What you don’t know about grief

I wrote this very soon after Fred died – but didn’t particularly want to share it. A recent conversation made me think of it, and the anger and the rawness that needs a place to go.


What you don’t know about grief is that it happens from the inside out. I know you want to see my pain, I know you think you want me to share it, but what you want is for it to be tangible, knowable, superficial.

I know you want to see me cry, because that is comforting to you, you know what crying is and you know what it is like to be sad.

That’s not what this is.

It is a hollowing out from the inside, it is an emptiness so deep that it may never be filled. This outside that you see is all there is. If this crumbles, there will be nothing left. I am an Easter Egg, shattered into a thousand tiny shards of chocolate, but the shiny foil still clings to the plastic package.

There is no drama, there are no fireworks. Yes, I step outside and yes I smile and yes I can talk about my child without breaking because I am already broken. What you cannot even smell is every scrap of strength it takes to look OK, the concentration required to put one foot in front of the other, to breathe in and out. The determination required to say I’m fine.

What I want you to know is that I’m stronger than you. No you don’t know how I do it. No you can’t imagine what I am going through. No you can’t believe how strong I am. That is your privilege. It almost sounds like you’re boasting. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t volunteer or sign up. I wish I was a coward, but I was not given that choice. You talk about me as if I were a superhero or a brave warrior but that is a fairy tale you tell yourself . If I am special, that means it won’t happen to you.

You think acknowledging my strength will protect you from things you didn’t choose. So I am stronger than you. I have been made to prove how much a mother will endure, how deep a mother’s love is. I am fearless because I have been made to face the worst fears you can imagine and seen them come true. Nothing can touch me now. My strength is scarred and beaten and forged in fire. My suffering is mine, and mine alone. They are precious moments that my child gave to me and they are not for sharing. So no, you can’t see me cry to make you feel better. Praising me won’t fill the empty cavern inside and it won’t protect you.

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