on grief that does not know how to be grieved

if one stranger’s red dress is the way home for me, then so be it, this should be enough for today, on a day such as this, why would i need more, why would i want more than what others have been given, my mouth is a field of flowers, i have watered them myself, but also, if i let myself do it i could spend the rest of my life chasing one more degree, one more certificate, one more nod from someone who doesn’t know the fragrance of the rooms inside my hidden world, just so that i might feel that i am enough, for you, for me, and today i have written the word ‘sustained’ all over my wrist and i know this is a true thing, because see—i am still here, still held, still cared for, and grace, grace, grace has been given to me, pinned to my sweater, rubbed into my skin, poured into my cup, but sometimes i kill time by watching the level, the amount of it, instead of saying ‘thank you’, i say instead, ‘i wonder when this will run out’, sometimes when another mother’s child is unkind to me, and aren’t we all another mother’s child, and unkind sometimes, but still, i tell myself in my special voice that i use for cats and small children, that this is just an opinion of another breathing being, no need to tie yourself up over it, no need to set yourself on fire to save someone else from their outrage, everything is ok, everything is ok, and today i have had two cups of coffee, six cups of tea, two small chocolate bars, a sourdough sandwich bursting with nothing nutritious, a fruit scone with butter, a tablespoonful of peanut butter snuck in whilst making my boy a snack, and some nuts, and outside the world is cold and grey, and i have lit candles everywhere, and fairy lights, and i have tried to speak life into someone on the other side of the ocean, and failed at this, this thing that i have been doing for many years, and what i wrote in the hours before the sun started speaking to the world, was this—if the door is locked and you want a way out, look for a window, even a half-open one, climb through it, and it will hurt, you might have skinned knees and a bruised heart, and you might fall, and you might fall very far, and you might break something, perhaps yourself, perhaps you will fracture, but it is a way out, and every day you make decisions with your mother’s head, and in the shadows will be your grandmother’s life standing there, watching, every day you do this, and you should forgive yourself for the decisions you have made with all of these other lives pressed into your blood, into your memories, especially the ones that you have never met, but still, they live there inside your bones, your cells hold them all, and many of them are unwanted, and unwelcome, and you might do things to rid yourself of them, like standing in front of the kitchen cupboard with a need so big it can only be filled in this moment with something small, and you know there will be guilt, but still you choose this, and every day you do this, make choices, do things that beg for kindness, and you should give it to yourself, please, i am saying this to you in the soft voice that i use for dogs with wagging tails, and also my patients who have just heard words that they will never recover from, i am using that voice, and i am putting my hand on your arm, and i am looking straight into your eyes, and that is very difficult for me to do, and today i have had oatmeal with coconut and flax seeds, and olive oil, to balance all the hormones that are weeping inside of me, all the words that are raging, the things that want to climb up my throat and be a bowl of thorns, and i have had chocolate-flavoured almond milk, and thinly-sliced polish sausage, and some more brazil nuts for the selenium, for the immune system that fights on my behalf, and water, and water, and water, and still i am hungry, still i am hollow, and tomorrow will be better, and i will have to talk gently to the guilt, but i know how to speak her language, we are old adversaries, old flat-mates, and what i really want to say is this, but my mouth is too full of feelingstoday it is fifteen years since my father died.

© Liezel Graham 2022

{image by J Lee on Unsplash}

today is such a complicated day for me. each year i struggle with the weight of this day and my words always seem to fail me.

my father, a man whom i loved, but with whom i had a difficult relationship, died during a domestic violence situation. it is not something i speak of, or write of often. the layers to this are too complex to untangle here, but i do know that this is a story that not many people will ever have to come to grips with – this losing one parent because the other parent had to defend themselves.

it is a grief that does not know how to be grieved – there are so many layers to it.

and it is a thorny, prickly day in which my body will not be told how to do things properly, she will not be told how to remember things that she wants to forget, and how to forget things that she wants to remember.

she wants to eat, because she feels hollow, she wants to eat, because she feels empty, and the professional inside my head knows this, but the body that is me, she wants nothing to do with professional opinions.

she simply wants to be a body, still unpacking boxes inside all of the hidden rooms that she does not want to go into it.

at some point or another, isn’t that all of us?

liezel