what they say

You'll hear these words again and again, sometimes as a reassurance, sometimes as an explanation, sometimes, it seems, simply as a mantra: "everyone grieves differently."

"Everyone grieves differently," they say, "Oh, yes, everyone grieves differently. You know, everyone grieves differently." They say it, but it isn't true.

Everyone seems to grieve in remarkably similar ways. There's the chasm, the stumble, the stagger, and the fall. There's the cold, the silence, and the dark. There's the shattering, the splintering, the grinding, the rending. There's the strange language in low whispers. There are tears that strangle and tears that scald. There's the chain of words around your wrists, the story worn out by the telling that always ends in exactly the same way.

There's the wearying round of repetition. The first month, the second month, the third month. There's the ever-recurring day as the weeks gain ground. There's the first Christmas, first Easter, first Mother's Day. Then the whole year has gone and the counting begins again, but more quietly this time.

Sometimes there's the stake and sometimes there's the stone, the garden, the poppied field far from the swing of the sea. There's the shadow and the apple blossoms, the thimble and the stitches, the cypress and the yew. Everyone grieves that way. Everyone, it seems, except for me.

"You can't compare pain," they say. But that's not true either.

I lift your grief in one hand, mine in the other. I balance them against each other, gauging their heft. I lay them side by side and measure carefully. Mine always comes up short.