(writing/personal) The cycle of grief isn’t linear

There are a lot of books about how grief works, and they all talk about there are different stages and you progress through them. And maybe some people do actually progress through them. I don’t.


In two weeks, it will be one year since we found Brian in the bathroom. I’ve gone through all sorts of feelings, and to be honest, right now, I’m approaching the anniversary kind of dispassionately. I suspect it’s numbness, rather than acceptance, and according to many of the “experts,” I should be past this stage. It may be overload. The last two years have been so jarring, so out of what I expected from my life, that I don’t know if the wound is actually healing or if it’s just settled into a quiet phase, husbanding its pain for just the right time to burst forth with another explosion of acid and tears. I suspect the latter, because I can still feel a heaviness within me.


I suspect I always will.


But I can’t live within the past, yearning after what might have been. I can’t. I watch others I love do that, and it hurts just as much as the loss of Brian and Mom does. Time is a river, and no moment lasts forever, and if you try to make it stop, it resists. And it breaks. And your world breaks, in horrible ways. Photographs are an illusion that you can stop time, freeze it forever, but you really can’t, and all the photographs do is drag you back into memories. And that can be good, but it’s not healthy to live there forever. Time was meant to move, a sinuous, winding path that we walk down until our steps falter, and then….


I don’t know. Maybe we drop to another path, and start again. Perhaps we get a time of rest first, or perhaps it just all ends. I really don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does either. I guess we’ll all find out in the end.


So what am I doing? I’m still on Whole30 (day 11 today, despite everything), and I’m sewing – my first cross-stitch project in over a year, if I remember correctly. I’m working on crocheting for Birka largesse as well. I’m writing. I’m starting my proofreading again.


I’m trying to live.


And that, in the end, is all any of us can do. Grief isn’t a straight-forward process: it’s a path of its own, and it doubles back, veers to side to side, heads off in directions that only seem possible once you start moving. It brings you to places you thought you’d lost, places you wish you had lost, and sometimes, it seems to be standing still, even though you know you have to keep moving. It’s a fog that surrounds you, lifting sometimes just enough to remind you that somewhere, there’s a sun that could warm you, but you have pull your cloak tightly around you, re-light the lantern that the wind blew out, and push forward through the clammy dankness. There’s nothing else to do.

4 Responses to “(writing/personal) The cycle of grief isn’t linear”

  1. Rachel

    Thank you, Val. Spot on as usual. I hope you find breaks in the fog, stop for a moment, and let the sun warm you before plunging back in.

  2. Val

    *blush* No, thank you.

  3. Phil

    Grief is often called a “cycle”, but that’s a great sweeping generalization.

    The kubler Ross cycle is a ball, where every point is touching every other point. You move from step to step in whatever order feels right at any given moment. And you can skip some entirely.

    I recently rewatched “The Martian”, and it ends with something I found so very profound. The main character is teaching the next generation of astronauts, and he talks about what to do in a crisis.

    You solve the problem in front of you. Then the next one. Then the one after that. And so on.

    Don’t worry about those later problems. Just the one in front of you. If you miss this one, those others don’t matter.

    All we can do is take the next step, over and over again. It’s always the same. It’s just taking the next step.

    It’s not about the destination. It’s abour the next step.

  4. Val

    Yes, that’s very true, and it’s sometimes hard to remember. I need to read “The Martian.”

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