Most people try in vain to put words to loss. Even as I sit here, with the fresh urge to write this post making my fingertips itch, I am staring at a blank screen. I have a date, a title, a few lines.
I believe that this wordlessness marks our most intimate experiences—sensations born in a wordless moment defy expression on the page. My urge to write this letter came from a burst of sorrow that I did not expect. It’s an old grief, but I know its shape now; it comes in sudden storms.
In a week, I’ll be turning 28. And as I sat in front of my computer, checking email and eating Greek yogurt, I imagined how I would celebrate. But my mind found a snag and it tugged—a long and powerful string connecting me to the friend that won’t be there.
Christina died in July 2012, just weeks before I started teaching my first writing courses. When I knew she was sick, I wrote a tribute to her—to the memories we’d made. She read it and loved it. Since then I’ve written her letters, some public, some private. Now that the grief is three years old, I think I understand it a little more—even if I can’t predict when it will find me.
This is my open letter to grief and everyone it connects. I am writing also for the part of myself that needs this letter.
Grief comes from my emersion in a concrete world. Everyone says that Christina is always with me, that I can still feel her spirit. But I have a body that desperately misses her physical presence—the sound of her voice, the clicks of her power chair, the suddenness of her laugh. Replaying these memories is painful because I know I’m replaying them; I know that my supply is finite. I want more from her.
It is not enough to say that I miss her or that she is still with me. I believe that grief wakes us up to the uselessness of words. No sentence can save me from this deep sorrow.
And I don’t think writing is meant to save me. I can’t write to escape because there is no escape. I write to walk around my grief, to take its coat, to comprehend it. My letters form a silhouette, but even as they land here, the feelings change.
I write to keep pace, to show that I won’t be swept away or left behind.