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Grief Is Love

"Grief is Love"

Living with Loss

A grief book? Just what I want to read on a lazy Saturday morning. After looking at it on my bookshelf for over a month, I finally willed myself to start reading. Now, it's not that I didn't want to read it, I just didn't want to feel any emotion that wasn't joyful on a Saturday morning. Feeling my own emotions is tough enough, why did I think it was a good idea to add someone else's emotions into the mix?

"Grief is Love" is written by Marisa Renee Lee. Lee is a daughter who lost her mother, a mother (and partner) who experienced infertility and miscarriage, and a Black woman living in a world where injustice and racism surround and compound grief and loss.

The book is about her own journey before and after her mom's death and the lessons she's learned along the way. Woven through her stories are how race and gender play big parts in how we are allowed to grieve.

The Lessons I Learned

Grief in All Shapes

Well, for starters, one lesson I learned is not to postpone a book just because it's emotional. This book was beautifully written and exactly what I needed at the time. Lee's story showcases how grief comes in many forms and doesn't always stem from a death. She writes about her long journey of watching her mom deteriorate from cancer, "I was in a state of continuous freefall. I was trying to hold onto her like a child attempting to hold onto sand with fists clenched, grasping tight. I didn't feel stable enough, secure enough, safe enough to let her go. I couldn't envision a world in which she ceased to exist, but unfortunately, I was in a position where I'd have to anticipate it." Anticipatory grief sucks. It can make you feel as though you can't grieve YET, because if you do allow the pain in, you may break.

Lee also writes about her miscarriages and infertility, all while not having her mom alongside her. While infertility is not a death, it's grieving the life you deeply wanted to have. You have to grieve the fact that you did not have the choice to experience a pregnancy, to feel a baby kick inside of you, or to create a family without spending a fortune on fertility treatments or adoption. But to survive we must grieve. We must allow ourselves to cry, to feel, to be angry, to acknowledge fear and guilt. With every tear, it becomes a little easier.

Grief as a Luxury

"Some of us are too female, too poor, too gay, or too Black for vulnerability. How do you begin to access the vulnerability that grief requires in the absence of safety and security? If day to day living often feels like a battle, grieving seems like a luxury." When society tells you that "women are too emotional and therefore lack the strength needed to lead" the last thing you want to do as a powerhouse woman is to break down in tears at a meeting surrounded by men because your grandma just died (yes I'm speaking from experience). I hung on every word of Lee's stories. When the world around you aims a constant barrage of racism, homophobia, sexism, etc., at you, Lee explains that it can feel almost unimaginable to be able to give yourself the space to grieve, to be vulnerable, to open up and let the tears stream down from your eyes. Grief isn't simple. It's complex. It feels different to each person and these feelings can be compounded by societal trauma, expectations, and a lack of safety.

Honoring their Legacy

Lee writes about learning how to honor her mother's legacy. Not in the external for everyone to see kind of way, but in a way that is deeply personal. For me, I honor my Grandma Kraemer every time I give someone a nice big hug. She always used to say, "I'll squeeze you 'til your juices come out."

Pretty gross, I know. But it makes me smile and reminds me to continue to love strongly and unapologetically.


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