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A letter From The Land of Alone

By Megan Buxton
Awarded the National Association of Loss and Grief Award 2014

​Dear You,
      I’m standing in your room. If I breathe deep enough I can smell the cinnamon scent of you. If I’m still enough I can feel a tiny tremor of your essence. If I’m quiet I can hear you, but you’re as faint as the echo of bird call in a canyon. And you’re fading.
      I put your things away today in cardboard boxes. Six of them. How can they, so flimsy in substance and so small in number, hold all the love and the dreams and the hope that I’ve packed away inside them. 
      There they squat, like toadstools on the bedroom floor. And I don’t know what to do with them now they’re full. How can I give away the things you touched, the clothes that once touched you? I’m scared that, if I let them go, there’ll be nothing left to remind me of you.
      Death took you and as he left, he poked holes in me so the heart of me leaked out. I zombie-shuffle through my days dressed in black. You hated black, but colours are for the living; they hurt my grieving eyes.
      It’s funny – in a sad, strange way. You died and I’m like a corpse. 
      And here I am in the land of alone. And it’s hard here.
      People talk about my ‘late’ daughter. How I wish that were true and any moment you would burst through the door, scattering your belongings like confetti. How I wish that death was just a lack of punctuality.
      ‘Try to think about the good times,’ they tell me.
       I wonder how that’s supposed to help.
       Thinking of the good times is vinegar on raw flesh and opens up the wound to bleed memories of arguments and petty jealousies, pointless anger, bitterness. All thrown so carelessly back then when I thought I had forever. Never retracted, never recanted. Lost chances and disappointments.
       I feel the awful loneliness of regret.
       ‘Give it time,’ they say.
       But grief is a ravenous beast. I’ve been feeding him time and all he wants is more. More time, more pain, more of me. He takes and takes and gives nothing in return.
       I’ve said those same words to others in the past. They sound the same here in the land of alone but their meanings shimmer like mirages and I don’t seem to have a dictionary.
       And the words don’t tell me what to call myself. I’m not an orphan; I still have parents. I’m not a widow; it’s not a husband I’ve lost. No-one has a word for the mother who’s lost a child. So what have I become? What am I without you?
       ‘This will pass,’ they tell me. I know they’re wrong.
       Anger ends. Happiness and laughter end. Why, then, does grief go on and on?