This Is What Happens When The Loss Feels Too Big


I don’t think I was even aware of my physical body, really aware of the constraints that it had, until I lost somebody. I don’t mean it in a way that impacted my physical health. I was aware I had a body. I knew I could hold things and move them. I knew I couldn’t walk through anything. I was aware my body could gain and lose weight, and move me from point A to point B. But it wasn’t until I lost somebody and until I was so filled with and overwhelmed by grief that I experienced the limitations of my body.

My heart felt heavy. It felt like I didn’t even have a heart some days. Normally I could hear it beating when I closed my eyes, or feel it beating when I found the gentle rhythm of my pulse in my wrist. Grief overtook my heart, hid it, covered it, burst out of. Sometimes all of these things happened at once and I was left kneeling in a corner wrapping my bony wrists around my body, screaming, trying to conceive how something so brittle and fragile could house something so fierce and vicious. How was this relentless feeling able to run rampant through my physical body without killing me? I still don’t understand it.

It passes; it doesn’t always feel like when I run my fingers over my skin there should be cracks, and fissures for the pain to leak through. But it is still confusing. How does one remain so outwardly whole and untouched when the inside still screams, still feels like it’s bleeding? I am a walking wound, invisible to those around me. It forces me to act normal when at any moment of any given day all I feel prone to do is drop to my knees as I once did, crawling into a corner to cry, wondering how my skin does not peel off to allow the true depth of this pain, this grief to be seen.

Days that it doesn’t hurt so badly, I still see it. I still feel it like a dull ache in the back of your mind after a night of drinking. Nothing really makes it leave, but when it isn’t at the forefront I am able to assess how the face in the mirror no longer matches the uneven pulses of my heart, the beat of which I often cannot hear anymore. But it does go away long enough, for days and weeks, so that I can function. You were gone and there came a time when it hurt, but I was able to convince myself it was possible to stitch the wound closed.

Cruelly, the world reminded me this was impossible. Another died and then another. Such is life. But with each loss the pain flowed out of this unseen wound with new vigor. It flowed for you, for these new lives lost. And once again I was forced to reconcile this physical body I inhabit would never be able to house the pain I felt. Before long I would burst into a thousand pieces, joining the blackness that now consumed you and others lost.

These days I wake up. I take my vitamins, my medications. I work and walk the dog. I write about you and many other things. I love my family and try to do the good you would have done. I watch movies you would have liked and read books I would have liked to discuss with you. While it sounds counterintuitive, it keeps you close, but not so close the broken shards of this physical frame begin to tremble with grief, threatening to break apart.

Every time though that somebody else goes there is an initial stabbing pain from when I lost you, like a long sharpened nail digging into a diseased wound that has just started to close. And every time, it spreads. Now I wonder if the point is not to understand how the grief feels bigger than my body, but instead how you made such a positive impact on my life that this is the hole I am left with to fill.