Bits and pieces of hard-earned wisdom
Welcome to my weird little grief nest.
One night last week, as I was flying through the second half of J. Ryan Stradal’s Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club, I landed upon a passage that made me pause. It was about one of the novel’s main characters, Mariel, and while I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, it’s safe to share that she’s someone who’s experienced a fair amount of grief.
“Long ago she had to give herself permission to break again and again, as often as she damn well pleased, and she knew she'd keep breaking forever,” Stradal wrote. “Perhaps it wasn't the only way through grief, but it was hers, and she welcomed it. She would break until there was nothing left, until she was nothing or something else entirely, another woman perhaps, one who could feel something like forgiveness.”
That image stopped me in my tracks. Reading it took me back to my own immense grief, when I also had to give myself permission to fall apart as often as I needed to. It reminded me that plenty of people, including me, struggle with things like self-forgiveness when a loved one unexpectedly dies. And it made me smile, as weird as that might be to admit.
I wanted to devour that passage — to dog-ear the page, highlight those beautiful words, and scribble my own thoughts in the margins. Because it was a library book, I took a photo instead. I stashed that image away in my ever-growing, ever-changing, ever-valuable collection of grief wisdom.
I’ve been collecting bits and pieces of grief insights ever since my husband, Jamie, died in 2017. At first, these words seemed like a possible roadmap for a path I had no idea how to take. Later, they would make me feel less alone; proof that someone else understood this kind of loss! Now, they’re like a visit from an old friend. I’m (blessedly, and unfortunately temporarily) not currently seeking out grief advice like I used to, so it’s always a bit of a surprise and an odd sort of comfort when words or images depicting grief pop up in everyday life.
Like so many things these days, these bits and pieces of wisdom I’ve collected are mostly digital. Sentences jotted down in my Notes app. Photos of book pages. Screenshots of articles. As I added Stradal’s words to the pile, I thought about what my collection would look like if it were a physical one. It would be a scattered pile of papers, some tear-stained, some angrily torn out, some handled with love and care. They would all weave together, each bit of wisdom connecting to and building upon the next. Together, they might form something like a nest — a soft place for me to land when I needed someone else’s words to guide me in my own times of sorrow.
This week, just for you dear subscribers, I wanted to offer a glimpse into the bits and pieces of my weird little grief nest. Maybe you’ll discover words that comfort you, too.