Grief is Made of Water

Our bodies are 60% water.
Our heart is 73% of water.

We are made of water, so the good news is that we are not meant to always be put together. When I look at water it is free and fluid. Sometimes it is clear. Other times it is murky. I believe that our souls are made up of 87% water because sometimes it is clear. Other times it is murky. The only time water is fully together is when it is in the form of ice. Cold and bitterness is what makes water ice. I don’t want to be cold and bitter just to be put together, even though some days I feel like that is more of my reality.

This year, I lost a girl whose birthday was May 2nd. Aside from summer, my favorite time of the year is the Christmas holiday. The way that displays are placed so elegantly and unapologetically in stores mesmerizes me. There is a stillness to it. It is almost as if it is a gigantic, bright, colorful reminder from the universe that peace does exist and it is right in front of us. In the past, I have found myself going to store just to walk through the displays with no agenda or list of things to by. Just to be standing in the twinkling lights was enough for me. Without fail, this year I have found myself sobbing on my knees at each display. The stockings with the initials on them is a cruel reminder that her name no longer exists in the living alphabet. The living alphabet is you and me and your dog’s name and the pet gold fish one of my students was crying over last week.

It has been weeks now and I am still looking for answers. In anything.

In my cup of coffee. In the interaction between myself and the grocer. In the path that doesn’t exist in the mountains but I plead to take it anyways.

Last night I looked up everything about May 2nd.

I made a list of the novels that won the Pulitzer Prize on that day: Our Town, Early Autumn, Thousand Days, The Good Earth, and Advise and Consent. Then I downloaded all of them on my Kindle. I figured, maybe these novels, these selected novels with the commonality being May 2nd, would have the message or lesson or answer I have been pining for.

Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield was the first that I began to read-

“He had a feeling that somewhere in the course of her life something had happened to her, something terrible which in the end had given her a great understanding and clarity of mind. He knew, too, almost at once, on the day she had driven up to the door of the cottage, that she had made a discovery about life which he himself had made long since . . . that there is nothing of such force as the power of a person content merely to be himself, nothing so invincible as the power of simple honesty, nothing so successful as the life of one who runs alone. Somewhere she had learned all this. She was like a woman to whom nothing could ever again happen.”

I had this feeling that Mr. Louis was talking about me and the guy’s whose voicemail I sob into from time to time { thank God that the messages never save, I know this because the lady always cuts me off and says “your message did not record, would you like to try again?” And I take that as my cue to hang up the phone }.

If I am being honest, as Mr. Louis suggest, then I also made a list of the episodes that aired on May 2nd, from my favorite TV shows. And I queued them on my Netflix account. Maybe one of those episodes has the message or lesson or answers I have been pining for.

Grief and loss is not something entirely new to me, but I have come to realize that grief as an adult is its own form. You expect from yourself to dust yourself off immediately the next day. I remember I found out about her loss, and demanded that I go to work in my classroom just moments later, without even processing. I knew what I knew and it was time to dust it off. You expect yourself to have enough logic and rationalizing abilities to make sense of it in order to come to conclusions yourself. 

Absolutely not.

That is not how you deal with grief.

This is a great time to note that I am not an expert in grief or a grief counselor.  I am sure that if a doctor saw my lists and charts that are correlated with the dated of five-two, they would not think that was a healthy way of dealing with this weight on my heart. Other doctors might say it was okay as long as it was temporary and I am not hurting myself or others.

As much as I want there to be, there is not a manual or a right or wrong way to deal with grief. Earlier this week, I found myself so upset as I was cutting up celery because I found myself wondering if she would have liked celery and peanut butter as an afternoon snack, this coming after two weeks of not crying. I kept mimicking myself with, “you were fine for two weeks, why did you ruin it now?” And that is not fair! It is not fair when you do it to yourself or others.

The truth is grief is made of water and water makes waves. Loss comes in waves. Really big, terrifying, damaging waves, and smaller ones too.

Grief is made of the water which includes our tears, the water that my students ask for when they just can’t deal with things in the moment, it is what washes our mouth after throwing up for two hours in the middle of the night because you had a bad dream that made you so sick.

Grief is also the water that comes from the sky and washes everything anew. It is what makes our coffee the next day when we decide to give this journey another chance. Or the massive body that connects this continent to the next when you need to get away.   

Just as water does when it runs along rocks for so long, it starts to erode and chip away parts of it.

This grief is going to be carried around us. It is going to flow in and out of our lives. It will erode some of the most permanent parts of us, some of the bad parts too. It is going to make that 73% of water in the heart take a new shape. It is going to carve new edges into the 87% of our souls.

Remember, pea, the only time water is ever fully together is when the elements are bitter and cold, that it freezes the water.

We are not meant to always be a solid body put together.