The Torrent of Grief

Zach Patterson and Karry.JPG

Zach Patterson and Karry Sawatsky February 2014

I got up abruptly with dread. I skimmed the lengthy text message for the words I knew were coming, "Zach is no longer with us." I paced my hallway, wide eyed, heart pounding. Pleadingly, the words escaped my lips gravely, "No, no, no, no." This isn't happening. Like the seconds following a car accident. Wanting desperately to reverse time. Begging. Pleading. And at the same time knowing what's so is so.

I called the number that had texted me. It was Zach's sister. I had to know what happened. I had to make a connection with someone that knew him. Through my shock, I had a desperate yearning to understand what happened leading up to him suiciding and how he did it. We had texted just days before. 

 

Zach was a private person. He struggled with mental health challenges a great deal of his life. We dated on and off and lived together while I was supporting my aunt at the end of her life in Idaho. My aunt’s friend introduced us. The first time we actually met was before this introduction. I was working at a pet store and he came in to buy a mouse toy for his beloved cat, V for Vendetta. He was as authentic as they come. He was the most self-expressed person I know. Loving his family and chosen ones deeply. I am so fortunate to have had such an incredible person choose me be one of his dearests. He confided in me, leaned on me, supported me; He would have taken a bullet for me. When we lived together we snowboarded everyday, went on adventures, made spontaneous plans. He was a “Yes” to life. Our time together was a welcomed reprieve from emotional heaviness of palliating my aunt. We had talked about getting married. He in Idaho, me in Southern Ontario, miles apart and yet closely emotionally connected. He was one of the greatest gifts I've received in this human experience. He will always be one of my favourite people.

 

The moments that followed that call felt like stepping into an alternate universe. Everything was floating; there was no sound. My body knew it had to ground itself and the quickest way to do that was to fall. My legs started to give. I took a few precarious steps towards my bedroom making it to the floor at the edge of my bed, falling to my knees, hands gripping the overhanging sheets, forehead pressing into the side of the mattress. An animal like scream came out. Nothing I’ve ever heard from this body before. Screams of anger that he left, screams of pain that were erupting, sobbing in a way that bargained for his life back to prove to the universe that this grief was real. The Universe was silent. There was no answer. No wishes granted. No deals to be made. What was so was so.

 

I ached with a pained paralysis. My insides brutalized. I needed someone. I needed someone to bare witness to my grief. I didn't want fixing. I didn’t want placating words. I wanted someone to witness my grief and acknowledge how much I loved him. How much I still do love him. I needed someone to see my pain, to see me in these depths of despair and bare witness, to be with my ‘being’ and not do anything about it. I called Jill, a dear friend, mentor, chosen family, meditation teacher with a background in suicide training and social work. After choking half sentences through sobs and birthing my grief into its first words I felt the first light coming in; a moment’s pause in the torrent of grief. A welcomed respite from this labour. Emptied. Hollow. A skin sack with breath.

I had no more to give. I felt wrung out to the last drop. She held space. I was lovingly witnessed without her trying to make any of it better. She listened, she acknowledged my pain and shock, offered to pick me up, and made soft sounds of ‘mmms’ in her listening.

I felt held and needed to curl up on my bed. We got off the phone. I was too tired to speak more. I felt my needs met.

I wasn’t alone with my thoughts long before I longed for someone to bare witness to this happening to me. To these new thoughts and emotions that were building on the last. New connections of thought, new pain, anguish upon anguish. I called another mentor who was a listening to my more fully formed sentences strung together. A cursive speech stopped by momentary lapses in all thinking. Brain online. Offline. Like having interrupted Wi-Fi signal or a buffering video. My words landed with him despite the interrupted connection. Though I couldn't name it or see it he said, "What you really need to hear is this isn't your fault." I wept. I didn't want to say the whispers of thought that nagged at the back of my mind wondering if I was there would he still be here, what did I say or not say, could I have stopped him, would I have been enough? I felt guilt that I couldn’t hold space every time he needed someone in his depths of despair. What could I have done differently, what did I do wrong? The answer is nothing. It’s not my fault. I remind myself often over the coming days that it’s not my fault. Some days with a knowing, some days effortful in convincing myself.

 

It’s the next day and I can’t bring myself to look at pictures of him. I wear a sweater of his. Reluctant to wear it again the next day in fear I’m clinging and reluctant not to wear it for the comfort it brings.

 

The days following feel like I’m experiencing a completely new world. I feel weighted, heavy and at the same time floating and untethered. I experience it all. Anger, hurt, 'I get it', confusion, relief, and especially a roiling in my guts. An indescribable ache in my heart follows me. It’s been broken wide open unabashedly. I missed him painfully. Gut wrenchingly painfully. I have moments of utter disbelief wondering, "Maybe they were joking and he's really still here," or "No he can't really be gone, it's not possible." I went over everything. The last interactions we had, the adventures we'd been on, the sex, the arguments, the extended times we didn't talk, all the things we won't get to do ever again. I feel desperate to tell my friends I love them, to mend relationships, to be here and present and not miss any of these precious moments. It's all so raw and real and I want to cling to everything that means something to me that is still here.

 

My eyes burn, they are puffed and tight. There are tiny lines of broken blood vessels in the delicate tissue around my eyes showing the physical signs of grief. My skin stings with new fallen tears. A cool compress eases the discomfort. It’s almost a relief from the grief to feel a physical pain. A moment's break from my thoughts. 

 

My chest feels like hand weights have been placed within this empty cavern, begging me to come to my knees. I drag myself through my day fighting a magnetism towards the floor. My back muscles ache holding this holographic weight. Even when I feel completely relaxed laying in bed my back is tight, bracing itself for the next unexpected blow. Body in ready position for the starting gun.

 

It all feels too much and then nothing at all. A normal conversation with grief nowhere to be seen. A laugh. Then I’m eroded by grief. 

 

I picture being there with him as he suicided. Time is an illusion. I believe I can go back there in my mind’s eye. I picture pouring white light over him and easing his transition through the veil, as he dies alone. It's all I can do to feel like I'm doing something, anything for him. 

 

There's an insatiable need to know what happened, how it happened, how it came to be. 

An undercurrent barely detectable of remorse for not doing enough, being there enough, asking enough questions. The soothing salve of ‘It's not your fault’ over the open wounds bring a healing. Noticing my assumptions about the word suicide, noticing I want to control how others will be with this news, wanting to protecting him from their judgments, wanting to be in community but certain I'll be too much. Trusting my knowing that I need community and facing the risk of possibly being too much for others. I share in the Signal thread of my women’s group, called The Pack, what has happened and the messages come in in a flurry of condolences and offers to help in anyway. I don’t even know what I need. I type a few words and pull back. I’m held in their words and feel less alone in my grief.

 

My mind curiously inquires about the volume of tears and snot a body can produce at record speed. What is the evolutionary purpose of this? To show community the physicality of one's emotions? To bond over our losses? To expel these energies? Curious things these bodies of ours.

 

God I miss you. I'm remembering the shape of you. Holding you, hugging you. I can remember the shape of your chest, your arms, your head, your legs. Though your eyes, nose, hands and ears are fuzzy. I don't want to forget you. I don't want to forget your voice, your laugh and the way you said my nickname. I don't want to forget you. I felt amazing with you. You saw the world in a way like no one else did. Your language was different. You had a heart of gold. You taught me to always take action in a crowd when someone needs help. You appreciated me. Our connection was so special.

 

Days later I go over our text messages. Feeling guilty for not taking a familiar and often sent message seriously from him about not thinking he can stay here longer. There were so many messages and talks like that. Flags stopped being raised. It was part of the fabric of our relationship. I’d asked once how he would do it and he told me. It was exactly what he chose in the end. I won’t share that here. It feels private. Perhaps I’m trying to shield him from judgment or hold it sacred. It feels protective to hold his choice close. An act of love in one of the ways I can do something to connect with him in this new way of continuing our bond. I listen to the Mr. Rogers acceptance speech he sent me a couple of weeks before. The inspirational message and loving being that he was inspired him. It’s painful to read our messages and at the same time brings me comfort. I feel connected reading our words.

 

My mum’s birthday is today. It’s been two days since I learned Zach suicided. It’s her 70th. I feel an expectation to show up joyful and celebrate her milestone birthday knowing that seeing her daughters is one of her greatest joys. I struggle with trusting that others can look after their emotions. I struggle to trust that people have the capacity to hear my grief and to look after themselves. I have it that they will need me to console them. It’s an old story. One that’s not serving me while also recognizing that it’s present.

I resist being vulnerable when I see her and yet I know she cares deeply and would give anything for me to not be in pain.

I hug her and let some tears fall. I let go into our hug a little more.

She tells me to be as I am and asks what I need. We order sushi for lunch. It feels good eating it. Filling, warm rice with mayo sauce and avocado. Fats, warm, soft food, carbs all feel nourishing. Broth soups my body welcomes.

 

A friend calls. I step away. She’s an artist and healer. Her mother died recently and we bond over our grief experiences. Many preface their helpful words with “I’m not a death doula like you or I don’t know what I’m talking about but this has helped me.” It doesn’t matter that I’m a death doula in my grief. The pain is raw and any roles drop away. I am human and this is me in my humanity, fully, like you. I’m in the depths and my humanity is at its fullest expression, there are no roles. There is no hierarchy. I seldom have a doula on my shoulder coaching me when the blanket of grief is pulled over. I reach out to my community with all their unique gifts that they have for support. Some have experienced suicide, some have experienced the deaths of the dearest people in their life, some have wise words, some check in often, some are up late, some up early, some are generous with their time and others with food. Intellectually I get the whole “community is important” message but the words “it takes a village” ring so fucking true. I need all these people for the holistic healing and support they offer as a collective. All these people checking in has me feeling so loved. Over time I’m noticing my capacity to be with my grief grows. I also feel overwhelmed at times to respond to each person. Often I don’t even know what to say when they ask how I am. How am I? I’m wondering the same thing. Am I in shock, am I numb, am I fine, what is fine? Am I grieving with ‘grace’? What does that even me? Am I setting an expectation for how I should be grieving? When asked how am I?” am I supposed to answer how I am in this moment or speak to the rollercoaster my day has been or do I average out my day? What’s come up in my day. I don’t want to think about the downs of earlier or feel guilty for feeling happy. When hours pass since someone has called or texted and I haven’t replied I start feeling guilty. I should really get back to them so they aren’t concerned. What does it mean to say “I’m managing”. Or “I’m okay.” Is that honouring the process of where I am? Where am I?

 

After lunch, my mum and I go to get birdseed. My mum bought me a birdfeeder for Christmas. Its one of my favourite gifts. I work from home at my dining table and look out the giant window and watch the nuthatches, chickadees, gold finch and occasional cardinals. They go through a feeder full of seed in less than 36 hours. Hungry little fellas (and gals). It brings me a lot of joy watching them. So we go to buy more of this premium birdseed near her house that beats the hell out of the bulk food store variety that they kick around to get down to the good stuff.

 

After a day of traveling to the city, ‘celebrating my mum’, trying to digest food and being social, I’m tired. I don’t have much energy for even emotion. It’s been the longest I’ve gone without crying and I’m starting to feel like I’m not fully honouring what it is I need. I feel like I’ve strayed from myself and need to return ‘home’ to myself.

I take another planned call before I leave her house. I don’t really want to talk by that point but we scheduled a time in our busy day so I want to stay in integrity. I also am feeling pressure to facilitate a 75 minute discussion about a topic in my women’s group that I hadn’t given thought to. I want to look good and come off looking like I’m prepared. I think I can do this. I think I can facilitate. Can I? I take the time to talk with this woman about planning to facilitate it together. I want to bring value and generate a worthwhile discussion. We collaborate and come up with an outline. I feel better.

 

I say bye to my mum and drive towards home. Why does every song have some thread of love or loss?! I’m maddened by the constant reminders. And also get that love and loss are two of the greatest, most powerful human emotions that touch us all to varying degrees.

 

It’s been four days. My voice is raspy from crying and screaming in the moments following the news. Partial words come out of my mouth even though there is breath behind my words. My voice cracks when it decides. I’m tired. My head feels swollen with pressure. It’s in my neck and shoulders and trap muscles.

 

I get a call from a colleague that wants to refer me to a new client. I’m listening while looking out the window staring. The words float in catching them one by one and then they float away understanding only part of what came in. I say yes, refer me. I’ll ask again later for clarification on details when I have the capacity.

I continue to go to work as a private chef. I don’t want to sit at home alone and not do anything. I feel capable; Of what I’m not sure. I go to work and feel tired, dragging myself around, not able to think creatively. I’m caught between work being too much and home being too little.

 

The next day on my day off, I walk to the mail box to check if an order for new face creams have arrived from weeks ago. They haven’t. It’s cold. Very cold. Its nice to have a break from the thoughts to feel the biting cold on my face. I decide to walk home past the health food store where I know the owner. I want someone to talk to. Just a brief connection with another human. Someone familiar that I can be with in person and share my grief. To hand a piece of it to my community to hold me in this. I shop around with my eyes, looking at familiar comforting foods like cheese, tea, chocolate, soups, hummus. Nothing really appeals. I don’t pick up anything to look at. Glancing with half interest at items. Chocolate sounds comforting. I decide on that with a slight joy at the thought. Robyn, the owner, says you’re awfully quiet today. I start speaking and she steps back after hearing my voice raspy and cracking thinking it’s the feared Covid. I tell her one of my best friends ended their life this week. She gasps and is emphatic in her condolences and shock. It was nice to hear her fill the silence and talk about her thoughts about it, her experiences with grief and for me to just listen and not have to generate speech or thoughts. I appreciate the mix of people telling me their stories, asking questions, being a listening, telling me what I might expect. I wouldn’t want only one kind of response. I get value out of the different interactions, not wanting any one particular response. It’s helpful. I feel loved.

Robyn gives me the chocolate bar and says to please have it without paying. I am touched. She offers me a couple of soups to take home. I’m grateful for her generosity and feel loved and supported and seen in my grief.

 

I walk home. My mum calls. I tell her I have a request to make. That I’ve been reflecting that the support I’ve been getting is wonderful AND that I feel another level of healing talking with people that knew Zach. There is healing in sharing stories about him, having people that have seen us together and been with us to really get how much this hurts and can share their experiences of him. I hear myself with this assumption that people have to have known him to understand and believe my grief. A new assumption is I have love and support and people honour my grief whether they knew him or not. Still, I want to go there to where his essence is. I ask my mum to research what the rules are to travel to the US. Do I have to get a Covid test on the way there and back? Do I have to pay to stay in a hotel when I return to isolate? Do I have to quarantine when I arrive in the US?

I want to go to his condo. I want to lie on his bed and smell his pillow. I want to gather up his laundry and hold it close. I want to sit on his couch and touch his things. I want to be in pieces there with the people that love him. I want to help pack up his place. I assume they will empty it and rent it. I wonder if they had professional cleaners come in. I wonder if they are leaving it as it is for a time. I wonder if they will sell it or keep it. I think about the place and his things and wonder what keepsake I would want. What can I wear around my neck, what can I have in a pocket, on an altar. What would make me feel like he was here now and for always. When I start dating someone how will I feel about the item? Will I feel like I am leaving him behind? Will I want to love him and my new partner? Will having something of his make it harder? What will I do with it and will it stir up grief when I see it? Am I trying to avoid this anticipated grief that I’m projecting will happen in the future? Will it even come? The wondering and worrying is exhausting.

 

Friends are away and have asked me feed their cat. I ask to use their bathtub and lay by their fire. They are delighted to support me while they’re away.

I come over and make pasta for dinner, simple gluten free noodles with cream cheese and salt. That’s all my body wants - simple carbs and fat. Anything else my body crosses its arms and winces at like a toddler. Don’t make me eat it. Then tightens and constricts when I do.

I watch Instagram videos to distract myself from experiencing myself. The fast paced, loud, jarring content gives me anxiety. I turn it off and run a bath. I set up my laptop next to the bath and bring a couple books because that’s what one does when they draw a bath with little to no intention of reading them. I’ve been on the computer almost exclusively when I’m not in the company of others. My mind wants a break but is also fearful of what will show up when I take said break. Netflix doesn’t feel right. I want to be present and am afraid to be. My body’s desire to rest and be with my sorrow wins.

I slip into the bath, somewhat reluctantly. My mind is stuck on the image of how he suicided. It’s hard to think of memories when my brain wants to picture him in his final moments. I feel a withdrawal within, a frightened feeling of being with these painful thoughts that I at times I feel I can't escape. 

I pick up a book a friend gave me at solstice about grief. I had initially read the first two chapters when I received it and then had set it down since. I pick it up again now that I am actually experiencing grief acutely. I start from the beginning again. My eyes widen as I read. I feel incredibly seen in my experience like she is speaking to my exact experience! I wish I had sticky notes to mark the passages that speak the most to me; It’s poetic and revealing more about myself. The layers are being peeled back with a knowing, a safe exploration and reflection. I set the book down, and I feel empowered to be a leader and an elder through my experience of grief in my community. I’m realizing it’s a gift to be in conversation with others through my experience. Sharing my grief, my sorrow unabashedly with my community showing them you can be in the depths of your grief in community and be held and survive and still grow towards your vision in your life. It can be the most painful experience of your life AND the most incredibly supported. The way my community is showing up for me is incredible. It blows my vision of what I thought community meant out of the water. I feel so loved, cared for, looked after and important.

 

I went for a long walk with Leigh today. He is my cousin’s husband and babysat me since I was born. He is chosen family, a mentor and a safe place to land when I’m in a storm. I knew I should eat before our hike but my body scarcely felt anything when I scanned the fridge. I finally decide on Thai soup from Robyn. I can’t open the jar. My body is so weak and exhausted. Like trying to start a car with a low battery. I reluctantly resort to opening a can of tuna and mix it with mayonnaise. No other seasoning or ingredients like I normally would. I decide to make toast with it to fill me up more. I try to swallow the toast and goes down dry and slow. I choke. My jaw is fatigued. I chew slowly using what energy I have.

I know I need to eat. The lovely soups people brought don’t appeal. I just want broth if anything. Maybe sushi rice. Maybe both together. I don’t really care. I know my body is busy working on being with this grief and doesn’t need food right now.

 

I meet Leigh in his driveway and get into his car. We planned to snowshoe and take his friend’s dog with us. As we drive, I don’t know how to bring it up; “It” being my grief and “It” being suicide. When I greet him we hug and I smile glad to be in his company. Do I look too happy to now switch gears and bring it up. We talk casually about the weather and a friend’s dog we’re picking up.  As he turns a corner he starts the conversation and asks me what my friend’s name was. Those words mean so much especially not grieving around people who know him. I want them to know him. I want them to speak his name, I want them to ask.

I tell him, “Zach.”

“Zach what?”

“Zach Patterson.”

He repeats his name, “Zach Patterson.”

It feels so honouring of Zach and humbling to say those words, to speak his name and hear someone else speak them. It’s like proof he existed. It feels almost tangible. Like something I can hold and keep. We pick up Leigh’s friend’s dog that is young and wildly exuberant. It’s a nice distraction in a way and also annoying.

 

We get to our destination where we snowshoe down the middle of the lake that funnels into a river. The water is low and has frozen over. It is the sunniest day we’ve had in ages with the bluest of blue skies. Rainbow snow too. The snow is deep but light. I don’t mention my fatigue. It seems redundant to say that I’m grieving and have little bodily energy, though it occurs to me that my experience is obvious to me and not to others. I recognize I need to communicate any or all felt experiences because no one really knows and my grief may be different than others’ grief. As soon as we start walking towards the lake, carrying our snowshoes I’m regretting going for lack of energy. Every step feels like work. I’m breathing a little heavier using my reserves to propel my body forward. We set the snowshoes down and put them on. I’m surprised how much energy this takes. I snowshoe slowly but Leigh doesn’t seem to mind or comment. We talk about Zach. I share my intellectual understanding that it’s not my fault and yet this ego or inner part that still feels guilty. Leigh shares an analogy that really lands. He says, “When I trained to be a lifeguard, the first thing they tell us is if someone’s drowning and they grab onto you, let go. The best thing is to have a life saving ring or towel for them to grab onto. If they start climbing up the towel toward you, let go.” He said, “It’s okay that you couldn’t save him. It’s okay that you couldn’t take his call or respond to his texts. You were looking out for yourself. It’s okay to not be all things to all people. You also have to look after yourself.” It just landed so much for me what he was saying. It was common to hear Zach say he didn’t think the girls, weed etc would be enough to keep him around. I didn’t flinch. I hoped he would stay but I didn’t really get alarmed, maybe just a heightened flag that he’s struggling more at that moment. I felt worse getting off some calls. He’d be angry at times when I’d say I needed to go. Those times were hard. I couldn’t do it sometimes. I just didn’t have the capacity to hold the heaviness he was experiencing. Or I didn’t want him being mad that I’d say I need to go. It didn’t matter how long the calls were he was often disappointed when I needed to go. I couldn’t find a way to feel empowered. I tried. I kept feeling like I had to stay on the calls for him despite what I needed, had to do or could be with. It was hard to steer conversations when he’d repeat himself or talk about customers at work frustratingly. I didn’t know how to be or what to say, just that I felt he needed somebody and wanted to be there for him. Those times were hard.

 

I feel drawn to write about my experience as it’s happening. Writing about the details of what I’m experiencing feels like I’m honouring my experience. I’m also able to feel deeply while also engaging this part of my brain that is observing and describing the experience, which keeps me from being swallowed up by it. I notice the experience and feel curious how I can weep while I type and feel these big feelings while also writing about them, giving me a little space from them.

 

I’m taking a Mediumship class. We are asked to bring in a picture of someone deceased and the class gives off what they are getting. It’s been three days. I share my screen with a photo of him. No one knows our relationship, his name or that he just died days before. Their intuitive words come in and I weep as I take notes. The facilitator says, “He wants you to know that he made it. He didn’t think he would but he did.” That meant so much to me. We would talk about this regularly. He didn’t think he would end up wherever everyone else went, presumably a Heaven of sorts. I would tell him I’m sure he would. He was so loving and had the biggest heart, but he felt so troubled. Hearing her words I knew it was from him.

 

I lay in bed at night, in the dark stillness of the quieting day and the emotion fills the room. I talk out loud to him. I feel him around me. I lay on my side facing the other side of the bed with the back of my arm resting on the bed, palm outstretched, reaching towards where I pictured him being. I imagine him laying across from me lovingly baring witness, understanding how deeply sad I am. I want to feel his hand in mine. I want to know he’s still here. I wait. I close my eyes and squint trying to bring his spirit to me and hold my hand. To touch me and let me know it’s okay. I wish harder. I plead. Tears fall as I try. I sense him near but I don’t feel his hand in mine. I cry and fall asleep hugging my pillow close.

I don’t have a recording of his voice or a video. I long to see his movements and hear his voice. I wish I had kept a voicemail. Any piece of him I’m desperate to have.

 

It’s been a couple of weeks. A new day has risen. I mechanically go through the motions of going to work. I think about Zach often. I turn on the lights at work. They come on, then half the lights in the room dim and the fan starts spinning at high speed. I try to turn the lights and fan off but the switches don’t affect what’s happening. I call the property manager over. He checks the panel in the basement and everything looks normal. He sends the electrician over they can’t figure it out. A little while later the fan goes back to it’s slow speed and the other half of the lights come on. I’m certain it was Zach. It would be like him to make a grand gesture so that I couldn’t dispel it was him.

 

Friends don’t ask as much how I’m doing as the weeks go on. I have a sense that their lives continue on and this feels like old news. They care, I know it. I‘m showing fewer signs of grief and vocalizing my experience less. I understand it and yet feel alone at times. It never feels like the right time to bring up suicide or the lingering eddy of grief.

 

I was the first responder to someone who had suicided less than a year before, staying with their body as they died. I was concerned that the memories and fears would resurface, but they didn’t. This close experience with suicide to someone I knew took up all the space. I’m relieved that the memories and trauma of that experience have evaporated for a while now anyway.

 

It’s been a few months now. I think of Zach most days. I haven’t felt his spirit near me, not to say that it isn’t. It feels different. He just doesn’t feel around so much these days.

 

I connected with Zach’s sister, wishing her a happy first mother’s day. We talked about Zach and how we’ve been doing. She sent me a photo, which I had never seen before. I love it! I am so happy and moved to tears at the site of this photo of us. It’s beautiful. We are so young looking, beautiful and happy. I remember the day and so moved I would go through the phone and hug that photo if I could. She sends me a couple of videos of him too. It’s the first time I’ve heard his voice. I smile and weep hearing his voice, his laugh and seeing his form moving. They are pictures and videos I’ve never seen before. I learn more about his close relationship with his sister and we share memories. She shares a song too that he loved that I didn’t know. I was so touched with love, joy, grief, sorrow. Different emotions being played on a piano like a song.

 

I wonder if I’ll be able to attend his memorial. I’ve accepted an invitation on a camping trip that I am very excited about. Early on in my grief I would have moved mountains to attend. That’s what I desperately needed. Now, as the months have gone on, what I feel is more needed now is being supported by community, loved and held as I integrate this grief.

 

Curious thoughts. I reflect on my writing. It’s disjointed and yet connected. It’s not a straight line this grief. That I am certain of from this visceral experience. I’m welcoming it more these days. Inviting her to sit next to me. Not so afraid of a tsunami and more aware of the experience as a passing late summer storm.

 

Grief bubbles up as she does, like the pockets of air released beneath your feet when walking through water. Carrying on, one foot in front of another and then you step on a spot that's been holding this air and its released through the sandy surface making its way up. I wouldn’t have known that step would release them, there’s nothing to do but feel them find their way around the curvatures of my foot and between my toes as they move towards the surface, unstoppable, taking their natural course to be released with the air above. I move with this grief more. We’re in a dance. I understand her needs to find the surface and don’t cling to the meaning as much as she bubbles up. I lovingly think to happy memories more often and thoughts of missing him. I once heard that grief is love without a place to go. It feels fitting. He’ll always be in my heart. Always a thought a way, for now and always.

By Karry Sawatsky

August 3, 2021.