Memoir

Rituals for the Grieving:

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  1. Find your nearest grocery store. Pick up something that looks sort of appetizing, hold it in your hand, feel how close it is to you, how close you are to having it. Put it down. Familiarize yourself with letting go of things before they are taken away. Tell yourself this will help you get through the rest of your life.
  2. Begin carving out time for tea. When someone tries to interrupt, learn to be graceful, even when the disruption feels violent. When the disruptions come, remind yourself that one day you might lose them, or they’ll lose you, and then won’t you be sorry for having felt this rage at all. Bit by bit, grow comfortable in denying yourself humanness.
  3. Make a habit of cleaning ruthlessly when you become conscious of how much you miss your lost people. Notice how ‘person’ became ‘people’. Notice how one loss led to another. Scrub the dishes until your hands are raw, wipe the mirrors until your reflection is a sparkling, red-eyed thing. Despair sits easily in the cobwebs. Clear them out. Grief is an oft-visiting, long-staying friend. Make it welcome. Make it want to stay.
  4. Hitch your heart to a quick-moving thing. Tell yourself this is what it means to be ahead of the game, to love only that which is already in motion. Joke that you’re a flight risk. You’re only ever a single reason away from finding somewhere else to be. Make laughing about leaving your favourite party-trick. Mask the fear of it. Know you’ve done a terrible job. Know that you can’t ask anyone to stay. Know that no one and nothing is yours for the keeping. Pray to learn to accept this. Crack another joke in the meantime.
  5. Find the beautiful things in this world and let them break you. Break open every time you see a white flower, raindrops on a leaf, the sun on your father’s face. Let grief make you so soft that you no longer recognize the puddle where your anger once was. When they ask you how you hold up your strength, point them towards the hollowed wilderness in your chest. Tell them you live there. Tell them there is no other choice. Tell them you have no strength except that which He wakes you with, every day.
  6. Become the closest approximation to the person you’ve lost. Often, this means willing yourself into looking like a bubble, or a bird, or a balloon. Sometimes, this looks like: gracious host, dutiful daughter, diligent student. Sometimes, this looks like: old friend, young mother, kindly neighbour. The truth is that everything inside of you is all that you have left. You must make it be enough. When you run yourself ragged trying to be everything you could possibly be, forgive yourself. Then start over.
  7. Weigh yourself thrice a day, surprised when the number on the scale doesn’t reflect the weight on your shoulders, the duty and the burden and the privilege and the pain. Become a committed ambassador for a cause only you can champion. After the first few months, stop caring whether your grief is taking up too much space in conversation. Become who you are in the pursuit of the meaning of what you’ve lost.
  8. Rehearse your answers to all the ways that people will ask if they can be there for you. Try to find kind ways to tell them that nothing they can provide you with will lift your ache. Find ways to ask them to hold space. Resist the urge to say sorry when they ask you how you are and all you do is cry. Forgive yourself for how unlovable the sadness makes you feel. When you look in the mirror and no longer recognize your eyes, forgive yourself for how you have transformed. When you overcome your pride, ask them to love you anyway, as you are, for as long as they can. Forgive yourself for wanting it.
  9. When the people you love lose the people they love, hold the door open. Welcome them to the most awful party in the world. Light the lamps. Put on the tea. toast the bread. Hold space. Love them, knowing that your love is not enough. Forget all the things you’ve told yourself about healing. Learn the lessons anew. Forgive yourself for forgetting.
  10. Find the quiet place inside of you. Rest there. Rest well. Rest for long periods of time. Become comfortable in seeking silence. Offer the ones you love quizzical, quiet and softer kinds of love. Preserve your energy where you can. Let go of all that disrupts your reflection. The ritual of grief is the rest of your life. You must live it bravely. You must live it to the very end.

Mariam Vakani is a jack-of-all-trades currently living in Toronto, Ontario. She obtained her MA in Communication and Culture from Toronto Metropolitan University. Mariam writes sometimes, but mostly she can be found obsessing over peaches, ponds, poetry and Jane Austen.

2 Comments

  1. “Welcome them to the most awful party in the world.”
    And it only gets bigger! This gave words to so many feelings that I’ve been too tired to find words for. I feel like everyone feels this way when they grieve, but not everyone is as well versed a writer to describe it so well. You went into all the little nooks and crannies of the situation and came out with gold.

  2. Wow. So much to unpack but such a… visceral depiction of the contradictions of living with loss. Thank you for sharing this, I think this will be something I revisit often.

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