When Grief Comes Crashing In

When Grief Comes Crashing In

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim”

Vicki Harrison

On this morning’s ride to school, Donny Hathaway’s “A song For You” came on. I look over at Layla who is an aspiring singer and say, “Girl, now if you can learn to sing this song and I mean SANG this song, then child you have made it.” We start laughing and she starts singing along. She’s messing up the lyrics and missing notes and I say “ok, ok let me show you how it’s done.” She gives me the side eye and says, “Mom, let’s just leave it to the professional and I don’t mean you.” We start laughing again and stop to hear Mr. Hathaway. As we’re pulling up to the school driveway, He starts singing, “I love you in a place where there’s no space or time. I love you for my life you’re a friend of mine. And when my life is over, remember we were together, we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you.” I look over at Layla and the tears are crashing down her face. Concerned I ask, “Baby, what’s wrong?” I was worried that she had anxiety about school, that maybe the boy who had been calling her bitch had started up again. She burst out into more tears and said, “I miss Gigi so much. She was my best friend. She was always there for me. We used to watch Wendy and Family Feud. She was my rock and I just miss her.”

The grief of losing her great-grandmother came crashing in at that moment. There was no escape, there was no place to tuck her grief and let it reveal itself at a more convenient time. Her grief didn’t care that she was almost late for school and that now wasn’t the most opportune time for a breakdown. Grief doesn’t care where you are or who you’re with. It’s not concerned with your to do list or your makeup. Grief doesn’t care what you look like when it comes for you. It doesn’t care if you drown or if you have finally learned to swim. Grief just IS…

And when it comes you have to embrace it and hold on to it for dear life. You have to let it consume you. That is its sole purpose. It is there to remind you that you have been loved and because of that love you have lost. It is there to ask you one important question; would you rather not have loved to avoid this gripping loss? It is there to let you know that in a world that tries desperately to not feel a thing, you are the brave one who is not afraid to crash and burn and feel every part of you crumble, crack and break. Embrace grief because you have lost EVERYTHING. Grief is your song, it is your sojourn, it is part of your being. You will NEVER be the same. Life will NEVER be the same. You will never be able to put your life back together. No matter what they tell you.

And even you will betray yourself and lie to yourself. You will tell yourself, “I’m getting better,” because you’ve had a string of ok and good days. And then your grief will come crashing in and snatch that lie right out of your chest. You don’t ever get better. You don’t ever get to start over. You don’t ever get to be ok. Layla will never be ok because she lost someone she loves. I will never be ok because I also lost someone I love. And you will never be ok because you too have lost someone you love.

She released all her grief in the car, right in front of the school. And here I go, back on my BS and said to her, “I thought I was your best friend. I thought I was your rock but turns out I was wrong.” She just looked at me and we laughed. “Mooommm, really? you are my best friend.” We wiped her tears, and she got her book bag and lunch box. She kissed me, smiled, and walked into school. She will go on about her day. She will see her friends and tell them that the boy she used to have a crush on started following her on TikTok. She will read the note I put in her lunch bag and feel my love for her. She will excitedly rush out of school to greet her nana and papa when they pick her up. When they get home, she will go back into the room where her and Gigi used to watch Wendy. She will see the chair that her Gigi sat in…

No, she will never be ok. But she will laugh, smile, and live her life. Because you can laugh, smile, live life and still never, ever be ok. Grief comes crashing in, but when it subsides it doesn’t leave you empty handed or lonely hearted. It leaves you with hope, gratitude, a hearty laugh, a memory, and most of all a reason to go on (and as the old folks in the church used to say) “and see what the end gonna be.”


Kathleen Nicole

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