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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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Picking Up the Scraps

Death leaves a scar, and once we have experienced grief, it never completely leaves. Grief sits behind us for the rest of our lives.

I realized this in the early months of my grief as I drove away from Judy’s house. She opened up a dark chapter in her past and shared her husband’s death three years before from cancer to help me. Although she was about to remarry and was happy again, her eyes still held sadness.

The hard press of grief’s touch will fade but it will not go away. It will always tie us to the people we’ve loved.
The problem about grief is that we think it’s too personal, too horrible to share, and it leaves us so emotionally distraught that we don’t want anyone to see us in the mess we’re in. We don’t want to bother others because we think that we should be strong enough to find our way through grief on our own. But we don’t recover as quickly without people helping us navigate the blind turns and narrow alleys, and the sad truth is, some of us do not survive.

In my first year, people appeared on my doorstep to spend time with me. I didn’t know why. I didn’t have a bubbly personality, and I still don’t. Back then I also wasn’t very conversational, and I wasn’t good at identifying my emotions, so you can see the problems that my visitors had. Many who came were Evelyn's friends I had met once, and I took it as a testament to their love for Ev that they came to help someone who was dear to her. When they returned a second time, I realized that what I was going through was important for them to understand.
We talked about everything. Well, I talked. They mostly listened because at our age (thirties and forties) we had little experience with grief and didn’t know what to say or do. So I shared what I thought grief was doing, scraping emotions off the wall where I threw them last night. They asked questions and shared their insights. Because of them, I felt the courage to face grief head on, because I knew that they would pull me back if I began to slip over into the deep end.

Sorrow will last for as long as it lasts. There is no timetable.

But there are people with great compassion who will walk with us through our blown-up world and help us pick up the scraps. And with what we have left, we slowly begin to rebuild our lives.


  1. The Great Goddess Inanna (Sumeria 2500 BCE) asked her friend and adviser Ninshubar to make sure the Great One returned from her initiation into the world of death.

    When we visited New York City to go to museums after Vic's death, a friend said, "I feel like I have to keep track of you because you might slip through the cracks in the sidewalk and disappear." She could tell part of me was in the underworld, one foot in the Great Below with Vic. It was a great comfort to have her know that and let me know she was watching out for me. Beautiful post, Mark. Thank you.

    1. Your comment makes me wonder, Elaine, if we ever get both feet back.