• Grief Ninjas

    I love September. Having worked in schools for most of my career, September inevitably means beginnings; the smell of fresh number 2 pencils, a few  “back to school” items, sometimes a spankin’ new LL Bean Backpack if I’d worn through last year’s. Hope and the opportunity for writing a new chapter both abound in September.

    Monday, as I spent the first several hours of the morning with my kids, logging into their online school program, emailing tech support, digging up passwords that I KNOW were shared with me, I couldn’t help but feel the dull thud of the anticlimactic non-moment that was the start of fall. And then when the school bus passed right by? Well, I never thought a yellow school bus could evoke such a feeling of loss, nostalgia, and deep sadness. The image of the bus, and my children not on it, haunted me for the rest of the day.

    Today, working with my youngest child on her online school program, the only feeling I can name for that experience is… rage. I am angry that we’re in this situation, in our world, period. I am angry that learning, for now, is something that feels like a chore when it is something that in the past has brought both me and my children joy. I’m angry that everyone is home together, all the time, and that days can feel like one big fog that creeps from one 24-hour block to the next.

    After sitting quietly, eating my lunch, and reflecting, I was able to reconcile that rage, like sadness, is actually just what I’ll call a “grief ninja” – the feeling of grief, disguised as more palatable, name-able emotions, puts on its black gear and bandana and hops over the feeling fence to catch me as off guard as possible. But if I look back, he’s been there for months, lurking… Over the summer, I bargained, “well, if I keep my kids home, I won’t feel the anxiety of having to disinfect them after school,” and I also did some “magical thinking” in which I let myself daydream about the world’s most brilliant person rescuing us all with a fool-proof vaccine by August 15. But alas, here we are, in our various states of health, work, school, and mental space, but many of us, in reality, are still grieving and will continue to grieve. The ninja is stealth and stubborn.

    I could play the dangerous grief game that many of us entertain. My grief is nothing like someone who has lost someone. My grief is nothing like someone who has lost their income. My grief is nothing like someone who feels afraid to let her children leave the house because they could be threatened with or recipients of violence, just because of the way they look. But that game is unproductive and it’s denying what is – that my grief over September is just that, it’s mine and it exists. And if I want to cry for it, I will cry. And if I want to cry for your grief, well, I’ll cry for that too. Because eventually, my grief, like the fog of the days, will cloud into yours, and yours into mine, and we’ll connect in that dark and moody place. And in that nebulous, gray area, I won’t feel so alone, and neither will you. Grief ninja, be damned.