This is What Grief Looks Like

by Marcia Miller

It’s 10:30 in the morning. Standing in my kitchen getting something for breakfast, I notice the bottle of alcohol in the fridge. A thought passes through my mind— “I could have a drink this morning and take the edge off.” The thought took me aback. It was loud and clear and not a thought I have ever had before in the middle of the day. It’s been a rough few months, longer really. My father died last year in April and a few days after the anniversary of his death my dear friend Martha died. A few weeks after that another friend died, and we had just buried him a few days ago. As is often common with grief, all the other deaths in my life were jostling in my heart for attention as well. I’ve been coughing for 3 weeks and counting. I even tripped and fell on the sidewalk the other day and cut my hand and bruised my arm. It felt like a lot—feels like a lot to integrate. A few times I have heard myself asking the universe to stop the death—just for now. Then the question of how long it should stop arises, and what about war in Syria and all the death that is not stopping in other places just because people want it to stop. The truth is death will not stop, the universe has its rules of life and death and just because I am feeling overwhelmed some days doesn’t change that. Sigh. I know this. My real yearning is to be with it, everything just as it is, to show up with soft, open eyes and a spacious heart, and that seems like a tall order many days. I’m grateful for that day in the kitchen considering a drink because the shock of noticing that thought helped me to clarify what I do want. I want to be present to myself and all my feelings. I want to be present to life as it is in all its pain and beauty, and there is plenty of that too. I want to be ALIVE. As my husband once said, “I want to be fully alive, even if it kills me.”

shutterstock_387732847I stood at the counter, amazed that I was considering taking a drink in the middle of the day, something I don’t think I have ever considered before. I was grateful for the clarity it brought me to be able to notice the amount of pain and overwhelm I was feeling. I felt my feet on the floor and my hands on the counter. I considered whether I really wanted to deaden myself inside or find some other way to be with all that was present. I felt my feet some more. Then it was clear that while I wanted some respite from all I was feeling, or at least a different way to be with it, I didn’t want to deaden myself. I thought of all the students I have had over the years who have been addicted to something because of the pain of their lives. Many of them have deep pain without any tools to deal with it, without community to help support them, without even the personal sense that they matter at all. I went outside and pulled ridiculously tall weeds out of one of my garden beds. I felt the air and sweat on my skin. I could feel my aliveness and that was enough for that moment.