Suprise, it's grief.
My palms are sweaty and my heart is racing as I watch death from a different perspective. I wasn’t ready for it. I never could have seen it coming.
Surprise, it’s grief.
The scene is from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and I’m sitting in my 11th grade history class.
Without warning, a steady stream of sadness begins to pour down my cheeks. I feel heavy bricks in the pit of my stomach as I imagine what it’s like to watch a daughter die. The room is dark and it’s just me and the screen. I can’t stop the flood from coming.
I let it in because my guard is down…….just a little bit, I think. I let myself imagine for just a moment what it was like for my parents to say goodbye to their daughter, just like the scene I’m watching right now.
We all know you can’t let it in “just a little bit”. Like an involuntary twitch, the tears spill out fast and hard. I feel betrayed by my own body.
Give it an inch, it will take a mile.
After a few minutes I remember I’m in history class and the lights will come back on soon and I’ll be sitting there exposed in all my grief. I’m embarrassed and ashamed; my face is splotchy and my eyes are puffy so I quietly excuse myself from the room and find a place in the hallway to hide for a bit.
My sadness turns to anger. I’m angry because it’s been a year and it shouldn’t be so hard anymore. Frustration and confusion ensue as I try to understand this uninvited character that continues to show up.
Every so often it comes out of nowhere, pulls me under, and tosses me back into the world — a tender, fragile mess. I can’t help but fear the dark cloud looming and I shudder to think of what it will be like another year from now.
It feels as if the sadness is only getting heavier.
These unexpected waves of grief are wild and free. I want them to be predictable so I can brace myself before they come. I want to set time aside to pull my grief off the shelf and tend to it it when I’m ready. The reality is I might never tend to it if that were an option. Who wants to pull out a box of sadness?
Today the waves of grief remain wild and free. Their unpredictable nature still frustrates me and often feels inconvenient. But over the years I’ve learned to recognize the things that can pull it up to the surface and I am less surprised at my physical response. I have learned to lean into those moments when I can so that I don’t come out so fragile and tender each time.
Perhaps our grief doesn’t go away with time. Perhaps we only get better at riding the waves.
The bell rings and I wait for all my classmates to wander out of class. As soon as the classroom clears, I walk back in and pack up my bag. My teacher sees me enter from across the room and apologizes.
I tell him it’s okay. He never could have seen it coming.