Grief, A Work in Progress
Updated: May 17
by Abigail Lalonde
As a writer, the last thing you want to volunteer to compose is your brother’s obituary. Or his eulogy. But you will, because you want to represent him well.
And later, the last thing you ever want to write is an essay or any poems about his death.
As a writer, when people tell you to journal about your grief you scoff at them (secretly inside) and half smile and nod or send a “thank you for the idea” message.
Then you don’t write.
Because it hurts too much.
Then all you want to do is write. It still hurts. And feels wrong because it’s normal. It’s something you normally do and how dare you go on with your normal life? How dare you? Like putting on red lipstick, or curling your hair, or cooking an elaborate meal. Even drinking a cup of coffee, or breathing. Because breath feels like a betrayal to the dead.
And you hate the people who send cards weeks later. Little reminders in your mailbox. But you also like that people are still thinking about him, about you. And you hate the people who don’t ask at all. You hate everything. You hate beauty.
Then it’s one month already and you weep in the dark car on the way to celebrate a friend’s birthday. You can’t help counting time in a different way these days. It’s no longer weekday vs. weekend. It’s no longer appointments and television shows. It’s now a stopwatch ticking away the seconds reminding you that every Friday night, around 11, one more week has passed. You count time like you would that with a new baby—first in days, then weeks, then months.
Everything is a reminder, an obsession. His bowls in the cupboard from when he lived in your home, the black cats you keep seeing that must be a sign, the childhood photo that sits by your desk, the phantom smells that hit you—his smells. You will have to debate his socks. Used socks found in a room that he once inhabited. A room that will soon serve as a nursery. Keep or toss? You will find yourself rehashing conversations and arguments. They are pearls of guilt that you nourish and layer with your thoughts. You could’ve been nicer, more understanding. You could’ve cared so much more. You could have noticed the signs. You could have. But now you can’t.
And then it’s five weeks. And you didn’t even realize it was Friday, until you did.
And then it’s six weeks, and for some reason this week hurts like it’s week one all over again. Because this week it was chilly enough, so you burned candles, specifically the one he hated. Maple Popcorn Sea Salt. He said it reminded him of the smell of death. And you laugh and cry a little at this thought—the irony and the metaphor in it—then you strike the match and light the candle anyway.
An MFA graduate of Rosemont College, Abigail Lalonde is the Social Media Editor at Literary Mama. Her work has been featured in Sanitarium Magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry, Crack the Spine, Memoir Mixtapes, andYellow Chair Review. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and three cats. Her spirit animal is a combination of a goth teenager and Holly Golightly (from the book, not the movie. Don’t be silly).