The Substance of Grief

This morning, the first day after the day of the death of my father-in-law, I found myself trying to define the sense and complexity of grief.

What could I use to define it?  Grief is a long list of adjectives and those adjectives very neatly contradict each other.  It can be heavy.  It can be light.  It can be overpowering or something lingering and vague.

I finally settled on the idea that grief is perhaps simply a substance just like any other substance.  Grief, as a substance or a form of matter, can take the form of a solid, a liquid, or a gas (yes, if you want to get technical there is also plasma and a couple other states that occur in very rare situations but let us not consider those at this time).

Sometimes grief is a solid.  It is heavy.  It is constricting.  It pushes the air out of your lungs and keeps you from taking a proper breath.

Sometimes grief is fluid.  It flows like a fresh water stream into the salty vastness of the sea.  It can drown you.

And sometimes grief is a gas that can be compressed, forced into hiding so no one can see it.  At the same time it can expand and take over the entire space of your life.  It is wispy and ungraspable.  Maddening.

That is it.  My definition of my grief.  It can elude you in one moment and in the next it can sucker punch you in the gut.

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About shoes

I am an elementary school teacher, a former microbiologist, a mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
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17 Responses to The Substance of Grief

  1. ksbeth says:

    i’m sorry for you and your family’s loss. it is like a wave that comes and goes – hugs

  2. NickyB. says:

    So sorry. It’s funny how some people say it gets better with time. That’s only partially true. My mom passed away in 2005. Sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday. And it’s the little things. I could see something she used to love to eat and immediately feel an overwhelming amount of sadness. Such is life.

    • shoes says:

      I agree with you about that time passing comment. My dad died in 2012 and, as with you, it is the little things that trigger grief within me. I can be fine, driving to work and then see a billboard or hear a song on the radio and I am sobbing. It happens less often, but it still happens. Hugs to you for your loss, for no matter the passage of time, the loss is still present.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss

  4. so sorry to hear of your loss–your definition(s) are spot on; it is so hard to lose those close to us–many hugs to you and your family

    • shoes says:

      I rather like my definition, at least it seems to fit how I feel – how I have experienced grief. We are doing alright. Yesterday would have been his 84th birthday…

  5. coversaralea says:

    I am so, so sorry for your loss.

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your father-in-law’s death. Your definitions really do represent the whirlwind that grief is. I send my best wishes to you all.

    • shoes says:

      Thanks. I have thought about grief and how complicated it is ever since my dad died in 2012. My father-in-law’s death brought back some heavy emotions from the loss of my dad, so it has been a pretty powerfully emotional time. My husband is holding up pretty well and the boys too.

  7. Mary Ann says:

    I’m sorry to hear your sad news. Grief is definitely a process, comes in many ways and can be surprising. I hope your memories bring all of you comfort.

    • shoes says:

      My husband and I have some great memories of him, but the boys really only remember the past year or so when Alzheimer’s made him no longer be who he really was. They saw glimmers and love him and feel loss.

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