Sunrise over Nukoli'i Beach
Sunrise over Nukoli’i Beach, Kaua’i, Hawai’i (Miranda Hernandez)

I’m taking this course in writing about my grief, but I’m not going to write about grief alone.

I think I used to think that grief was A Thing. A distinct event, finite; a period in someone’s life when they were sad.

Prior to this past year, I’ve lost so few people, experienced so very little death. I never realized grief could become this all-encompassing extra layer. I never imagined the kind of loss that would make me struggle to want to take breath.

Grief is not finite. Grief is not singular. Grief is not A Thing. Grief is a new layer.

Grief is learning to hate the question, “How are you?” Grief is examining every interaction for meaning and depth. Grief is constantly editing yourself, deciding how much to reveal of the yawning darkness, and how much to pretend that everything is okay. Grief is running away from social conventions.

Grief is waking up in the morning and deciding to never get out of bed. Grief is starving yourself to lose weight so strangers stop asking when your baby is due. Grief is losing yourself in workplace minutia so you don’t have to actually think.

Grief is long walks at dusk, hiding in shadows so people can’t see you. Grief is running your fingers over the chains of a swing set at the park and knowing your child will never do this too. Grief is that first moment home from the hospital, with your dog racing around you, and your realization that she will never know her younger brother. Grief is hearing her bark change to a pitiful, whining cry and thinking, “Me too, little lady. Me too.”

Grief is uncomfortable second guessing. “Why didn’t I know something was wrong?”

Grief is constant flashbacks — images of strangers who held your hand, who let you fall apart. Grief is learning in hard moments what people really mean to you. Grief is choosing to live when your heart needs to die.

Grief is driving away from the hospital with nothing but a teddy bear. Grief is the feeling of your sister’s arms when you cry out in the night and forget where you are.

Grief is the knowledge that you would have given your life to save your son, and renewed understanding that no one has ever felt this way about you. Grief is the realization that forgiveness is not a one-time event, but something that happens repeatedly on every new broken day.

Grief is learning that you also need to forgive yourself.

Grief is understanding that everyone is fighting their own battles, and no one has it any easier, or any harder, than you. Grief is learning that life goes on, no matter how much you wish it were possible to stop time. Grief is choosing to live when your heart yearns to die.

Grief is the first time you laugh again, and the intermittent guilt. Grief is discovering the joy that exists between tears. Grief is choosing to live, heart heavy and light.

I used to think that grief was this sad time that followed the death of someone you loved. I never imagined it was really this new layer, this new identity. I never imagined the loss I was grieving would include the loss and rebirth of me.

In this program I am going to write about grief, but I am also going to write about everything else. Because grief is not any one thing. Grief is in all things. Grief is everything.

Grief lives in the fabric of your new life.