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the loyalty of grief



Sometimes the passage of time is not the balm they assure us it will be.

My daughter. My daughter. My daughter. Flesh from my flesh. My brilliant one. My wily and silly one. My tender hearted. Too long you’ve been gone.

“Year two will be harder,” they told us. The operative they being those who knew. The they that knew. The they that wrote books and came to the meetings and knew what to say and how to listen. The they that came before. The aggrieved. The devastated. The parents bearing the unbearable. 

“Year one is shock,” they said. But shock abandons. “Year two, that was hardest for us.” It’s real. It’s not going away. Or is it that she’s not coming back. Nobody expects that, really - that our most precious would come back to us. We know that’s not true.  “Of course they’re not coming back!” You think you know that. Then time passes and you realise you’re holding your breath.

The sharp stone in your pocket, the one stabbing you with every tilt of your hip or step in your path - that one, it will soften. I know this because somebody told my husband that. When though? Does it? Are you sure? Because now I only feel the tender bruise from it’s never-ending pain. The acute numb has worn off. In its place the raw skin rubbed mercilessly. 

There is grief that lives here. Grief that lives and reigns. Into the hole grief oozes down and in, thick as tar. The deeper and more jagged the hole, the more space for grief to work its way in. From the surface it’s seen as only a mar in the facade. If it’s wrapped carefully, with the shiniest of paper, people can’t even see the damage. 

“Year two was the worst for us. Maybe year two and three.”

Is that the measure now? Days and months and years past D-day? Death day? I don’t want that measure. 

But I was warned. “Prepare yourself,” they shouted back to me from this hellish path we traverse. “The footing is treacherous up here!” And they’re right, but it doesn’t help at all. It’s still just the two of us, holding onto each other as the sun sets on another day. My man and I, trying to see by the faintest sliver of a moon interrupted by a cloudy sky. Slipping and sliding in mud bogs. Tripping on stones scattering the earth like land mines. We trip and fall, bloodied and battered. He pulls me up when I’m too tired to go on. “Look Tara, a woodpecker!” We stand silently, forcing air into our lungs, marvelling at a bird with a red mohawk. How could a God that created such a thing ever make a mistake?

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