Sitting with Grief

You sound sad, she said. What you’re describing sounds like a grief reaction. I’m not ruling anything out, she said. But depression usually has more of a flattened quality. You may have moments of that, but you are feeling things. She emphasized the word. Feeling. I nodded wryly. That I am.

I made some progress on work things today. I watched a Patti Digh book trailer. I read a Maezumi Roshi quote Maezen posted on Facebook: “If we can be truly patient, we never have any problems.” And her commentary: “That tells us that all problems are problems of patience.”

I have been impatient with my grief.

She’s like a child trying to get my constant attention, a child I’m too busy to tend to–busy working, busy attempting to balance the checkbook, busy taking care of real children, busy trying to make a tender new relationship work, fearful of what I might lose if I take time. Busy, in other words, not grieving.

Spend time with me, she cries, any time I have a moment alone. It might not be all bad, she tells me. We might even enjoy each other’s company. Love me. Cuddle me. Sit with me until I feel taken care of enough to go away on my own. I could introduce you to some of my friends.

She doesn’t name names, and I find myself wondering it she happens to be friends with Joy.

Really, I can’t, I tell her. I do not have enough money to just sit and not worry. I’m still trying to figure so many things out. It won’t really help, I tell her, for us to hang out. I don’t have time. It won’t change anything. I can see you on Wednesday after work for an hour.

But she insists. Look at me, she says. I am so beautiful. I am so tender. I am here. Stop avoiding me.

And so today, finally, in the quiet of an empty house, I took a blue velor cushion off the couch. I set a timer for 15 minutes.

Let’s start with that, OK? I asked her. OK, she said.

And so we sat together. I kept my eyes open the whole time and noticed how badly I wanted to go put the sheets in the dryer. I stayed with her and counted my breaths, one to ten, rarely getting past two, or six. Coming back to my breath was akin to walking a stray dog on a leash and expecting it to understand any commands. And then the timer chimed and that was it.

Now what? I asked her. Now you run, she answered.

So I changed into running clothes and I ran. After about twenty minutes, sweating, I repeated the words out loud: You sound sad.

Yes, I said.

You are finding your way through. This is the way through. Everyone tells me.

I am finding my way through, I repeated. Grieve, I told myself. Grieve tenderly or angrily or lovingly, it doesn’t matter how.

And then I walked the last few minutes home, and found a brand new blank notebook waiting for me on the table where I left it months ago.

I will be back tomorrow, I tell her. Promise? she asks. Same cushion?

Yes, I say. I promise.

5 thoughts on “Sitting with Grief

  1. Beth Patterson says:

    Those of us who are blessed with a non-depressive basic personality often find grief harder to sink into, it seems. I can so relate to your dialogue here, Jena love.

    Sometimes all I can do is squeek out a smidge of gratitude for the fact that I am feeling anything at all…and that does the trick. ‘She’ is then satisfied with my understanding of my paucity, my lack, my utter inability to sink like a stone. And in that satisfaction I experience, not think, grace.

    You are loved. Grieve on, Sister.


  2. Ashavan says:

    Grief waits, but it uses that time to grow. Sit with her while you can… it is better than waiting for your grief to throw a tantrum.

    You captured the feeling beautifully, Jena. Thank you for sharing it.



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