I have spent much of my weekend writing my grief book.
I call it a grief book, and it is in many ways, its impetus prompted by the loss of my brother, but as the manuscript has come together, it’s really much more than that. It’s about how love heals and redeems us. How life will always come back around again in new forms. How we can find something beautiful in something that seems broken.
There is much hope laced throughout the contents: it’s a story about life, not death.
Having said that, it’s still hard to write it. I am to the editing and revising stages now that I’ve successfully written, drafted, dragged, cajoled and coaxed 101 passages out onto a word document. I am finding, though, as I edit that I can only do so much at time.
I lived every single word in this book- they are direct poems, essays or reflections that come from my experience, and as such, it can still be overwhelming after awhile. I redrafted a poem I wrote about myself and my brother last night, where I wrote the line:
once We were young and
then We weren’t
Adulthood can seem, a terrible truth to be.
And it just undid me. So much truth, love, loss and passage of time in that statement. I still spend days shaking my head thinking that it wasn’t supposed to look like this.
I just kind of unraveled after finishing that poem, a mass of emotional goo who spent herself out over those words. So I quit writing after that and went for reading Harry Potter instead. Simpler, comforting fare that always feels like visiting an old friend.
Still though, I have reflected this weekend that I am holding a lot of space for this book in order to keep the voice authentic, raw and real. This isn’t supposed to be a detached clinical look at grief. It’s more of a “I know what it’s like to bleed, so if you are bleeding too, let me share my heart and guts and blood with you, and hope it helps you find your strength along the way.”
As I write, I am also realizing it takes a great deal of emotional courage to walk back through old hallways you thought you exited the first time you came. Over the past few weeks of really hammering out this manuscript I have read every single word I ever wrote over the last 6 years about my divorce, my break-ups and heart aches, the loss of my Dog, the loss of my aunt, and the loss of my brother.
Some of it is pretty tough to read, but there’s strength there too. And great, great love. And that’s really the tone of the manuscript- not the brokenness that comes from loss, but the transforming gifts of grief that come from learning to keep our hearts open and let Life bring new light in.
I let some light in up in the mountains yesterday. My husband tore me away from the computer and said, “Let’s go high today.” So up, up, up we went. Along a twisty, windy narrow trail that took us through shale and dirt and tundra and branches far above the Turnagain Arm, where we were rewarded with reaching vistas of olive greens and dark cranberries and bright mustards and earthy bronzes that painted the palette of season.
The top is like a movie. Valleys in every direction, all of them spotted with carmine tundra and snowy flora and cinnamon and jade sweeps of hill. It’s so magical, part of me wants to stay there all day, but the chilly fall winds and the multiple piles of bear scat have us eventually heading down the hill, heading back towards the sheer, glassy water that divides the mountains in this space.
I will miss this when we go. Miss having so many places to head to in order to seek solace and epic views from up top. I try and soak in all the moments I can as I go up and down, override the burn in my calves and ache in my quads, let my spirit and heart nourish themselves with these moments of pristine beauty.
Years ago, I never could have left it behind, but that was years ago. I adore the mountains, but I no longer need them so my heart can gallop wild and free. I’ve learned to do that through the act of living brave and true.
Still, I promise the dog, a natural mountain goat if you ever saw one despite his petite stature, that we will go up a mountain at least once a week in Kauai. They are not quite as grand in scope there, but they do have mountains and canyons and trails and places where you can go up top and see nothing but acres of green and miles of ocean for as long as the eye can see.
It will be a different kind of beauty. Pristine in its own way.
For this day though, I absorb as much of the beauty as I can and take it into my soul letting it bring healing and wholeness. I find myself thinking about my manuscript as I go down, how the tone is really a story about being whole and healed through loss, not being broken by it. I think about the words I wrote earlier that morning that embody this spirit:
I realize, as winter melts to spring and slowly begins to steep into summer, that I am doing it, I am carrying it.
I have made it up much of that mountain with the weight of my brother attached to my ankles; have grown strong from having to sit and face this horrible reality of loss; have learned new ways of entreating with life that help me to journey on.
And it begins to matter less that other people seem to have forgotten- I welcome, but no longer seek their support and validation- I remember, I always will. And in the process, I have become an extremely strong woman.
I have lived what it means to carry him wherever I go.
We finish the mountain together, my brother and I. Race our way through the last bit of sloppy mud and mahogany bark and dappled leaves. Breathe in one last breath of silver air. Prepare to head to the warmth of home.