All the King’s Horses

Grief does strange things to a person
I think it’s the sense of being untethered
Unmoored
Like you’ve lost your anchor

I don’t blame her
That woman from the Wild book
Who lost her mom and then lost herself
Left everything behind
And went a little crazy

Grief sets a person adrift
The scenery changes, boundary lines shift
Nothing looks the same
Nothing is the same
Including yourself

So much of who we are is defined
By our surroundings – people and places
They shift, we shift
They move, we move
Lose them and we are lost
At least for a little while

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On Grief and Love

We may be tempted to believe that those acquainted with grief should take the smaller losses in stride. We may think that after the loss of a parent, a child, a sibling, a spouse, what’s so bad about selling your home or a child growing up or friends and family moving away? But I find it’s quite the opposite. Once acquainted with grief, all the other losses become greater.

Grief remembers grief. And when those feelings of loss come in like the tide, washing over my toes and ankles, in that moment my body, mind and spirit remember…I remember…I remember all the times the waves crashed into my thighs, my gut, my chest, even over my head. And the feelings, though I do not call to them, though I do not want them, though I hope against hope they will stay at sea…those feelings come anyway.

The sorrow, the heavy emptiness, like a vacuum stealing air from my lungs. “It’s hard to sleep, to even breathe, harder still to wake and leave.” The waves come and I can’t stop them. Wet and salty and cold enough to burn, they come. Until I’m drowning, full of a sorrow I can’t contain, and those wet, salty waves, spill over the shores of my eyes. Waves that run hot now, because they come from the deepest wells of my heart and soul, the place where love dwells…no matter how I try to wall it off, or pack it away in ice…there lies love, love that can’t stop, won’t stop, burning, yearning, turning toward the smallest open crack.

Oh dear friends, and oh my soul, grief remembers grief because love remembers love. And love never fails.

 

Where They Hide the Bodies

I don’t know, people. Sometimes these things just ooze out of me. Don’t let it worry you. In the words of Bridget Jones, “It’s just a diary” but in this case it’s just a poem.

I’ve got nothing
But words
And words aren’t enough
For me now

I’m so tired and
I can’t find the door
I think I’ll just
Lie down

If I do
Will anyone notice
Will the sky change
Will you

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Grief at the Sidewalk’s End

I wrote the following poem as part of a poetry group assignment. It was my first time attending and I was quite nervous, but everyone was lovely (and talented!). The prompt was titled “Borrowed” and we were to use a line from another poem as part of our poem. I must admit, when I started with Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’, I did not expect to go in this direction – it’s a bit dark for Shel Silverstein hahahaha. But isn’t that the point of the sidewalk’s end? Anything can happen. Oh wait…that’s another Silverstein poem…

Grief at the Sidewalk’s End
A poem beginning with a line from Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
A darkened river wends
  Undaunted

There is a look as he turns his head
Squints toward truth, but we pretend
  Fainthearted

There is a dread and its claws ascend
Gut, chest, throat, soul-flesh rends
  Departed

There is a time when the sunlight bends
Her warm, blood-red amends
  Unwanted

There is a hand where his hand had been
Too slight to comprehend
  Truth haunts me

There is a pit where my dreams descend
Hope, joy, and light offend
  The darkness

There is Peace to my soul, attends
Understanding transcends
  The Cross bones

I’ve stood at the place where the sidewalk ends
Where breath suspends

© Nichole Q. Perreault

 

Every Day | When Grief Lasts and Hope Remains

I AM THAT CAT
We used to have two cats, Pink and Sabrina. They were brothers, which isn’t obvious from their names. That’s what happens when you let your four-year-old and her best friend name your kittens.

Pink was a super-sized, black tuxedo who acted an awful lot like a dog. Sabrina was a smaller, gray version of Pink, and he snored like something akin to a chainsaw. Like most brothers, they played and they fought and they cuddled when sleepy.

One day, when they were about five years old, Pink and Sabrina (both indoor cats) escaped into the great wide open. Pink came home. Sabrina never did.

We were terribly worried and sad, but no one more than Pink. Every day, the burly cat would climb in an open window or press his nose against our screen door and call for Sabrina. His was a heartbreaking cry and you knew, you just knew, his meows meant, “Where are you? I’m still here. Come home. I miss you. Come home! I’m waiting!”

This went on for two years. For two years, Pink called and cried for his brother. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised – those kitties were together every single day of their lives. I imagine Pink felt as though he’d lost not just his brother, but a part of himself.

I am that cat.

Two years after my baby brother’s death, my soul still cries, “Where are you! I’m here. I miss you. Come home! I’m waiting!”

Just about everyone’s favorite picture of Derek

Like Pink, I expect my brother to come walking up the driveway at any moment – to tell me a funny story about his son or to ask me if I saw that great play Dustin Pedroia made in last night’s game.

THE WISDOM OF FRIENDS
I’m so grateful for two honest women who, in the weeks following my brother’s death, were kind enough to spare me the usual platitudes and instead told me the bald truth:

“No matter what anyone says, it doesn’t get easier, we just learn to cope better…”

I needed to hear those words. Sure, I’d lost people before – Kenny (Derek’s father and my stepfather who was like a father to me, died when I was 12 and Derek was two), grandparents who helped raise me, uncles and aunts and friends – so on some level, I knew their words were true. But I needed to hear them anyway. I needed to know that it’s ok that I’ll never be ok with this loss.

Proof for middle-school girls that there is hope…you will not always look this awkward. I promise.

In some ways, all losses are the same – you grieve for what you can’t have. But in other ways, each loss is different. The loss of a parent triggers life-altering insecurity – Who will take care of me? Who will love me unconditionally? Who will show me how to do this thing called life? While the loss of a friend slaps us awake to our own mortality and robs us of one of the few relationships that isn’t dictated by birth or marrying into a family, but is instead chosen.

Losing my brother, though, has been much more like losing a part of myself, as if someone carved a giant chunk of flesh out of my side. My brother was mine and I was his. He was my equal, my side-by-side, my co-conspirator in the unique craziness that is our family and no one else’s.

Ryan, Derek & me (Only God can put a family like this together!)

Like most siblings, we shared a sort of secret language of eye-rolls and smirks and headshakes. 

And even though we weren’t always together, it’s as if he was somehow, in every moment, standing right next to me. I knew he was there, just a phone call or short drive or the next holiday away. Only now he’s not.

And I am that cat.

The day following Derek’s death, I told my mom, “Now every day is a day he gets further and further away from me.”

My friends were right. Life hasn’t gotten any easier. In many ways, it’s harder.

Because now it’s been two years since I’ve heard his laugh…
two years since I’ve looked into those seawater eyes…
two years since we’ve watched a ball game together…
two years since he’s cracked a joke and made me laugh until I cry…
two years since I’ve held his hand, since we’ve played Wheel of Fortune, since he’s smothered me in a bear hug, since I’ve told him I love him.

I miss him now more than ever.

And I am that stupid cat crying in the window.

A STILL SMALL VOICE
Eventually, Pink stopped calling for Sabrina. Did he grow tired of trying? Did his broken heart figure out that Sabrina wasn’t coming home? Did he simply forget?

I’ve thought about this a lot lately: How long will my broken heart search for the missing piece? How many times must I tell myself Derek’s really gone? Will I become accustomed to life without him? Do I want to?

I worry, as I walk into a future without Derek, that I’m losing him again, that he’s growing smaller and smaller out on the horizon’s edge, and as the light and dust and distance obscure my vision, I fear that soon, he will disappear altogether. In those moments, the black abyss rushes at me and the hollow wind steals my breath and the air thick with emptiness presses down and… will the losing never end?!

Lashed by storms of grief and not comforted, I am a city in ruins.

But lately, in the midst of those ruins, when the silence settles like clear, fresh air, there is something else…a still, small voice…a voice that whispers to my soul:

Every day, every day, every day that passes,
every day that Derek gets further away from you,
every day is one day you get closer to seeing him again.
So don’t worry little one,
for while you are weeping at the door,
your brother calls to you:
“I’m right here. Don’t worry about me.
I’m already home.
And I’ll be right here, waiting for you,
every day.”

I am that cat crying at the door. But my brother waits for me. I am a city in ruins. But I am being rebuilt. Every day.

I love you baby brother. More than words can say. 


p.s. I’m about 99% sure that the next time I see Derek he is going to rank on me mercilessly for comparing our relationships to my cats. “I am that cat, Nichole? Really? That’s the line you went with? (followed by his high-pitched giggle)” Obviously, he won’t be swearing because we’ll be in heaven and all.

© Nichole Q Perreault

Did God Really Say?

The following was written about an experience I had a couple of weeks before my brother passed away. It is still relevant now. 

One misty morning, when even the air seems gray and heavy with tears, I visit my old church. I climb to the top of the hill, and there surrounded by 12 boulders, I sit before the tall wooden cross in the damp crab grass, hugging my knees to my chest.

Birds chirp in the stillness. I wear the fog like a blanket and let the drizzling rain soak my shirt, the peace of this place soak my soul. It’s like coming home.

For a while, I rest in the quiet, the solitude, the home-ness. But I grow restless.

In a hospital bed not far away, my brother, my baby brother, fights for his life, stricken with an illness no 32 year-old father should experience. Every day for weeks we’ve prayed, we’ve stood vigil by his bed, taking shifts, helping him eat, holding his hand, washing his face, hoping against hope for a miracle.

Where is God in this? Who is God in this? Do I even want to know? If I keep looking, will I recognize the One I find? Or will I find that He is what I’ve always feared – a liar, a fraud, a cold, heartless trickster who lures us in with promises of life and goodness and joy and peace, only to laugh as we choke on the toxic apple?

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Thoughts from Inside the Storm

The pain burns, stings, like a thousand cuts carved into my skin, on my hands, my feet, across my chest, my stomach, my back. I can almost feel the blood oozing out like tears – my whole body weeps. My whole body weeps, shudders, shakes. I need to vomit. To expel this wretched wrong. This thing I can’t undo. This end. Which is an ending I never would have written but was written for me instead – for us all – but most of all, for him.

I am raw and broken. And sick. So sick. Only I can’t throw it up. There’s always more – more pain, more sorrow, more regret churning and burning its way through my soul.

Oh God. How can you ask me? How can you ask me to do this?

You color me in and then erase me. Drain me. To the dregs. And dregs are all I have left.

But You can’t blame me. I can blame me. I can be angry and live with regrets and could haves and should haves and would haves. But not You. Because You let this happen. You did. There’s no denying it.

So when I am nothing, when I am just sludge and scar tissue, You won’t ask why. You won’t dare look at me with surprise. You can’t possibly be surprised. You know the end from the beginning. You knew this. You knew this day. You knew this pain, too.

What if I can’t forgive You? What then? What if You and me are never the same? What have You done? Could You destroy “us”? Would You?

I think somewhere deep inside I know the answers, but today the pain is louder. Like the roaring winds of a hurricane. I hear nothing else. I feel nothing else. I am deaf to all but the screaming of my soul as I am peeled apart, layer by layer, flesh torn open and packed with salt.

Here, truth and comfort are merely words, tiny letters which, rearranged, can mean anything…or nothing at all. Meaningless. Meaningless. I spin around the eye of the storm. There is nothing but the pain.

And all I can do is wait.

——————————

For all our brothers, near, far and farthest. And to the One Brother who I need now more than ever: be my shelter from the storm.

Not Mine to Keep | A Poem of Love and Loss

Family Photo

Family Photo

For my girls:

Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh is this child
this woman
who now walks away from me

Always she is walking away…always, she is going

I wish she had come with a note,
like a present with a ribbon tied ’round her wrist
and a card attached
with the words:

“Just passing through.
I will come to you,
into your body, into your home,
into your wallet, your schedule, your dreams
and most of all
into your heart.
But I will not stay.
I’m just passing through.”

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Unanswered

I find the letter. Worn. Faded. The words still familiar.

Melodic whispers of another time, another place. Of two faces, close together, flushing beneath a thousand sunlit cherry blossoms. The blushing trees stretching endlessly in every direction, motionless…as if holding their breath, waiting, listening.

His soft, brown eyes already asked the question. Her heart beat out an answer. An answer. An answer.

He held her in his eyes. She touched his cheek. And for a moment they were one. They were forever. All that was, all that would be, colliding in perfect stillness…

Before I finish reading, I slip the yellowing paper back into its envelope.

I close my eyes and find that moment…crystalized, frozen in time…pink petals suspended in the air. No questions. No fear. No doubt.

No words left unspoken. No letters left unanswered.

Just him. And me. And my heart still beating out an answer. An answer. An answer.

Written in response to Writing 101: Be Brief 

If My Heart had Wings

Four Generations

Four Generations

Some days, I miss her so much I can almost feel her next to me, in front of me…taking my face in her papery hands and drawing me close to kiss my cheek.

She wasn’t always old, though.

We lived a number places together: the Green House in the hills of Granby, an apartment in Simsbury and then, later, a raised ranch further up the street. Wherever she was felt like home to me.

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