She arrives, usually uninvited, and dumps out a suitcase in your living room. Trying not to let others see the awkwardness of it, you start to unpack what she brought; tears and laughter, nostalgia and despair, and even peace and gratitude.
Grief never tells you how long she is staying, and you’re not sure how long you want her there, either. Sometimes you want to kick her out. But deep inside you worry that with her departure, she might pack up some of your precious memories and strongest feelings.
Grief may be demanding and paradoxical. Sometimes she needs you to spend the evening looking at pictures and sobbing and then the next morning she may need a happy hike on a new trail, or to take on an ambitious new project. Sometimes she goes quietly into her room for long periods and then wakes you up in the night like an armed intruder.
Grief and toddlers have a lot in common. You don’t get to choose their moods or outfits or how they behave in public. But also, they both mature so quickly that from month to month and year to year, you hardly recognize them. And although you don’t miss the outbursts, you do miss the poignancy of that stage – the raw honesty of it – the singularness, even the sacredness of it.
Grief is something of a shape shifter. She generally transforms from pain back into her true form: love. But the surprising part isn’t her transformation, but yours.