Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grief is Everywhere, And Yet ...

Grief is the older woman who lost her husband twenty years ago. It’s the man who lost himself working eighty-hour weeks after his daughter died. It’s the young mother who lost a stillborn child. It’s the boy who grew up with one parent. It’s the death of a beloved pet.

Grief is the tree when its leaves turn yellow and fall off. It’s the river that no longer flows free because it’s been dammed for irrigation. It’s the mountain, with its forest, creeks and meadows, torn apart for the coal underneath. It’s the air filled with pollution that kills the birds, then falls as rain on the earth and kills the plants and fish.

Grief is in the coffee I drink, picked by underpaid workers in Honduras. It’s in the dress shirt I wear, made by children who have no time to play in Bangladesh. It’s in my smart phone assembled in places like China and India now toxic with processing chemicals.
Grief is in my tiredness because I don’t sleep, worried about not getting through tomorrow. It’s in the added pounds because I eat late at night trying to find comfort because she’s gone. It’s in the numbing of my thoughts as I drink too much, feeling that nothing I do will ever matter again.

Grief is in my hugs that are light because I don’t want to hurt you more than life already has.

Grief is at the end of emails that I sign “thinking of you” instead of “love” because I don’t want to get too close and risk another loss. It’s in my eyes as I look away, wishing I could do more than say, “I’m sorry.” It’s in the tired stranger I see on the street who has losses I don’t know about.

And yet …

Grief is when I see you loaded down with packages and I hold the door open. It’s when I get something for you from the top shelf in the store. It’s taking care of your vegetable garden as you endure another round of chemo. It’s helping you find personal items from your home after a tornado has ripped it apart.

It’s not love that impels me to help you; it’s what I’ve learned because of grief. I know how important moments of kindness were when I was feeling alone, abandoned, defeated, depressed.

Grief has unclenched my hands enough to share what I have with you. It has deepened my breath enough to allow me to laugh again with you, even though we both know that suffering will continue. Grief has lightened my feet to dance today simply because music is playing and we need to dance if we are going to have any hope of surviving.

Grief has freed me to care about you. Call it love if you want. I call it grief.


When we’re grieving, food doesn’t taste like much. My essay at the Citron Review.


  1. I am very thankful for your willingness to share, Mark. I really needed to read that today. Helped lift my spirits. Thanks.

  2. Grief is the "black sheep of the family." He shows up at my door, uninvited and drunk, at the most inconvenient times, usually in the middle of the night. Politely, I try to convince him to leave, but next thing I know he's passing by me and plopping himself down on my couch.

    He smells. No, he stinks! The smell of his burps makes me nauseous. By golly! I've just given the living-room a good cleaning and there he is, sweaty, drunk, filthy, on my couch. Ughh. Not him again! He used to live with me twenty-four-seven a few years ago, but eventually I kicked him to the curb. He still shows up now and then, though. He makes me wonder why I have to have a family member like that, why my family can't just be normal.

    As I come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to get rid of him tonight, I try to get in touch with compassionate side. I mean, it must be hard to be Grief... Unwanted, unloved. I nurture him a bit. Talk to him. Where have you been? How are things going? And such. I cook him some food. As he sobers up, he shares a bit of wisdom from his journey. I prepare the guest room for him and he goes to bed. When I check on him in the morning, he's gone.

    1. I like this, Cadi! Grief as a person with moods, behaviors, and wisdom.