No Explanation for Grief

left human hand photo
Photo by Jonas Ferlin on

Last night, I tried to describe my grief to my sister. I don’t think I was very successful. Of course, she was kind and sympathetic – she has been since this all began – but I believed I failed her. Probably because I don’t know if I can put grief into words. Ironic that’s my profession – to put things into word.

Our conversation was going pretty well until I lost it. I started to cry mid-sentence. It was a “I miss him so much” cry, one I have about three to four times a day, on a good day. It comes out of nowhere, dive-bombing me like a fighter plane in the night, taking me by surprise with its bullets of sadness. They rain down on me for no apparent reason, other than, well I miss him…a lot…so much…all the time.

A memory, a turn of a phrase, a picture, a laugh, a sneeze, does not have to be the reason to trip up my emotions, my grief. It just comes. Take yesterday night for instance. I’m talking to my sister about my hair getting trim and my new book coming out, and as I am speaking, my voice cracks a “God, I miss him”, and I broke down. Then, when I am good again, well as good as I get lately, I assure her this happens to me often. I’m not so certain it was comforting for her to know I lose it out of nowhere, but I didn’t want her to think she provoked anything out of me. I don’t know why. She’s my older sister and yet I wanted to protect her. I wanted to protect her from my grief.

I described my relationship with grief, as it is now, to someone yesterday.  I said I see myself and my grief as a painting. I am reaching upward, just my hand, toward a better life, a lighter one.  As I extend my hand to its limits, a pit of dark grief holds me down, trying to swallow up the rest of me. Not sure what I am reaching toward, but I know it’s an emergence toward something, perhaps a new something, a different something. Even with the weight of grief on me, and with my arm aching from the extension, every decision I make, every good moment I have, more of me surfaces.

Sometimes, the grief is quicksand and brings me back down until I move to get back up again. Sometimes, the grief pulls at me in an attempt to bring back the familiar, only my familiar was with Peter and that’s gone. Sometimes, the grief makes itself obvious with memories and what-once-was’s. Sometimes, the grief jumps out at me like a jack-in-a-box that’s been cranked too long, or not cranked at all. Most of the time, grief struggles with me, battling with me for control of my life. I can’t let it control me, but I do have to welcome it as part of me now because it’ll be in my life forever.

Forever is the suckiest part of all of this. I will never be able to completely heal from Peter. I will forever have a tear in my heart from the loss of him in my life. Sure, in time, it’ll get smaller, maybe even scar over, yet I know, because I know me and my feelings of him, it will get ripped open again, unexpectedly or with a memory of him, of us. I know I will learn to live with feeling the missing part of me named Peter forever. It sucks, so bad, that I have to, but here I am and here it is.

I know I will become whole again, in whatever form. I also know my heart will have an empty place because of his absence, forever. And I know I will talk about him, talk to him, share stories of him, move on with him in my thoughts, and, in varying degrees, ache for him, forever. He was, and will always be mine, forever, and the forever absence of him,  the achy, exhausting, fickle, longing absence of him, is probably the best definition I can give of my grief. Only I’m not sure if I can completely explain it. That would take forever.