a private grief

It’s Grief Awareness Day. Perhaps this is inspiration for gathering the threads of words that are meandering about within me.

Like a good portion of you, I am carrying Chadwick Boseman right now. I am carrying a man. I am carrying a superhero. I grieve all of the public grief, but like many of you, it also opens my private grief. My personal grief, for what is private to me also becomes public because I choose to speak.

I am carrying Ibram Kendi’s grief. This academic and author and voice marked two years since his cancer surgery, on the very day Chadwick Boseman died. He too had colon cancer, and like many, he is visiting the facets of WHY in his social media feeds.

I am carrying these two men because I carry another man, who also had colon cancer and of whom I often write. Beardo. Chris. I say his name, both affectionate and given. I carry my grief for his passage from tangible expression, all the while feeling him around me. In less than a month I will pick up rituals that mark the circling of his passage, and so I am walking a short path right now alongside new layers.

I was physically unwell this past week, and so spent some time in rest on my bed. Like many who have lived alongside cancer, I went to those places. The checklist: Covid, Cancer, some form of autoimmune expression, food poisoning. The energy around us is shifting and levelling, but perhaps you don’t subscribe to that world view. My head ached My teeth hurt. I was nauseated. Fatigued. I felt my body. I felt the collective trauma and grief of this planet.

For those of us who go to that cancer place when we are quite unwell, alongside the fear there is the return of memory and the revisioning of experience. The bed in which I lay was the bed in which my husband – Beardo, Chris – chose his death. It is one thing to rest in a spot where someone died, and quite another to do so where death was administered. But these words are not about the uniqueness of MAID (assisted death) grief.

I recently wondered if I should replace the entirety of my bed, but quickly came to the awareness that this bed is mine now, for I became the woman that I am whilst walking – and laying – with a man who diverged to death. In my bed – before and during and after Chris died – I both lost and found those parts of myself that Needed. Now as I lay down under the image of Andrew Wyeth’s Helga, I lay in the spaces that allow me to reach backward and yearn forward. And to rest.

This past week – in my dis-ease – I looked out the same window that Chris spent many a day gazing through, as his body broke down. I remembered his silence, his privacy. I converged with it a little further, as I too feared from within my body. And I too said nothing. I often said nothing to him as I passed by with laundry, or leaned in the doorway to sense if he might be in overt need. I learned not to ask, as that never crossed his moat. And in the silence of my own body’s discomfort, I allowed too, the settling of a man who is no longer here. In my bed.

How did such a public figure as Chadwick Boseman, keep the journey of his disease and dying so quiet, so private? I have read words that speak of choosing a circle that loves you. And yes please do, please ever-consciously pick Your People. But here is where I do pick up MAID grief, its anticipatory and disenfranchised elements. There are so many things I do not know, things Chris thought and felt as he lay quietly in our bed. Dying. Much like his choice of assistance, it is my task to let all of it be His. His living. His anger. His silence. His dying. His spirit that both comes close and wanders further forward in its journey, its Be-ing.

And so as much as I do raise my voice, I also have a private grief. Please do not say you are so sorry, or that you are thinking of me, or even as I often offer, that you will hold space. I just need to say – to write – these words and let them drift off, land as they may.

Because you know, when I grieve I am held by my joy.

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