Alright, you got me. Grief isn’t a hobbit at all. But it’s like a hobbit’s hunger, sometimes, insatiable. It keeps coming back, second breakfast, elevenses, all day long. Grief does not run according to schedule, though that’s what our society would prefer. Grief does not run its course. Grief is perpetual. Grief may shift, may cycle through stages, may lodge in multiple stages all at once. But grief is not a track and field event.
Grief, like the hungry hobbit, returns again and again, because our loss is continual. When we lose a loved one, we do not lose only a loved one. We lose all the potential futures with that loved one. We lose all the choose your own adventures with that loved one. We lose all moments-to-come with that loved one. And again and again, the grief is hammered into our hearts with the reminders of absence. The absence is its own gnawing hunger.
Grief transmutes from one hunger to another, from one heaviness to another, from ubiquitous, all-encompassing to, oh, I forgot for a moment about my grief and now it is back and, oh, the searing loss of its return.
Grief has its own poignancy, aka distress, aka sorrow. Time does not mitigate grief. But perhaps time transmutes grief, like a wizard with a gift for alchemy, or like the pressure of the earth on minerals, turning carbon into diamonds, turning ashes and dust into hardness of the soul or to beauty or to surfaces that reflect a deeper, more faceted being than what we once believed we were.
Grief sneaks up in moments, a laugh heard from a distance, a song lyric, a meal, a photograph, a name, an inside joke. Grief is a tricksy little hobbit, stealing not the one ring, of course, but mindfulness. Grief sucks us into its vacuum of memory, of longing, stealing the present, steeling us to the present.
And grief moves us along, grief has its own energy, its own wherewithal. Grief is warranted. We have suffered a loss and we continue to suffer. We continue on, alive to grieve and alive to grief and alive through grief. We carry on, wayward sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends, loved ones. Grief is no three-act movie with a catharsis or a moral of the story. Grief is the story. Grief is the catharsis. Grief is the moral.
Holidays remind me of my grief, and so I decided to honor my grief by allowing these words to bubble up. They are probably messy and imperfect. And I honor that, too.