They’re still there, the birds that roost in the open spaces of the letters in the grocery store sign.
Only a handful of times has a natural smile bloomed onto my face in the past three months. It unfolded very carefully, though without hesitation. The delicate petals of some pretty pink flower unfurled to reveal a reminiscent peace that my body had forgotten about.
I hadn’t noticed them at all the last few times I tried to come here. I had forgotten the solace they used to bring, on my menial trips before my world shattered and left me splintered.
As a child, I was excited to look for them and see if they were sitting there, waiting for me. I would always count them and for some reason, that silly thing would bring me joy. Bonus points for watching them come back and alight upon the second to last letter, like a twittering character of punctuation that was supposed to be there.
The excitement waned as I grew taller, busier, less mindful of things and more mindful of my to-do lists. Here and there I would notice and smile, and then go back to running through numbers and schedules in my head of who is supposed to be where and whether or not I had checked if we needed orange juice again.
It was mostly a chore, a bore, to do these things. Walk the aisles and fill my cart with the items we needed to keep us going for the week. If somebody wasn’t feeling well, or had a rough week, I would make sure the ingredients for their favorite meal or a special treat came home with me that day. If we entertained for a celebration or a holiday, I would select the things I needed to make it as meaningful as I could.
I had never realized until you weren’t with me, that this was another way I loved you.
I hadn’t realized the birds and everything else comfortable and safe disappeared when I left the house since you’ve been gone.
The thought of grocery shopping sends me into panic, or floods me with tears and longing. I haven’t been here much in the past three months.
The first time I tried, I was overwhelmed by how much of you was there, in a place I never would have associated with you. Daily meals, special dinners, your favorite snacks, even times I’d been here with you, they all leapt out from behind boxes of cereal or pasta.
I left a cart full of things as I succumbed to a guerilla warfare style attack of emotion, without ever having made it to the milk.
I had wondered, what was wrong with me, that I couldn’t even shop for my own food?
Why hadn’t anyone warned me that grocery shopping would make me feel crazy? Make me feel like something was terribly, horribly, wrong with me, that I would never get through this?
Nobody told me that every day tasks would be crippling, and not even the obvious ones.
I’m so sick of everyone telling me how I should be feeling, or not feeling.
I’m weary of the careful little dance people do, screaming with discomfort because they don’t know what to do for me when they see me.
These birds today, they opened something in me. A tiny bud has fought its way up through the soil, and awoken in the sunlight.
Even if I push my cart and cry when I go inside, my sobs cannot take this moment from me.
I had peace.
I may go home and collapse into an exhausted heap of brokenness. I may not.
Grief has been like that, an unpredictable, demanding, spoiled little child that wants what it wants when it wants it.
It cannot take away my birds and the sliver of peace I had. What unfurled inside me today was a quiet, almost unrecognizable petal of hope.
I don’t know how long it will last, or how infrequently it will come for me. I may not feel peace or hope for many months.
But I will remember this moment, with the little nesting birds, punctuating my day. Ending a thought, giving me pause.
I reject the ideas of moving on and acceptance and embrace accommodating this tremendous loss into my life, at my own pace.
Keys in hand, list in my pocket, you in my heart.
Oh, and tissues. I’m out of tissues?
Ilissa Ducoat is a licensed professional counselor and a Fellow in Thanatology. She is also a mommy, wife, daughter, friend, niece, aunt, and writer. Ilissa experienced a series of personal losses that helped carve out the path she’s taking toward helping others through their grief journey. In addition to her career as a therapist with Alliance Counseling Center in Hellertown, PA, Ilissa uses her writing to create a more comfortable space for grieving and mental health challenges in our society. Through validation, connection, and education, she believes we can improve how we support each other, and won’t get off her soapbox until we’re there. Ilissa digs a fire pit and a good classic rock cover band. Lisa is also a Huffington Post blogger.