer too. Thank you and God bless both you and your sister. Jeanne

    • Judy says

      Cherri, what a well written and deeply felt experience you have shared. Your love for your sister shines through in this well crafted piece. I recall during a therapy session some 30 years ago my therapist saying, “Just like King Lear, some must go crazy to become sane.” Blessed be to you and yours. And, I look forward to more of your posts.

    • cissy says

      The feelings and the lack of feelings and the feelings so overwhelming and the situation so big. You pull me right into it and I’m feeling sad and hopeful and curious and in this short piece you evoke so many emotions. Most powerful for me was the way you described not knowing what kind of loss is worse.

      “The stark reality of the power of our minds to crush us, destroy our being, is abhorrently frightening as well, more than the reality that someone who’s just died and will never be with you again. That was like hitting an invisible wall that was actually contained in ongoing life, that could happen, but we don’t live our lives as if it will happen.”

      And the desire to keep your own gratitude up in the midst.

    • Ilana says

      Cherri- I was deeply touched by your piece. Though I have lost people to death and destroyed relationships, I have never lost someone in this way. You do such a brilliant job of describing the experience that I felt that loss keenly. I wish you peace. Welcome to our community. I hope you post again, Ilana

    • Vicki says

      Hi Cherri,
      The memory of my sister is always with me somewhere inside. I keep it locked up tight, don’t want to lose it but don’t want to see it either. Your post was the key for me to unlock these memories, take them out and look at them, as painful as that will be. I think it is time to write about Terri. I am just starting my writing career. I have found writing an amazing form of self-expression and importantly therapy. Haven’t cried about her in twenty years but here it comes and I honestly thank you.

  4. Wendy says

    Grief makes me want to flap my feathers and caw like a crow. Grief embarrasses me. It is the eccentric relative that shows up, uninvited and unannounced, at the fanciest dinner imaginable. Grief just butts in, her slip showing, snot running down her nose, and she screams. I want to sit Grief down. I want to explain to her how inappropriate she is. I want to reach into her purse and find the map to my house, and I want to tear it up into little bits. I want to shake her. I want to say, “Get out of those raggedy ass black dresses! Stop being such a drama queen!” I want to say, “Grow up! Knock it off! Can’t you see that you are ruining everything?” It is at that moment that Grief shrinks. She goes from being a nasty old witch to a sad, abandoned child, and I cry and hold her tight.

    • says

      Hi Wendy, Welcome to the Roadmap blog and thanks for your creative evocation of grief in her many forms. I love the personification of emotions and often have my students write pieces similar in feeling to what you shared here. It was thoroughly enjoyable, even though you were writing about an emotion many of us experience as painful. Lovely work. Please come back. It will be great to have your voice join us here in the Roadmap community.

    • Karla says

      I’ve been struggling to read responses here– grief is a tough one for me to look right in the eye– and your piece made me laugh and weep at the same time. Thanks for posting.

    • cissy says

      I love this part Wendy, “Grief embarrasses me. It is the eccentric relative that shows up, uninvited and unannounced, at the fanciest dinner imaginable. Grief just butts in, her slip showing, snot running down her nose, and she screams. I want to sit Grief down.” And where you end up.

    • Ilana says

      Wendy- This piece is amazing! I was wrapped up in being angry at Grief and so relieved to feel that way and then your turned her into a child. You made me want to hold her too. I think, at least for me, this is exactly what Grief is, both ways you described her. Well done! Ilana

    • Bethany says

      Wendy, while I’ve never named grief as a “nasty old witch”, I most certainly can see the sad, abandoned child that seems to follow grief wherever she goes. The imagery your writing evoked touched me deeply and I appreciate your words.

      Thanks for the post,

      • says

        Dear Bethany,

        Welcome to the Roadmap blog. So nice to have your voice joining our chorus of wonderful writing voices. I hope you keep coming back and someday, post some writing of your own!

        • Bethany says

          Thanks Laura. I’m working on it. Struggling with exposure right now. Gaining strength and inspiration from the other writers on this platform will surely help.


  5. Hazel says

    It came in a flash that warm summer day at the end of July, 1980. The huge old Detroit dinosaur of a car on the wrong side of the road as the motorcycle carrying my husband and myself came around the last corner of an S-turn. It was over the center line. Both my husband, who was driving the motorcycle, and the car swerved, but my knee got caught by the back bumper. It is not true that accidents happen in slow motion. Yes, I went hurtling through the air but it was very fast and I landed on the hot blacktop with a splat.

    That is when I lost myself, the myself that I had always known and was beginning to love. I had just celebrated my fortieth birthday, the one where life begins. But it ended! Just like that, I blinked and it was gone.

    My life has never been the same since and every day, in some way, I mourn the loss of myself, my body as it used to be, whole without the artificial parts. I long for the knees that used to run and play. The knees that don’t take off in separate directions; that feel heavy and clumsy when they lay on top of one another as I try to sleep. I lost my profession; the one I had acquired at such cost to myself and my children. The profession that had saved my life when I fled to Canada to escape a violent, controlling husband who was out to kill me.

    I will admit the pain is not so all consuming now as it was those thirty-seven years ago. But, the scars both inside and out remain. Thick dark brown scars, deep, and darker even than my suntan can cover on the outside, or that years of therapies of different kinds can fix on the inside.

    Initially, I thought I was going to die. Beyond the physical pain were feelings of imminent abandonment. I felt like a cement block was tied around my heart and it had been thrown into a fast moving river from which I would never emerge. I could feel myself scraping the bottom. There was only one diver who was trying to save me and he was so guilt ridden that he was nearly drowning himself; and we were there in that river of sorrow, dread, and fear. It smelled rotten and it sucked.

    I grieve the loss of my artist-self that creative part of me that was stifled when I became afflicted with shingles. Shingles took me away from any semblance of a social life and I hate them for it. I looked at the painting Scream and screamed with him at the pain, but it did not go away. I watch that artist-self crumble and fall apart like an old castle that has stood through many storms and remains as rubble on the plane and will not let me forget the fortress it used to be, and I cry.

    Grief feels hollow like a gourd that has been made into a birdhouse but the birds do not come.

    Grief is all consuming like the flames of the cremation after my father died.

    Grief is physical.

    Grief hurts worse than any other pain in my body.

    Things grieved for cannot be fixed, EVER! They can be put in a room of their own where you can go once in a while to visit them if you care to, or if you are finished with them you never have to open that door again. They don’t go away and they are never forgotten, completely.

    • Karla says

      Hi Hazel, thank you for sharing your story about the physical aspect of grief, very much relevant to me at this point in my life and you made me see things from a more balanced perspective. Karla

    • cissy says

      Wow. You brought me right into the accident.

      This line, after it all, was powerful, “Grief feels hollow like a gourd that has been made into a birdhouse but the birds do not come.” as was this, “I could feel myself scraping the bottom. There was only one diver who was trying to save me and he was so guilt ridden that he was nearly drowning himself; and we were there in that river of sorrow, dread, and fear.”

    • Judy says

      Hazel, What vivid images you paint in this piece. Each word and graph build with great force to this last sage phrase….”they can be put in a room of their own where you can go once in a while to visit them if you care to, or if you are finished with them you never have to open that door again. They don’t go away and they are never forgotten, completely.” Very nice. Thank you for sharing with such craft and artistry.

    • Dianne Brown says

      Hazel, your summary in the last paragraph is a truth in my life. Your entire piece was so engaging that I felt myself flying through the air and splatting on the hot pavement moments later–short moments later. In my estimation, you have true grit–not only to tell this, but to have lived it as well. Thanks!

    • Ilana says

      Hazel- Nice job. The accident was so well described I felt like I was there, watching it happen. I love your descriptions of grief. I feel like I learned a lot from your piece. Thank you, Ilana

    • Bethany says

      Hazel, I was absolutely captivated by your story. It was so well written and visually descriptive, I could feel the pain of hitting the pavement and the ensuing physical struggles to adjust to your new, foreign parts.

      I too was in a near fatal car accident in 1993. It altered my life. Changed my path. Put me on a new course whether I wanted to go that direction or not.

      The thing that surprised me in your piece the most is your feeling that you’ve lost your creative-self, your artistic-self. As I read your story, I found myself continously complimenting your writing, impressed by the visuals that you provided. Consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, you haven’t lost your creative-self, it’s just been altered too into a format different from what it once was.

      Stay well and keep writing so we can keep reading,

      • Hazel says

        Thank you for your encouraging words.

        Now that I am in a corner all there is left is writing. I am glad I had enough time before becoming cornered to have really lived and had enough experiences that I have something to write about. Sometimes, like yesterday, grief tries to drag me through a crack in that door where I had stashed her because the physical pain is to great to ignore and the self deprecation weakens my resolve to keep pressure on that door; to keep it closed. My mantra is: Creating keep me sane; sharing makes me happy. So, on I go.

        • Laura Davis says

          Hazel, I’m reading this sitting in a cafe in Edinburgh and i’m so moved by your description of feeling cornered. thank you.

      • Vicki says

        Hazel, I agree with Bethany. The writing of your experience couldn’t have been more expressive if you had painted it. I experienced the sights and sounds and feelings as though I was there. Very compelling. You have found an amazing expression of your creativity in writing. Keep strong and keep writing.

  6. Jeanne says

    I have never grieved the dead, only the living. As the wife and mother of a husband and son afflicted with bipolar disorder, grief is what inhabits my soul during and after the surreal, episodic kidnapping and merciless ravaging of the minds and bodies of those I love the most.

    Grief travels with disbelief, confusion, heartbreak and rage, both theirs and mine. It leaves me a widow in my marriage and a parent, panic stricken and helpless to find a lost child. Our journeys are parallel and yet singular. This genetic illness is an octopus, strangling, enormous, isolating and overwhelming. It causes each of us to be lost in the waters of self-absorption as we struggle to breathe and to survive.

    At first, the grief empowers me, the wife, the mother, the thinker, the “fixer,” to rise up, primally, in search of understanding and answers, for ways of making sense of the unfathomable, for a means by which I can help turn back the days and years to a time when this “manic depression,” did not attempt to own and destroy our lives. What is happening, the psychosis, the racing thoughts, the pressured speech, the anguished and sleepless existence can’t be real, I tell myself, or if they are real, they are something I can control.

    I helped one son survive a brain tumor, a monstrous image on an MRI. Surely, if I just work hard enough, pray and bring all my skills to bear, I can help rescue his father and brother from this invisible evil. The grief laughs at my audacity. And slowly, I begin to yield my ferociousness to an acceptance of what I cannot change. All of this HAS happened and it has happened to our family.

    This grief, if I choose to embrace it, is both a companion and teacher. It tells me that my job is no longer to stand where I once stood, but to stand in the shoes of who I am now and to own this unexpected gift. I am a survivor who has been transformed, a traveler on a journey I never dreamed we would take. This illness has exacted a price from my husband and son that I would have given my life to have spared them. That was however, not my bargain to make. As we begin to emerge, and I watch my men return to their high functioning lives with characteristic sensitivity and brilliance, I realize that what lies on the other side of this journey is GRACE.

    This grief and its twin sister grace, give me a story to tell, one that makes me eminently more human; one that has fractured my heart enough to leave it open permanently. Grief. . . pain. . . acceptance. . . grace. . . wisdom. . . gratitude. I breathe deeper this afternoon with a strong heart ready to serve.

    • says

      Jeanne this was gorgeous and so heartfelt. Reading all of these pieces in a row, I can see what a teacher grief is–it crushes our hearts open. You have lived through so much–and you’ve chosen to find grace, somehow, in all the trauma, uncertainty, pain and grief. Thanks for a truly inspiring piece

      • Jeanne says


        My heart travels in spirit with you and your writers to Scotland. I know you are leaving tomorrow. This writing is all so new to me. Your prompts are so thought provoking, I feel like I have waited a lifetime to put these responses and reflections down in words. The only thing more enjoyable to me than writing is reading other peoples’ stories. Your writers form a kaleidoscope and I am so grateful to you and to them for allowing me to join this amazing community of gifted human beings. I know we will meet one day soon to work in person together. I had hoped at Newbold House. I know you will have am amazing journey. Am jealous of the poetry to be shared. Cant wait to hear of the trip. Jeanne

    • cissy says

      Wow. This line, “I have never grieved the dead, only the living.” pulls me right in. And this, “one that has fractured my heart enough to leave it open permanently.”

      Grief an grace. I think I will be thinking of these two things, as you have described them, and how you would have spared them but it wasn’t your bargain to make.

      ” It tells me that my job is no longer to stand where I once stood, but to stand in the shoes of who I am now and to own this unexpected gift.”

      Your writing speaks deep into me. Wow.

    • Hazel says

      When dealing with my husband’s bipolar disorder (and it is disorder) I have never had time to think of it as any of these things: “Grief. . . pain. . . acceptance. . . grace. . . wisdom. . . gratitude” that you mention in this piece except pain and acceptance. You have opened another way of looking at this affliction. I grieve at the memory loss, memories of such wonderful events that he just cannot remember. I am a bit envious of your grace, wisdom, and gratitude. So I would say that this is a very effective piece because it has made us all “feel” in some way.

      ” This illness has exacted a price from my husband and son that I would have given my life to have spared them.” And I know that this illness, despite your: “Grief. . . pain. . . acceptance. . . grace. . . wisdom. . . gratitude” has exacted as great a price from you.

      • Jeanne says

        Cissy and Hazel:

        Thank you both so much for taking the time to invite me into your hearts and minds to share our reflections on grief. Hazel, I agree that there is very little else to capture the BP experience other than to say that while it is happening, it is a living hell. I understand completely, your experience as only “pain and acceptance.” Those words resonate. It is during the periods of recovery/remission with proper medical treatment for my loved ones that I am even able to utter the word. . . grace. After experiencing such pain, we are changed. There is no denying it. The gift of this change is that it makes me wiser to understand how big a God we serve and how little we control. I stand in new shoes, more grateful and empathetic. These are the fruits of bearing witness to such shocking interruptions, destruction, vulnerability, uncertainty. And you are right of course, that the pain of these experiences has exacted an enormous price from me as well. I hope you find peace on your journey.

        • MaryL says

          Jeanne, I love your pairing of grief and grace as twins … not identical twins, surely, but complementary sisters like yin and yang, overlapping a bit. Mary L

    • Judy says

      Jeanne, what spellbinding writing of such horrific experiences. As others have said, you give us much food for thought in your pairing of grief with grace. Thank you for writing with such compassion and clarity. You open our hearts and minds to the twins–grief & grace.

    • Ilana says

      Jeanne- The whole piece held me but your last paragraph is what will stick with me for a long time. I love the idea of grief as a teacher and that it can lead to something as positive as grace. Thank you for posting. Ilana

      • Jeanne says

        Mary, Judy, Ilana. Thank you too for reacting to this submission. I’ve continued to reflect on the image of the rope in the quote posted by Laura. We all hold on to so much, so tightly. The letting go whether voluntarily or through the grief of loss does open my clenched fists to release the rope. When I do, my palms are open and outstretched to receive the gift of grace. It makes me wonder what or who our respective “ropes” are…expectations, feelings of lack of worth, relationships, control. When we finally are courageous or exhausted enough to let go, it is only then that i find grace can seep deeply into us and change us.

    • Sheila McGinley says

      Grieving the living. So well said, such a clear way to think. And you went on from there in a very alive way……thank you.

      • Tony del Zompo says


        i can relate to your piece on many levels. a man very dear to me is in a prolonged manic state, and it is tragic to watch. and, yes, i’m grieving him and our relationship. i especially appreciate the line about grace being grief’s twin. i also see grief as inextricably linked with growth and redemption…

  7. Karla says

    I give myself 15 minutes to write about grief.
    I fall through a lidded trap door that I fail to see (I never do).
    I feel the sting of water flat against my skin,
    I curl around in crouch position, on my naked side,
    A slow undercurrent twirls me counterclockwise.

    A round glass cage, not deep,
    Open to the wide blue sky overhead
    Threaded with the transparent skin of grey clouds.
    Open to the dusty desert ground below,
    Dotted with small grey-green shrubs and my own isolation.

    The water is salt from tears I have always cried,
    And the tears of those that I came from.
    My father Richard, the power of his youth
    Truncated by a lie that took him to the war against the Nazis,
    He was not 18.
    He flew over cities where he pushed bombs out of the butt of an airplane,
    They thought it was the birth canal to freedom.
    They looked back and saw the slow simmer of smoke and pain inside cities
    Filled with people too scared or poor to leave.
    The soldiers rested the next day.
    My father brought the kind of war to his family
    Where you divide and conquer
    And have trouble identifying the enemy.
    Or maybe he was just mean.
    My mother, Anna, was not his target,
    Nor could she identify his strategic tactics.
    She must have shed her tears with her warm and loving embrace.

    The people Richard and Anna came from had their own tears,
    My grandfathers, I never knew.
    Anna said her mother was an alcoholic, stewing with critical outrage,
    Richard said his mother was a colossal kvetcher.
    I did not know the tears of either of these grandmothers,
    My grandmothers were laughter and art and cookies
    Baked together in the relief from my home.

    I spin sideways in my cage of salty grief,
    Awkward grimace of turned neck and open mouth,
    Breathing above the water that is my cradle.
    Sun dries tears slow and leaden droplets rise through the air
    Sparkling like hundreds of tiny diamond buds.
    Water lowers, current slows to a stop.
    I stand and climb out.
    This glass cage will be filled and waiting for me tomorrow.

    Grief stings in waves, salty spray against tender skin.
    It can knock you down or hold you steady.
    It keeps you safe inside yourself,
    Draw comfort in its hold.

    • says

      Karla, this beautifully woven family history–thank you for sharing it here with us. I’m glad you had the courage to dip in for 15 minutes to write it–sometimes knowing there’s an end point to our writing enables us to write the really hard stuff.

    • Judy says

      Karla, This is truly beautiful. This line especially captured my imagination, “He flew over cities where he pushed bombs out of the butt of an airplane, They thought it was the birth canal to freedom.”

      That you were able to summarize several generations of grief in this piece in such a short time….WOW. Thank you for writing here.

    • Ilana says

      Karla- What an elegant picture of grief as it sat with each generation of your family. It is beautifully written. Ilana

    • Hazel says

      I am so glad I have heard your real voice as it helps me to read your poem and hear it the way you would read it. “I fall through a lidded trap door that I fail to see (I never do)” is a journey that most of us take as we begin to write and then the writing takes us somewhere we never knew we were going. Also, it is the metaphor for not knowing that you were going to fall into grief. Very thoughtful and very well done.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Karla says

      I really appreciate being “seen” on this one, and your comments have made me feel that way.

      A side note to Hazel: I really feel your presence here on this board when you write, especially to me. Love to you. Karla

    • Karla says

      I really appreciate being “seen” on this one, and your comments have made me feel that way.

      A side note to Hazel: I really feel your presence here on this board when you write, especially when you comment to me. Love to you. Karla

  8. Jess says

    Grief is the gnawing in the very pit of my stomach, as my fear of losing them grows. It’s the burning sensation in the back of my throat, as I try not to cry. It’s the silent sobs that shake my body through the night. It’s the sharp knife that pierces my heart each time I remember that they’re not there anymore.

    Grief is my silent prayers in the middle of the night, begging some greater power to make sure that they’re all okay. It’s my soft whispers when I’m alone, asking if anyone’s there. It’s my unanswered questions, and all the memories that they weren’t alive to see.

    It’s the letters I wrote to them, after they were gone. And the tear stained journal entries and poems that are almost to smudged to read.

    Grief is the three bullets in my heart, that remind me each and every day that they aren’t coming back again. It’s that moment after a great day that makes me think of how much fun they would have had too. It’s that painful tug on my heart that yearns to hear there voices and receive their embrace.

    My grief is that one little nagging thought, that pops up when I’m all alone, or when the people around me are silent. It’s my whole being missing them more than I thought possible. It’s my tear streaked face and puffy red eyes after a sleepless night.

    It’s the scream at the back of my throat and the little whisper in my ear. As grief for all who I have lost knocks me over. Immobilizing me until I have to be strong again. It’s the happy memory, that turns into missing them, that slowly becomes my flood of tears. Just like a vine creeping up my feet, only to unexpectedly tangle around my whole body leaving me helpless and vulnerable.

    • says

      Jess, this vivid portrait of grief was all the more poignant because you didn’t tell us who you were grieving. The omission was powerful and made the piece incredibly effective.

    • Jeanne says


      These words struck such a raw chord almost too painful to absorb: “It’s that moment after a great day that makes me think of how much fun they would have had too. It’s that painful tug on my heart that yearns to hear there voices and receive their embrace.” Thinking of those I love the most, I stand in awe of your strength in writing about this kind of loss. Such a heavy price to pay for LOVE. It is so obvious that you have experienced that kind of LOVE with capital letters with respect to those you have lost. I hope that this realization brings you some comfort. Your writing is brave and beautiful.

    • Ilana says

      Jess- This is such a complete description of grief. You really left not stone unturned. I admire you for that. I lost my cousin to cancer in 1998, six months before I met my husband. For years I would dream she was still alive and sometimes even ask him, “Zander, why have you never met Sara?” Most often I’d remember before he responded that she’d died before I met him. I felt like your piece also honored these feelings. Nice job. Ilana

    • Judy says

      Jess, an extraordinary description of grief and YES even more so because of the mystery. Powerful writing. This absolutely knocked me out….’My grief is that one little nagging thought, that pops up when I’m all alone, or when the people around me are silent…’ Oh yes, had that experienced and wanted to shout, someone say SOMETHING! Thank you for such vivid writing.

  9. Judy says


    Rust Belt, March 1956…..He cradled the ball on his forearm before he bounced it several times, paused, crouched slightly, bent at the knees, made a slight turn, and jumped—what seemed ten feet off the ground—to make a perfect right-hand hook-shot. With a hard slap off the backboard, a roll along the rim, as if trying to decide, the ball drained the net. “Two points,” he shouted.

    Then, he did it all again.

    Jayson was a tall, lean, lanky athletic kid with pale blue eyes; eyelashes so light they seemed invisible; and, ginger hair that framed a long, narrow, ivory toned face. There was no doubt he and Liz were siblings: they both had the impish smile of their father, Richard, blinded many years ago; and the fair coloring of their mother, Ginny. Her beauty shop was in the front part of their house in a winterized solarium.

    It was dusk and Liz and Jayson’s mom was finishing up her last client. While, next door her mother, Mrs. Parker (everyone called her Grandma) prepared dinner for both families—their Friday ritual. Liz and I had dropped our bikes at her grandparents’ house. We had been at Liz’s cousin’s supposedly doing home work but actually watching Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

    Liz’s grandfather was brushing the last of the spring snow off his old blue Buick parked on the street. The Parkers reminded me of Ma & Pa Kettle—with Grandpa’s wry humor and Grandma’s earthy, no-nonsense practicality. They loved one another, were fun to be with and always made me feel at home.

    “Can she stay for dinner, grandma?” asked Liz. “Of course, but make sure you call your mom, Judy.” Picking up the phone, I turned to see Jayson shoot another basket. I had a huge crush on him and wondered whether anyone noticed.

    Liz breezed by, grabbed my arm as I hung up the phone, and we headed out the door to join Jayson at the basketball net. “Can we play H.O.R.S.E. before dinner?” we shouted. “Yea, but it’s gotta be a fast one,” he said, as he fluffed my hair and swatted Liz with a hand towel. “I gotta eat and hit the hay. I’m off early tomorrow with the guys–we got tickets to the Indiana High School Basketball Regionals downstate. It’s March madness, you two!” The ball sank through the net.

    Jayson had always included us kids in the neighborhood games: kick-the-can, Red Rover, touch football and H.O.R.S.E. He and his friends were something of the BMOC (big men on campus) so Liz and I felt flattered they even looked our way…..let alone let us play. Liz won the H.O.R.S.E. game and to the applause of her parents, we headed in for dinner as Jayson said, “Hey curly-headed-girl, you’re supposed to hit the hoop, not the roof.” The banter continued as Grandma Parker brought the food to the table. Liz and I put our gum in the dinner spoon. We all howled when Liz’s ended up in her mashed potatoes.

    # # #

    Our house smelled like cinnamon buns with gooey warm vanilla frosting–my mother’s specialty– when I awoke Sunday morning. I could hear my siblings, Kay, eight years. and five year old, Bobby, finishing breakfast as I walked down the back steps to the kitchen. The radio was on. Orion Samuelson was finishing the week’s hog reports before the top of the news. Dad moved quickly to turn off the pea-green plastic PhilCo on the countertop behind him as I entered the kitchen. My parents looked at each other—eyes locking—as mom tidied up the newspapers strewn on the breakfast table and asked me, “Poached egg, this morning, honey?” I rubbed my eyes and nodded yes. Pulling the chair out beside him, Dad motioned for me to sit down. He remained pensive for a moment and then in a soft tone said, “We have something to tell you, Judy.”

    # # #

    Jayson Parker was killed instantly on the way home from the basketball regionals. The newspaper said no one else was injured.

    At the funeral, the Parker-Hastings Clan was understandably inconsolable. Jayson’s entire high school class attended the funeral. The whole community was stunned and numbed.

    When Liz returned to school, I noticed she wore her grief like a concrete albatross. She was folding into herself toward a summit of vanishment. Her friends were heartbroken and felt helpless. It was a long grieving and before we recovered, our small town lost two more citizens in separate head-on car crashes that spring.

    For many years, Jayson’s profound loss echoed in my mind. Today, I smile when I hear the swoosh of a basketball draining the net: there’s a sound, a quick flash of a young ginger-haired boy in his prime shooting hoops on the gravel driveway on Pleasant Street, Rust Belt, Indiana as he shouts, “Two points.”

    • Hazel says

      Good stuff . . . and so well done. Thank you for sharing your grief, how long it lasted, and then ending with a happy memory.

    • Jeanne says


      Thank you for this piece reflecting on what may have been your first experience with grief. At such a young age, it is clear that this was so memorable and profound. You write like a painter, setting a stage for all four senses. I could picture the scene as you describe it. It also brings to mind how fragile life really is.

    • Ilana says

      Nice job, Judy. I love the way you give us a peak into Jayson’s life before looking at his death. It made me feel connected to him so that I felt a loss when he died. Thank you for sharing this piece with us. Ilana

    • Judy says

      Thank you, Laura, Hazel, Wendy, Jeanne, Ilana and Karla for the lovely comments. Liz, a writer, would have fit in very comfortably on this blog. She was funny, insightful, and greatly understood the human condition. She died several years ago after a long illness but left a wonderful collection of short stories to her family and friends. And, she taught me how to braid hair, thanks, Liz. 🙂

  10. Karla says

    Judy, this was a beautifully crafted story that made me want to keep reading. The vantage point that you spoke from–your own grief, your observation of your friend’s, and your community’s grief on the same loss– was very compelling and thought provoking. Thank you. Karla

  11. Ilana says

    My Grief

    I grieve more deeply and more intensely now than I ever have in my life. I think it’s because I have finally admitted to the losses for which I grieve.

    I grieve for the child I could have been. I grieve for her innocence and the freedom that should come with being a child. For the joy in life, the simple pleasure of running across an open field with arms spread wide.

    I grieve for the love that child never got from me. Damned from the beginning, her self love never had a chance to grow. Instead, self hatred, nurtured by shame, uncertainty, guilt and pain grew like a thorny vine, encircling her heart. It held her down, digging its barbs into her tender flesh, keeping her in check. “Don’t ever like yourself. Don’t ever think that you are more than nothing, lest someone come along to correct you, put you in your place.”

    I grieve for the safety she never knew; the space to grow up strong, healthy and free.

    I grieve for the parents and brothers whose love I should have known and gloried in. Instead thoughts of them only bring me pain, fear and sadness.

    I grieve for my motherhood which is tainted by my past. Always wondering if my behavior toward my children is appropriate. Always sad, in pain and trying to hide it from their innocent eyes. My children should have a healthy mother. They are entitled to a mother who can give to them, joyfully without the weight of sadness always on my shoulders. Without the worry and anxiety constantly stealing my strength from them.

    I grieve for the wife I wish I could be. The ability to make love to my husband, free of flashbacks, anxiety and fear. Now that medication has stolen the last of my sexual energy that loss is complete and overwhelming. The most intimate way I could communicate with my husband, turn my love for him into a physical, tangible act, is now gone.

    I wear my grief like a sticky film that clings to my skin. It sits in my chest, opening a gaping hole of pain and loss. My grief climbs up my throat, squeezing my windpipe and making it impossible to breathe. It sits in my mouth, a sour taste that changes the flavor of my food. It floats behind my eyes, pricking them with unshed tears. And sometimes my grief erupts out of me in gasping, uncontrolled sobs. At those times I make sounds I’d never heard before; wild guttural cries that frighten me all the more. The words behind them are always the same. Over and over again I asked myself, “Why does it have to hurt so much? When will it be over? And How will I ever survive this pain?”

    My sister-survivors, therapist and friends tell me that this will not go on forever. But it is all I know. I have no concept of the future, of freedom and no one can describe it to me. The incest has taken over. It now rules my life. Every waking moment is filled with flashbacks and new horrifying discoveries about what occurred in my past; my dirty, disgusting and horrible past. Will that past and its losses follow me forever or are my sisters right?

    Will I one day walk out my door in a floor length dress, knowing I am beautiful, sexy, loved and adored as I leave for a date with my husband? Will I curl my daughter’s hair for a school dance appreciating the excited twinkle in her eye, glowing myself with joy at her pleasure? Will I one day walk her down the aisle in her flowing white dress to marry the man (or woman) of her dreams, confidant that I have raised her well, to love herself and claim her rights as a human being?

    I don’t know. I don’t know a life without my grief constantly pulling at my consciousness, tormenting me. I’m doing the best I can, though. Hope, dream, work and wait. I’ll take my medicine, both literally and figuratively, attack each new challenge as it comes. I’ll hold on because maybe one day things will be different. Maybe one day I’ll be free.

    • says

      “My sister-survivors, therapist and friends tell me that this will not go on forever. But it is all I know. I have no concept of the future, of freedom and no one can describe it to me. The incest has taken over. It now rules my life. Every waking moment is filled with flashbacks and new horrifying discoveries about what occurred in my past; my dirty, disgusting and horrible past. Will that past and its losses follow me forever or are my sisters right?”

      I swear to you, we’re right. This grief will not last forever; it will recede, it will fade, it will emerge and go underground, it will be a thread in your life, but not the whole cloth. It’s good you’re allowing yourself to feel it fully, even though I know it feels awful.

      Believe us, believe me, it will not always be like this.

    • Judy says

      Dear Ilana, Laura offers wise and loving words here. Yesterday at therapy we talked of letting go and I heard an old phrase, ‘what you resist will persist.’ I’m still trying to get my mind around it while learning to relax into all that life has to offer. Be well friend and hugs, J

      • Ilana says

        Thanks Judy. Well, I’m not resisting, that’s for sure. So at least I am going about this in the best way. I appreciate your support. Hug back at you, Ilana

    • Karla says

      Ilana, I think that every survivor asks herself at some point– and most likely at many points– will I ever get over it? I think that grief is a part of what the “it” that we seek to move beyond, to have some separation from the feelings and thoughts that are provoked by dealing directly with incest issues. Eventually that tiny sliver of space grows until you have enough distance to see the truth of what happened, that it wasn’t your fault, that it wasn’t even about you, that you aren’t broken (maybe, as Pink says, “bent” a little) or bad, that you have more power than you can possibly imagine to transform yourself and your life from this point on. I’m sure there are other ways in which you will find your grief and related emotions receding from the forefront of your life. You will have those things that you are working towards, with your husband and your children and yourself. There will be healing, and you will have peace, and your past will not so much be tethered to you as it is loosely clustered off to the side. Incest will one day be a page in the book of your life, a page that you don’t need to focus on or avoid, It’ll just be.

      I think that writing about it really helps, in whatever way you can. Writing is one way to start to ratchet open the space between the overwhelming feelings and yourself. And thanks for a lovely written post and the opportunity to reach back to you.

      • says

        Karla, Laura here–waiting at the airport for my flight to Scotland. I loved this line in your response: “Writing is one way to start to ratchet open the space between the overwhelming feelings and yourself.”

        Can I quote you on that? What a great way to teach people how to write about emotions with a little more distance.

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Ilana– You were so direct and powerful and truthful in what you wrote. I know that grief too, and you made my eyes fill with tears, my throat close with pain. From what I understand from others and myself, you won’t get the perfection you deserve, but you can get enough and the constant grief will stop.

    • Polly says

      This was so powerful. I was actually planning to approach my piece (if I can actually get myself to write again before this week is up!) from essentially the same angle. I hope you don’t mind. Obviously there will be differences.

      This piece spoke to me. You have such a way of channelling the pain and the anger. You make everything so real and immediate, as though we, the readers, could reach out and grab it. It’s right there. Does that make sense?

      I have to believe everyone here who insists that it will get better. I have to hold onto that, for my sanity – although it feels very precarious a lot of the time. So I will assure you as everyone else has that things will get better. This too shall pass.

      Thank you again for your lovely words and your inspiring strength.


  12. Mary Latela says

    When I first learned about the seven chakras – Root Chakra -> Sacral Chakra -> Navel Chakra -> Heart Chakra -> Throat Chakra -> Third-Eye Chakra -> Crown Chakra (MindWorks) – I was intrigued by the root chakra. I thought that most of my issues must have come from my family of origin. Over time, I have discovered that the roots go deeper and spread wider than I could have imagined.

    Dealing with clinical depression, I’ve determined that sometimes it’s about grief and sometimes it’s about anger turned inward, sometimes both. Enough theory.

    Some of my recollections of deep-grief include: Sitting in the “hot seat” …. I’ve been an administrator, so you know what that can be like.
    The time my tailbone was broken (on purpose) to make room for my baby son to come out into the world. The spinal deterioration, which acts up more and more frequently.

    However, just as the earth keeps me from tipping over, the roots of my being keep me sitting up, not razor straight, but head up, shoulders back, etc. The roots of my being hold my grief and all my deep-ness. I don’t think of grief as the result of a tug-of-war struggle which I lose, over and over again. It’s not a battle … it is what it is.

    Grief is losing something precious, whether a relationship or an event, a memory, a touch. And grief stays with me … forever, I’m guessing. I like to say that my grief is tucked away in my heart and, once in a while, I take it out and cry about it. You see, you can’t wear grief on your sleeve … or in your facial expressions … all the time. It is also a secret pain. Try to explain to someone else what your migraine feels like or your childbirth experience felt like, and you’ll see that it’s impossible to explain with words such a deep down into the center of the earth experience.

    I sit up and stand up. My feet and the energy which pours in from the bottom of my feet and all the way through the crown keep me balanced. I can have a snippet of wonderful peace and joy; I can touch a flower petal; I can taste a juicy mango; I can feel like a woman in her later years ….

    On balance, there is grief which is intense and deep and exquisitely sharp. There are the other feelings – losses and wins – which are similarly breath-taking. The trick is to pay attention and “hold it together” little by little, day after day.

      • MaryL says

        Laura, it’s not my first post to the blog … I accidentally included my last name in the blurb …but thank you … this is a wonderful forum and I get hungry for it each week! MaryL

    • Hazel says

      “The trick is to pay attention and “hold it together” little by little, day after day.” How true! You have given us many good lines throughout this piece but I like that last one best because that is the way it is whether we want to admit it or not. Life is a trick; so then is grief.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      MaryL, I love this piece and was hooked immediately with your explanation of the seven chakras (my copy of Hands of Light is right next to Laura’s Courage to Heal). And, yes, when not in balance, whether physically, emotionally, and spiritually (are they not one piece?) the expression of grief can lumber through the body like cold, moist concrete, making it hard to take the next step. Thank you for your post and I look forward to others.

  13. Sheila McGinley says

    Grief. I do not want to write this. There are so many griefs floating in the shadows that I want to rid myself of all of them. I don’t want to drown in another telling of another sorrow. Perhaps I can dip my toe into a small, wet taste of some without drowning there.


    My mom, who at 92 still tutored algebra and geometry as well as working as a teacher’s aide teaching math to 5th graders, had a superhighway for math in her mind, especially for algebra, which she loved passionately. One day, she suddenly stopped taking tutoring appointments. I asked her why, and she said (very quietly, almost mumbling) that the numbers had begun to move around, swim around in her head and she couldn’t keep them still anymore. I nodded, said OK, we can do other things instead. I fed her dinner, then rode my bike up the street to my house, went in past the gang of 14 year olds ignoring me as they ate popcorn and watched TV in my living room, locked myself in the bathroom and sat on the floor and cried. My mother, her magnificent brain, her huge heart and soul, she who would never die, was leaving me, leaving us all.

    I was 7, and a brand new kitten had joined my life. She had managed to sneak out the door and was running around outside. I couldn’t find her but caught sight of her dashing here and there. When my dad came home, he helped me look and we lifted up an old ping-pong table that was covering two holes dug by my brother and his gang for some adventure. It was so heavy we could hardly hold it, but we peeked in and could see no kitten. We dropped it down and heard a loud screech. We gasped, each of us, and lifted it back up and there was the kitten, squashed on the bump between the two holes. My father led me into the house, to my mother, and he got paper towels and a bag to put the kitten in, told me he had buried her under the tree. I couldn’t cry because I felt too much to blame. I woke up all night with nightmares. The fourth time I woke up screaming, my mom came in and crawled in next to me, her arm around me. She sighed. “You and your father,” she mumbled, “you are both so alike, sensitive hearts, nightmares and pain over your little kitten. I don’t know who is more brokenhearted.” And I felt soothed. Not alone. Not the only one to blame. My father was crying too.

    It took me two years to learn how to balance enough to ride a bike. When I finally could, at age 8, I felt like I was strong, an athlete, flying down the street. I turned a corner and saw three strange kids sitting on the grass, thinking that they would secretly wish they were me. They started laughing at me, shouting out how stupidly I was peddling, that I was too fat to ride. I was shocked, stunned, my face went flat and stiff, filled with all the nothingness I could find in me. This was it: I was not an athlete, not brave, not flying, not beautiful. I was a joke. I went home and straight into bed, turning on my radio to music and lying in the dark, dreaming of becoming something famous someday, shoving away the shame. I could not cry, did not tell and didn’t ride my bike anywhere except in front of my house for another year.

    My boyfriend, who had surprised me by loving me, by wanting me, was unpredictable, an artist, seeming to forget me but then turning his eyes to me as if seeing me for the first time. I was fascinated by him but confused by his stop and start love. Also, he hated my best friend and they spit angry words at each other daily. Until I left for a family wedding. When I returned, they had slept together and were madly in love. Invited me to be their friend, but one night of watching them look at each other with desire, touching under the table and I knew I was cast out into the desert. I walked away from them into emptiness. I could do nothing but wander, thirsty and alone having lost two loves. Perhaps because I couldn’t make myself pay bills, I lost my place to live and could not manage to make myself care about myself enough to get a new one. My (ex) boyfriend, who was going off on a month’s art course, gave me his key. I slept in his house, on the floor mattress in his spare room. I slept 18 hours a day and when I got up, I walked from room to room, touched his toaster, his art work on the walls, his favorite mug and the bill holder on his kitchen table, made out of clay and wire. I looked at all of his books and slept wrapped tightly in his clothes. I didn’t cry, not once, but I was not alive. I rarely ate and tried to never leave the house. Then, just one day before he was due back, like magic I woke up one morning, took a shower and washed my clothes, knowing it was over. Then I leaned for a long time against the wall to his bedroom. I kissed the wall goodbye, left the keys behind and walked out the door. Fifteen pounds lighter, dressed in saggy clothes and dragging everything I owned into my car, I drove the streets until I saw a room for rent sign. I signed the lease and went out to the best restaurant I could find. I felt numb, like the only survivor of an accident. I had sat shiva for myself, only to find that a part of me was still alive. Two weeks later, I stood in front of a classroom of 5th graders and was surprised to find myself laughing. They adored me, thought I was the smartest person they had ever known. And I let them think so, knowing that there was no way that they could understand how many times I had died.

    My therapist abandoned me. She was the first person ever to listen to me so quietly that I began to listen to myself. She tolerated the little child I became when I had to to meet the abandoned one buried inside of me. She listened, and I began to talk. Without my realizing it, she became my mother, my father, my nurse and the doctor who hated me, my whole body that was broken so young, my boyfriend who did not love me enough, the woman who taught me desire. I fought with her and confessed to her and loved her and needed her. Then she was gone, because of her own heartbreak and her own need, she left me and took with her everyone else that I had ever had in my life, ever hated and loved in equal measure. I couldn’t eat, sat in the dark, pretended to work and could not sleep. At midnight I would lace up my walking shoes and leave the house to walk the scary New York streets, walking for hours in places that were quiet, empty, filled only with scary and dangerous people hanging in doorways, not caring if I died. I became convinced that all that they saw when I walked past was a slice of fog or an empty skeleton, skin hanging from my bones. That they did not touch me because there was nothing but poison left to touch. When I started to stumble from exhaustion, I went home to sleep for a few hours. I was lost to myself, and I dimly remember my friends coming to feed me, to hold me together until I could re-enter my own soul, my own body, again. I was walking, it seemed, over the graves of everyone I loved. I found a therapist, finally, who did not demand that I stay for a whole session, who never encouraged me to talk about anything beyond getting a haircut, how to make chicken soup the Jewish way. Somehow, in the middle of her description of the best bakery for buying bread, I came to understand that there was nothing new about this holocaust that had blown up my world. I came to see that the loss that had demolished me was just an echo of the loss I had suffered so long ago. I said to the therapist one day that I was going to survive, once again. But I made a bargain as the price of staying in therapy and working to be alive again: I would not talk about the past anymore. I would talk about bread and soup and how to plant vegetables in a garden. I would remember how to be a therapist myself again and find my way back to the job I loved. I would think about living in everything I did. I would not go back. But I could go forward.

    I fought with my sister for two years while my mother was dying. A year later, we slowly, hesitantly made friends again, realizing we had missed each other and needed each other now that mom was gone. Six months later, she was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. Two days after that, she could no longer talk or move. I watched her lie in her hospital bed at home, watching her beloved children and grandchildren talk and play just out of her reach. She tried to find words with me, desperate to tell me things. She was not comforted; she was afraid and angry and sad. I could do nothing to help her. And then,quickly, she was gone. And I wondered why we had spent even two minutes fighting. It made no sense to me. Now I was supposed to be the last mother, the last crone, the last woman at the top in my family. There would be no one to sit and have tea with, no one to sort through the pile of puzzles that seemed to make up the life of a mother. No one now who knew me since forever.

    I sit now next to my dog whose kidneys are failing, who cannot hear and barely sees and will not be here much longer. I reach for her instinctively every time my daughter bounces through the room on her way out into her own life. I stand up slowly to walk her, trying to balance myself on the legs that threaten to quit on me. And I know this grief thing. And I am thankful that it is quieter now, expected, that it is not coming like a surprise tornado in the night. I am thankful that this time I know that I will survive.


    • Karla says


      Thanks for “dipping in” to grief and sharing it here. I thought your writing flowed smoothly and elegantly through your story of grief. I think often about how to write what may be tough for the reader to hear, and I learned about this from reading. Karla

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Thanks, Karla. I think about that too. And for so long, I didn’t write because of my fear that the words would turn people away. Now I am writing, and it feels like a miracle, but still I think about that. Thank you for your specific, wonderful words to me.

    • says

      Sheila, I just read your post while in the security line at Heathrow Airport in London, waiting for my connecting flight to Scotland. I am groggy and jetlagged and am completely stunned by the beauty and power of this piece. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      Shelia, you write with beauty and power as you lift the layers of deeply felt grief. Each line a jewel, especially this one ‘abandoned one buried inside of me.’ This piece made me ache and made me smile. You wrote of your grief as Maiden, Mother and Crone and ended with uplifting knowledge of survival. Nicely done. Thank you.

  14. Hazel says

    Simply told and wholly understood. Your statement: ” I know this grief thing. And I am thankful that it is quieter now, expected, that it is not coming like a surprise tornado in the night. I am thankful that this time I know that I will survive.” resonates with me as well. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Shannon says

    “Please, God, Not My Baby Girl…”

    My chest heaves.
    My stomach wrenches.
    I cannot get air into my lungs.
    My stomach is going to explode through my mouth.
    I can’t breathe- I can’t breathe!!!
    “God, please help me! Please take this pain away! Please help me! This cannot be- it just cannot be!!!”
    More heaving.
    More wrenching.
    The wailing begins.
    The room starts to spin.
    Black spots begin to fill my field of vision.
    I fall to the floor.
    I leave this plane.
    I drift far from this pain…

    I feel free.
    I become an eagle.
    I spread my wings to fly.
    I soar high above this world.
    I look down to see the splendor.
    The marvelous wonder of the planet that, I somehow know, is called Earth.
    I am awe struck.
    There are no words.
    Only bliss…

    Suddenly, I am awake.
    I am surrounded by people.
    I’m not sure who they are, or why they are all around me.
    “Who are you? What are you doing?”
    “Shannon, your at work. You passed out.”
    “Oh FUCK- Oh FUCK!!!”
    The pain rushes back in.
    It starts to crush my heart.
    The wailing returns with a fury.
    “No- No!!! She can’t be gone!!!”
    “Oh my gosh, Shannon, is it your daughter?”
    “No, not Kaya,” I manage through the sobs.
    “She’s my first baby girl. My dog, Cali. My sheltie.”
    I visibly see the color rush back into their faces, through my streaming tears.
    They are relieved that Kaya is alive, but they still radiate love and concern.
    I can especially feel love from those of my co-workers who know the ginormous well of uncontional love that flows from our four legged best friends.
    I try to get up, but my arms give way.
    They support me and help me to my feet.
    I feel the vibration of their love flowing into me as I continue to ball.
    This energy begins to penetrate my heart.
    I block it.
    I realize that I DO want to feel this pain…

    • Sheila McGinley says

      Yes, you do, did. I had to stop reading this and go over and put my head on my dog’s chest, listen to her heart. Thank you for unabashed love for your dog.

    • Hazel says

      Been there done that when my beloved Yorkie, Radar died at 16 years. My constant companion and confidante. Unconditional lover and joy of my being. I was not able to state what that felt like but can so definitely identify with what you have so boldly posted here.

      Thank you for verbalizing the non-verbalizable.

    • Judy says

      Shannan, Wow, what powerful emotions expressed in this piece. I was there with you every step. To this day, from the corner of my eye, I swear I see my cats scurry around the corner into the kitchen next to my office. They used to crawl up on my lap as I wrote, insisting they were more important than the writing piece in progress. What a beautiful tribute to Cali and thank you for this post.

  16. Tony del Zompo says

    I never understood grief, nor did I ever embrace it as a necessary consequence to this thing called life. I had read about grief. Robert Bly called it the doorway to real feeling. In The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck described neurosis as a substitute for legitimate human suffering. Grief is painful, to be sure. Yet all of my suffering arose as a result of a desperate and futile attempt to avoid it.

    Boys don’t cry. Neither do men. We hide our pain and our fear behind an angry, twisted mask. We’d rather fight and die then be ridiculed for cowardice. And, for years, I believe that to cry was to be a coward.

    I had much to grieve. My father’s alcoholism. My parents’ divorce. The feelings of abandonment. My failed marriage and decent into alcoholism and madness.

    When I sobered up, the temptation to “be grateful” and to “practice these principles in all my affairs” was so seductive that I didn’t get on with the business of grieving until I was left with little choice. After yet another relationship failed because of my anger, I met a man who told me that to the extent to which I was angry, I possessed grief and sadness. I thought a moment before I replied, and said, “I must be really fucking sad, then.” It turns out I was.

    I was willing to crack. I joined a group of men who had chosen to step into their grief, but not remain mired in a messy bog. I began to cry. At first, my eyes watered, just a little at a time. And then, I broke.

    It had been years since I had experienced a full body sob, the kind of cry that rips you from the inside out, that chokes and convulses you, that leaves you exhausted for days. For a time, I thought I might lose my mind. I had been crazy before, and I was terrified that it might happen again. This time, however, I had my mentor. And I had my support.

    Crying in the company of men is shameful for most, but our counselor created a safe environment to go deep into the pain. My marriage was over. I abandoned my daughter behind my addiction. I had destroyed my career. And I was ashamed. To my ultimate joy, however, I realized that grief is the sword that cleaves shame in two.

    No one seeks vulnerability. I believe it is thrust upon us. And, when we discover the truth, that grief and vulnerability are the doorway to a new existence, the path widens.

    For years, I believed the lie, that to cry is to be a “pussy.” Or a “woman.” Or a “sissy.” Last January I experienced a cry so deep and profound, a sob so penetrating, that the scar tissue from my splenectomy literally tore. Grief had cut so deeply that I fell out of my chair and lay on the ground. And I did it alone. There was no one there to hug me, dry my tears, and tell me I would be okay.

    When the convulsions stopped, after the snot had choked me and the bitter tears had blinded my vision, I walked to the bathroom to wash my face. My eyes were bloodshot and swollen. And as I stood there panting, a new truth revealed itself, namely, that it takes courage to embrace a pain so deep, to debride necrotic emotional wounds, and, ultimately, to heal. For days, my heart was suspended in my chest, floating freely. Wide open. And I have chosen to remain open hearted.

    Grief is not for the faint of heart. We are a culture that neither supports nor acknowledges grief. We’d rather sleep walk than feel. For my part, I’d rather awaken and feel. Everything.

    • Karla says

      Tony, I think that there is a lot of positive power behind this piece. It reads like you have really lived what’s here. I think your last paragraph was perfectly constructed in your choice of words, elegant sentences, profoundly crafted. Thank you for letting the reader into something so difficult to acknowledge. And if this is your first time here, I hope to see more of what you write.

    • says

      Tony, this is a gorgeous piece full of hard-won wisdom. It deserves wide reading.

      I especially loved this: “When I sobered up, the temptation to “be grateful” and to “practice these principles in all my affairs” was so seductive that I didn’t get on with the business of grieving until I was left with little choice. After yet another relationship failed because of my anger, I met a man who told me that to the extent to which I was angry, I possessed grief and sadness. I thought a moment before I replied, and said, “I must be really fucking sad, then.” It turns out I was.”

      And this: ” To my ultimate joy, however, I realized that grief is the sword that cleaves shame in two. No one seeks vulnerability. I believe it is thrust upon us. And, when we discover the truth, that grief and vulnerability are the doorway to a new existence, the path widens.”

      Stunning, Tony. Just stunning.

    • Hazel says

      How brave you are, Tony, to “let it all hang out” on a site used mostly by women. To show us what it is like from the other side when you as a man let go and allow your feelings to show. I wish more men could read this. Your statement, “grief is the sword that cleaves shame in two” is profound. Your closing paragraph is so true of our society but I like you ” For my part, I’d rather awaken and feel. Everything.”

      Thank you for sharing!

    • Judy says

      Tony, to echo others here, yes, this is stunning writing. Much wisdom and insight in your words. I always enjoy reading your posts here and wish you continued success.

  17. Polly says

    I’m grieving the happiness I once knew. False in part though it may have been, I was essentially happy for much of my adult life. I even thought (despite the fact that I spent a few years of my adolescence bulimic, suicidal, and inflicting a lot of self harm) that I had lived a happy childhood. Maybe sections of it were happy, but overall, I thought wrong.

    My oldest brother sexually abused me for years. I was so good at disassociating and blocking it all out that I was not remotely aware of that until almost a year ago. Our brains are amazing at protecting us in that way. Most of the memories I have are still vague, but my body is so completely aware. My memories are stored in my flesh and bones.

    Now I drown. It feels as though I am being pulled down far beneath the surface of a river, heavy rocks tied to my ankles. I struggle and clamber to pull myself up but it’s no use. Everyone else is walking across a bridge high above. I can see them. For them, the sun shines and the birds sing. The traffic whizzes past and people speed on little motorboats. All I can hear is the roar of the undertow. The only sensation is suffocation. That is my life this year. Tonight, anyway, and so many nights lately.

    It’s not always so dramatic. For my wife and my family and friends, I will act and even feel happy for moments, in their presence. I come home to my dogs, speak to them in a language we share (having to do largely with treats and parks), snuggle them and feel their soft fur and adorable breath. For them, I act as though life couldn’t be better. But at night when I am up and alone in the world, those are the moments when I allow myself to feel the drowning.

    I miss feeling as though I had a lick of control in the world. I miss feeling as though I mastered my thoughts and not the other way around. I grieve my sanity and my wellness. Right now it’s in the abstract. I continue to look after myself as well as I can. I get up and go to work each day. I make plans with friends every weekend. The self-destructive thoughts are just thoughts. I stay a few steps ahead of them and they remain that way.

    And yet …

    To a certain extent, it was easier earlier this summer when I constantly fought the anger. Now that I’ve dealt with some of the anger (not that it’s gone mind you), my greater challenge is the emotions underneath. Now I contend with an unbelievably deep sadness as well as feeling terrified for no particular reason. It’s always right below the surface.

    I grieve a time when the lies in my family were enough for me. When I believed them. I believed that my 20-year-old brother telling 6-year-old me that my vagina was a dirty thing, and then coaxing me into the shower with him, was innocent – never mind the fact that once I saw him naked in front of me my consciousness disappeared. Everything spiraled and went black. That was normal, right? No.

    Once, after having been alone with him, I was in such excruciating pain that I had to spend a few weeks in bed. The burning pain in my stomach wouldn’t let up, but my parents did not think it necessary to take me to a doctor. I got a soft stuffed toy out of the deal.

    Later on I started having bladder infections – (I think; they were diagnosed by my babysitter) – and that was not much cause for concern either. Also not cause for concern were my constant need to apologize, to save everyone, to feel that I was inherently wrong, to hurt myself, to blink and twitch, to never sleep, to cry and confess each time I made the smallest misstep, which I perceived to be the end of the world …

    One of my sisters who has always had severe emotional/mental health issues (guess why) was sent to a therapist at the age of 12 or 13. At some point she went under hypnosis, and it came out that she had been molested, although she was not sure by whom. Her therapist called my parents in to tell them. Their reaction was to pull her out of therapy, and to tell her and the rest of us that it wasn’t true. I loved my parents, so I told myself that it wasn’t true. I’m still close to my mom and I haven’t been able to process that fact or make it make sense. I think she truly did not want to see it. She managed to stay convinced that it wasn’t real. For various reasons, I believe that my dad knew. That is a conversation I still need to have with him, and maybe with both of them.

    I’m grieving the happiness I once knew. The blind faith. The optimistic attitude. The confidence. The ability to strive for more. The now-wavering ability to keep up appearances. The fight. The drive. Me.

  18. Emily says

    This poem came out of a walk in an orchard. As I wandered through the beautiful ripe fruit, I saw a pair of small red apples that grew together on one stem. One was glowing golden and red, the other beginning to shrivel. Looking more closely I saw the second apple had a large gash on the hidden side where a bird had swooped in taken one bite and flown on to other fruit. Sadly, it made me think of cancer when it rears its ugly head in a relationship.

    Like fruit of one stem
    Rosy and smooth, full of life’s juice
    We grow lush and heavy together
    Feasting on the sun and the mist
    Until the day a greedy beak randomly chooses
    Piercing one bright rosy skin
    Leaving the other whole and full
    Unaware of the scar that brings my slow decline
    Still joined like fruit of one stem
    You gorge yourself on life…while I slowly rot on the tree.

    • says

      Emily, welcome to the Roadmap blog and thanks for sharing this poem about cancer. Just want you to know that the community has moved on to the next post already–so you may not get as many responses to this as you will when you post to the current prompt. Hope to see you again!

  19. Bobbie Anne says

    Yes, there is a mother’s grief about the loss of my unborn baby. It gnaws deep within my womb. It is constant sorrow. It is a grief that knows no bounds. My baby who left way too soon is gone. What good is the grief? I need to let my grief cease and let the healing begin. And I am healing. And my soul is being cleansed. And I have helped to ease the pain with my writing and my poetry.

  20. Mary Carlson says

    I am wading through quicksand. Grief has not fully swallowed me whole, but is sucking me downward daily. My mother is dead. My family does not speak to me. My father calls, and I blame him for being alive.

    Some people are refined by grief and made more beautiful. I am not beautiful. I can’t sleep because I’m so angry and wounded and wracked. I’m wracked, as if my arms and legs are tied to wheels, giant gears spinning slowly outward. Soon I will be just a torso. Then a mind. Then just guilt and grief.

    My mother died six months ago. My sister did not call to tell me her death was imminent. I knew it was close and had made plans to arrive on a Wednesday. But she died before I got there.

    When I arrived at the home of my father–no longer my house, and never had been–I learned from his caretaker, Soana, that she had known that my mother was close to death. She and my father had visited my mother in the care facility a few days earlier.

    “I called your sister that night,” Soana said. “I told her to come right away.”

    I was stunned. “My sister knew?” I said. “Why didn’t she call me?”

    No one had an answer. So I created one, the only one that made sense. I was being punished. I didn’t deserve to be with my mother as she died, because I was the bad sister, the wretched daughter who never visited, the one who got pregnant and embarrassed my aging parents when I was 44 and they were eighty-something, the one who ran away from home at 17 and never apologized, the one who helped my mother sleep in her own bed.

    My worst offense was during The Night of Terrors two years ago, when I walked my mother upstairs to her bed. My parents were both still living at home. My mother was ailing due to dementia. My father could scarcely walk, so they both had live-in help. I made the five hour drive to visit.

    When I arrived they were sitting on the couch in the family room. My mother was agitated. “God dammit, Harold, you never let me do anything! I want to sleep in my own bed!”

    My father was restraining her with one hand and with his immense authority. “You know you have to sleep downstairs with Faauu” he said with a stearn weariness. But my mother continued to protest.

    “God dammit! I want to sleep in my own bed!”

    And I thought, yes! My mother was fighting back! Finally! After a lifetime of serving him, obeying him, deflecting his disdainful comments about her intelligence, my mother was fighting back! Thank God the dementia has removed her filter!

    “God dammit! I am sleeping in my own bed!” My mother was swearing like a sailor, for the first time in her life! I thought, You are my hero!

    So when she turned to me and looked as if I were the last life jacket in the ocean, saying, “Help me”…I did.

    And The Night of Terror began. I pulled my mother up from the couch with two hands. She was steady. Steadier than my father. This is a piece of cake, I thought. He can’t hit me like he used to. I can outrun him. Hell, I can outwalk him.

    We slowly turned and moved toward the living room stairs. I was dancing with my mom, holding both of her hands, walking backwards, then tucking her arm over mine as we inched upwards on the stairs.

    Harold was hot on our heels. Venom and lies were spewing from his mouth. “Don’t you go upstairs! They’ll fire the caretaker if you go upstairs! Medicare will investigate!” He would have grabbed us if he could, but his cane and his bad feet and terrible back and swollen legs prevented him. The best he could do was lie.

    “They’ll fire Faauu! Don’t you dare go upstairs!”

    My mother was on a mission, and I was determined to be her ally, her savior. For once.

    She spent the night in her own bed for the first time in months. Harold slept beside her. I slept on the floor, on my mother’s side of the bed. She woke up in the night and stepped on my face and tinkled a little. I helped her to the bathroom and then back into her own bed.

    The next day at breakfast, I asked her how she had slept. “Wonderful!” she smiled, no mention of the ordeal the night before. I turned to my father. “How did you sleep?” I asked. “Not well,” he grumbled. Too bad, I thought. You might have allowed yourself to enjoy this.

    Later that day my sister called. My father had turned me in. My sister, who is younger and trusted and has Power of Attorney over health and financial matters, rebuked me. I ignored her. But she got back at me. She didn’t call the night my mother was dying.

    So now I am grieving and plagued by unending guilt. I did the right thing when I walked my mother upstairs to her bed. Shortly after that night, my father wrote to say that the home visitation nurse told him that my mother’s movements about the house could be unrestrained, as long as she felt strong and healthy. Which she did. She was now regularly sleeping in her own bed, next to my father, the tyrant who loved her.

    I did the right thing fifteen years ago when I announced to my parents that I was expecting my first child and that my baby’s father was a good man, and why do you assume that he must be married to someone else just because we do not plan to get married?

    It was useless to explain that I did not sleep with married men, and that I had plenty of money to raise this child. I had shamed them. But I did not let their shame become mine. I could laugh at the comedy of it–I am a middle-aged, single, pregnant woman with a good job and a mortgage. Be happy for me! People don’t care!

    But they cared, and were ashamed and could not speak to me until a month before the baby was due. Much like when I was younger and ran away from home at 17. Except in that case, so many years ago, they never did speak about my running away. I came back three months later, but it was the first Great Shame of the Family.

    My mother is dead. I am grieving. I feel so much guilt over not having spent more time with her. But it meant seeing her in The House of the Dead, where my crippled father ruled. Seeing her meant doing battle with him. I needed to save my life, for me, for my child. I understand sacrifice and duty. I do not understand swallowing your own children to keep yourself alive.

    I have been suffocated by grief and guilt. If I could challenge my father to a duel, I would, but he doesn’t have many weapons left. He can’t threaten me anymore; the most important person in my life has died and he can’t threaten to withhold her from me.

    It’s gotten ugly. Now he’s resorted to love, or something like it. “Come visit”, he says, forgetting the Night of Terror. I come.

    • says

      Mary, welcome to the Roadmap blog and thank you for this gripping, honest powerful piece. I was caught up in it and the intense emotions ringing through it all the way from the first line to the last. I was struck at the end when you said your father has to weapons left–only the ones you’ve internalized inside yourself.
      Sending you compassion in this time of grief and rage on so many levels.

      On another note, I just want you to know that once the writing community here moves on to the next prompt, you probably won’t get many responses or people coming back to read this. But I hope you keep coming back–and take part with the weekly prompts that are happening (new each Tuesday)–that’s where the action on the blog is really happening.

      • Mary Carlson says

        Thank you Laura for your kind remarks! Not every prompt rings my bell. This one did. I appreciate your compassion. Nice to be part of this community.

  21. Sangeeta S. says

    My grief is something that I am only now beginning to acknowledge. After the grief workshop I attended this weekend, I finally feel free to grieve. I can cry, wear black, and look like I got hit by a train even though I did not. I still try to cover it up a lot though, to be perfectly honest. Smiley old wonderful me doesn’t want people to know of my grief, but I digress.

    My grief is something that haunts me. My grief is something that is unusual to me since nobody close to me technically died. My grief is deep and unwavering…

    And, boy do I have a lot to grieve! In the workshop this weekend, the radiant faciliatator even told us we can grieve something in the future. She said that many emotions are a reflection of unexpressed grief and that the spiritual and emotional drought in this world may in large part be attributed to people not being able to properly express and release their grief.

    Boy, what a claim–and yet, perhaps true?

    Well, here’s to grief: the floodgates have opened and I am already starting to feel more free.

    • says

      Sangeeta, congratulations on opening those floodgates. It’s not easy and it’s scary, but also a relief to let it out and let it come in its waves. There are so many kinds of grief and they get compounded with the next grief. Glad you’re starting to take care of your backlog.

  22. Deb Mansell says

    My grief is a ball of “stuff” lodged in my chest, between my breasts. It’s a ball of mucus, bile and muck. If you imagine the cloud of dust (used by cartoonist to show a fight) with pointy sharps coming from it, that’s my grief.

    Sometimes it sits cold in my chest weighing heavy labouring my breathing and at other times it heats up softening allowing movement and even parts of it melting away. There are threads running through it knotted and tangled that can’t be pulled out. They need to be worked out, untangling as you go. This can hurt as you can’t see what you’re pulling on.

    My grief is wider ths. The dessert, deeper than the oceans, taller than the highest mountains. It is the grief for the mother who rejected me as a new born and does still, for the father that abused me then died before it could be made right. For the lost childhood of my uncle abusing me. And for all the pain of self harm and self hated I have given myself!

    My grief pours over into the here and now as I care for my lovely husband who has MS. Knowing that every moment we have is so special yet I am locked in this battle with my past and hating myself for it.

    • says

      Hi Deb, you created a visceral portrait of your grief. It was very vivid–you portrayed it powerfully. Thank you.

      I think you probably realize it–but most people don’t go back to old posts–they write on the current one and are focused there. So this won’t get much visibility or response–but that’s because of where it’s placed–on an older post–rather than anything about what you’ve written here. I’m so glad I got to read it.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Hi Laura thanks for your feedback. I wasn’t sure where to post this, it’s where I am but not where your prompts are.

        • says

          Yes, I understand. You can post on any previous one you want–but you won’t get the community experience–the community will have moved on. Still, the old prompts leave a powerful trail. And there are occasional visitors who go back and do what you’ve done here.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Hi Deb,
      It has taken a few days since reading this post to know how to respond. I have experienced grief but nothing like the grief that you express here.

      I believe my second husband had a very similar experience, having grown up in a troubled and confusing childhood experiencing rejection and sexual abuse from people he should have been able to trust. In our twelve years together before he died I believe he was able to find healing in our relationship. It took time but he came to REALLY know he would not be abandoned.

      I hope that the loving relationship you are in will provide the space for you to heal.

  23. Autumn says

    For the first year after she died I did not listen to anything by Enya. But my son, Justin, still listens to her Shepherd Moons CD every single night when he is falling asleep and never stopped. It is scratched in several places and skips all the time but he doesn’t seem to mind. I always tell myself I will get him a new copy but then I forget.

    After tucking him in and pressing play, I used to cover my ears and hurry to my room and close my bedroom door as fast as I could, before the sounds could get me. I turned the volume up on my computer so I couldn’t hear the music coming through the walls. Every note screamed my mother and sent a searing hot pain through my whole body. It felt like I would die from the torture sounds. The beautiful, sweet, tender torture sounds.

    That music didn’t remind me of her, it WAS her, it was my mom slicing those speakers open to haunt me. Everything inside me burned and stung and my eyes and my heart and my brain and my ears flooded with the wanting. The aching for HER to just please come back. The unbearable desperation to see her, to hear her laugh, to touch her hand for just one fucking second. God, Universe, Lord Jesus, Divine, anyone—if you are out there—just please bring her back. I swear to God I will become a believer if you JUST BRING HER BACK.

    I remember wondering if the pain might actually kill me. I was pretty sure that it couldn’t, but my body wasn’t convinced. I was burning alive and no one could see it. All they could see was that I was brushing my teeth and taking out my contact lenses and feeding the dog. And that I sometimes turned the sound up on my computer too high. But I couldn’t turn it down, or that music from my son’s room would come get me and then I’d be dead too.

    Tonight, I was at the kitchen table typing when I heard the most terrifyingly beautiful Enya song ever written whispering through Justin’s speakers. He had turned it on himself, a little earlier than usual. I didn’t have any time to get away.

    She got me.

    I sat with the heavy dark deep suffering that pulsed through my body, beating against my skin from the inside. I sat with the flood of wanting as it raced through me. I saw my mom’s curly black hair and short pink fingernails and I heard her laugh and watched her rock back and forth. She always laughed with her whole body. I noticed the way she held on to the edge of the counter to steady herself, so drunk on the funny. It was probably something I said. She always laughed and laughed at my jokes–even the bad ones. I closed my eyes and felt my nose in her neck, heard the soft jingling of her dangly star earrings and breathed her in – lipstick and Virginia Slims and Nivea body lotion.

    I felt the growling hungry pleading cry of I WANT MY MOM! churning in my belly. It erupted and a swirling hot dizziness filled me up. Like lava, the desperation torched everything in its path, turning my insides to ash. I wanted to throw up or scream out loud, or tear at the walls. I heard blaring guttural screams of No! No! No! clawing their way through my skull. I was trapped. Trapped in this body, in this life, in this world where no matter what anyone ever said or did, she was never ever ever coming back.

    But still, I just sat there. Trusting that I wasn’t burning alive. That maybe I could feel this, all of it, and still get up to do the dishes and lock the doors and whisper good night to the dog. I could sit and miss her and want her and burn.

    So I sat. Still.

    Eventually, the song ended and I opened my red wet eyes. There I was, breathless and exhausted, but still sitting in the same spot. Heartbroken and shattered, but still alive.

    And sometimes that is enough–to just be here, still.

    • says

      Autumn, Welcome to the Roadmap Blog. I was so happy to see your post here this morning. Your piece is a powerful elegy to grief. You nailed it vividly–as you always do.

      The only problem is that people tend to read and post on the current week’s post only–so not many people will see this post. But I’m so glad I did!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Autumn, I was doing something else right now and Roadmap was in my address bar. I landed here and am glad I did. This is like beautiful verse, the language of grief. I love your descriptions of burning up while all an observer sees is you brush your teeth, say goodnight to the dog, turn on your son’s nighttime soothing music. Great job.

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