Fiction Friday: What does Grief Feel Like?

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By Leslie LindsayWrite on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

Here’s a little something from my WIP. Working on a novel set in the St. Louis suburbs based on a urban legend. This is a tiny little epitaph that our main charcter, Mel shares on grief:

“What does grief feel like? This is the question the ladies at grief group want us to focus on this week.

Grief feels like a barbed wire fence being shoved down my throat and pulled out many times over and over. Grief feels numb and barren, like nothing but bad thoughts can grow. It hits me when I least expect it, at the grocery store and in line at the bank. And yes, it strikes when I see a baby, bundled in a car seat toted into Starbucks, her tiny face peeking out from a little hole in the blankets, parents overly doting and cooing.

Grief is an evil entity that wants me for itself, like a phantom taking me in, inhabiting my body. If I am not lucky, it will. His ugliness will throw his head back, a sinister laugh erupting because he got me.

The other group members say this is normal. I told them between sips of instant coffee and store-bought cookies. There were nods and a supportive sounds, murmurings that they had been there. But no, I wanted them to be there with me. Right now. But so many of them had moved on, moved into acceptance and other happy places.

They tell me that it will get better. “Just give it time,” the woman to my left says, her hand patting my knee.

I swallowed and lowered my head, breaking off a piece of shortbread and swallowing it down with a sip of instant coffee. I hope she’s right.

Grief feels like I am walking with my legs sewn on backwards, a stutter through the world. Even simple things like bathing and eating and getting dressed feel like a chore.

I feel like Ran doesn’t care some days that our baby died. He has such a different way of coping. Instead of crying or talking about things, he runs. His body is withering down to nothing, his bones are protruding in places they used to not. His face is cadaverous. He tells me that running is a release. And I wonder what he thinks about on those long runs through the roads of Chestnut Ridge. Does he even think about the impossibly tiny baby that emerged from my body, red and tiny and dead.

I look forward to bed. Not for the sex, because that doesn’t happen much anymore. And not for the closeness we used to feel as we fell asleep intertwined in one another’s arms, but for the dreams I might have.

Baby Hope sometimes appeared to me, and if she didn’t, I’d will her to me. Occasionally, her face would appear on the sheers in our bedroom. I’d turn to look, to study the features of her face, but then she’d disappear. I wanted those dreams, because somehow it made me feel closer to her. I wanted tell her I was sorry. Because it was all my fault she didn’t survive.

On those nights, the ragdoll would appear on my nightstand or dresser, sometimes just on the floor near the window.

In the morning, I’d come awake disoriented. I’d check the clock on the bedside table: 9:16 a.m. Not too late. I still had most of the day. My mouth would be dry, sour. The cats would stare at me, their slumber disturbed and stretch long and languidly. My night shirt would be a little damp, my head clogged. I’d realize I’d been dreaming. Not a coherent narrative, but an intermingling of disjointed and haunting images, a parade of all of my fears. Baby Hope being taken away from me at the hospital, her tiny dark lifeless foot, the baby I’d given away.

I heard the thumping again. It was beckoning me to the window downstairs. A smattering of butterflies if I was in a good mood, a swarm of locusts if I wasn’t.

I’d lower my feet to the cream-colored rug. My mind started to catch up, shaking off the dream images and focusing on the real. But sometimes, in those dark days, I wasn’t sure what was real, or what was a product of my imagination, or the otherworld.

[Please remember this is an original work of unpublished fiction. It is not for you to take as your own. Comments always welcome.Thanks for reading!]

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