I have smelled grief on the air for years. The ache of loss, of losing, of having lost.
As the northern hemisphere moves into the winter, the wind blows in the reminder that so much will be lost. I’ve seen the posts of people I don’t know, but who are close to those I do, sharing stories of family members getting sick or dying of COVID.
It’s getting closer. Faster. The air is thicker with uncertainty.
Of realization that there is no one coming to save us from this virus.
Because there is no quick fix. There is no perfect protection.
(I know this is grim.)
I know these times are more dangerous because of the fear. I have seen it cause even the most steady folks to sway. Some to risky choices. Some to conspiracy.
I know I am in a moment that history will look back on and point out all of the wrongs.
But this is not a measured conversation where I can hide behind lovely words.
There are people dying.
Not Enough Space for the Names
I was on a social media page and someone talking about an altar with candles for the dead on their heart. And that there wasn’t enough space for all of the candles.
After all, more than 250,000 in the United States (and many more by the time this is posted) requires a large space. An impossibly large expanse of holding.
I want to light candles for all of you. I want to brighten this time with your names.
And I want to hold space for the ones who have watched. Watched loved ones die. Said goodbyes over video. Begged to be in the room only to be turned away.
Safety. Not you too.
What is Coming (Soon)
In the beginning, I read a lot about anticipatory grief. The knowing that loss is coming and not being able to stop it.
My heart remembers when my dad was diagnosed with COVID. And the days of blurry, fuzzy thinking. Trying to make decisions as a family about what we would do if…
Touch and go. Faith and fear.
Prayers. Offerings. Outbursts.
I have a stubborn heart, I know. I have clung to believing people are good overall. They will look out for each other. I’ve seen it. I have relationships that have proven it.
But when I look outside my carefully curated community…
I am likely not sharing anything that hasn’t been said. I know there are many more that feel this way. Alone. Helpless. Quietly screaming.
Arguing with ‘friends’ on Facebook doesn’t help. Posting the millionth meme about wearing masks doesn’t ease the tension. Staying home only gives more space for the feelings to become louder.
There is grief around the corner. There is grief in the hallway. There is grief in the pillow underneath my head at night.
Because it is everywhere.
Building a Relationship with Grief (Before)
Whether you have lost or not, whether you have been impacted or not, the grief will be a tsunami. I have been holding back my own waves because I don’t know where they will crash. Into you? Into me? Across the yard?
I have taken to sitting with grief now. I see it as an unscreamed scream. An unhugged hug. The empty place into which love pours and pours and pours.
I sit and I ask grief what it needs.
I have an altar to grief. Where I sit. Where I have an amethyst. Where I have bones.
My heart holds an altar too. Memories live there.
I sit at the altar. Sometimes, I weep. Sometimes, I am silent. Sometimes, I sing.
Sometimes. Nothing comes. Time between time.
I write poems to grief. I write letters.
Even when the words feel empty or insignificant.
The Arrival of Grief
And I realize I am preparing for grief’s arrival. All of the ways I have pushed it back, saying that since I can’t grieve in community, I will be patient.
I will wait. I must wait.
It is the thing these moments require.
The space before.
But there are a lot of echoes waiting to be screamed screams.
I imagine you have come here for answers. For solutions. For spells. For prayers.
I just show up for it. I make time for grief. Just as I would for any other relationship.
Just as I would for any other precious moment.
Again and again.
What do you need, grief?
What do you ask?
What do you ask of me?
I am not ready.
But sit beside me.
Tell me everything.
How are you preparing?