On the Physical Nature of Grief ~ The Grace Between

On the Physical Nature of Grief

So here’s my new semi-terrible discovery. There is a nonlinear expression in the physical nature of grief, not just the intellectual and emotional, and nearing the anniversary of my daddy’s death, the two are not working in concert. Not at all.

My body has functioned much like an automaton over the past year, simultaneously mechanical and uncreative, needy and dull at the same time. To be fair though, I have not loved her well. Or at all sometimes.

But this robot performance served its purpose because even as my mind sagged with memory and grief and overwhelm, my body moved back and forth, performing as needed, when needed. And I forced my body’s movements on my brain like dam gates, holding the waves at bay. Duty, both to my husband and our children, meant that my body must rise up, move through the day, wipe tears and scabby knees, feed babies, and wash dishes. Even when I self-medicated with food and wine, or refused to sleep, numbing myself with endless scrolling and mindless TV, still she obeyed.

While my mind raged, my body performed.


My current form of anxiety manifests itself in determining the odds. What are the odds of losing our first baby? Our fourth? What are the odds of losing our best friend? Of our house being hit by lightning? Of my parents’ house being hit by a tornado? Of my father surviving necrotizing fasciitis? Of dual deployments as new parents?

And yet. Somehow, we won these particular terrible lotteries. So now my anxiety is counting odds and ages. If I’m 42 now and I die when I’m 75, like my dad did, I have a solid 33 years left. I game plan scenarios and sudden death and decades to come because managing the odds helps me to manage my grief.

It’s not very eternal-focused, and certainly not centered on the hope of glory.


Now, my body is remembering the trauma of last February and so while my anxiety is clattering around my brain in a haze of statistics, my body has decided it’s high time to give up the ghost. Far from being a robot, I’m a simmering well of tears, requiring multiple daily naps and sobbing over the mere mention of babies, puppies, daddies, hero stories, you name it. I weep and weep because all that pent up grief needs to come out somehow.

And because this space is public, and my story isn’t always just about me, suffice to say that losing my dad isn’t the only grief we’ve suffered. So the narrative is complex, layered and dangerously easy to wound.

Don’t get me wrong. Please. I delight in the shenanigans of our five children, and while our choice to have cats (including one who only uses the bathroom in closets rather than the litter box), dogs, chickens, a horse, and one half adopted donkey is admittedly chaos, it is grounding and whole as well. We are here and we have a lovely, regenerative life. It’s just also that I am desperately sad and today I named my anger again, surprised anew at how fierce it courses through me.

(Remember that whole five stages of grief and how they happen out of order and sometimes all at once?)

I don’t have answers for you here. I wish I did. I know it’s a lifelong journey. I know I’m not the only one on it. I know I need to be consistent with medication, I need to restart therapy. I need to love my body more. I have support systems in place to do just that but it’s okay to say that it’s hard, hard work, and I’d rather just have my daddy back, thank you very much.



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