I Put My Grief in Storage

One day, after a week-long pity party, something shifted. Maybe it was time. Maybe it was inevitable. Suddenly it felt like there was no other option. How long can someone stay broken after all? I wish I could tell you what changed for me. But I don’t really know. All I recall is that I wanted to make a different choice. I wanted possibility. Opportunity. Joy.

I knew I wouldn’t stop hurting but maybe I could package up the grief and store it away to make room for what was next. Kind of like how, living in New England, we put away our summer clothes every fall in a large tote to make room for our sweaters and coats and boots and scarves. The shorts and sundresses are still within reach. So if we decide to fly to Florida for a winter getaway, or work sends us to California for a few days, we can pull some items out of storage and wear them as needed.

The closet changeover is a necessity: our summers are hot and our winters are cold and the linens and cottons we wear in August are just not practical in February. Plus, many of us in New England live in homes that are 80, 90 or more than hundred years old. Old houses come with small closets, so small we cram our belongings in but we can only see the 10 or so garments hanging right in front. There is just no way for snow pants and t-shirts to coexist in that environment.

Maybe, it was the same for grief and happiness. I had been trying for years to wear them together, but they clashed, like a Tory Burch tunic and a pair of Sorel snow boots. Mix and match no longer felt like an option; I had to choose, and I decided to choose happy. Of course, I knew I wasn’t done with grief. I was just over it. So tucking it away, like I do my beach coverup, in a large Rubbermaid bin every October, seemed like a good option. If I needed it, I could always pull it out.

I wonder how my grief will fare now that it’s in storage. Will it suffer the fate of my camel cashmere coat, which came out of the bin full of moth holes and no longer wearable? I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that. For so long, my grief, like that coat, served as layer of protection, something that covered me up, whenever I left the house.

Will my grief end up like the bottle green, suede mini skirt I love so much? It hasn’t fit me in years but I will never part with it. I bought and wore that skirt when we first started dating. It reminds me of the dreams we shared when it all started. I think my grief will fit nicely next to it, at the bottom of the bin, a reminder of the life we built and the way it ended.

Most likely, my grief will be like the black cashmere TSE cardigan I convinced him to let me buy for $300. It’s a classic piece and so well constructed. I told him I would never need to replace it. I rarely wear it anymore but I take it out of the bin every fall and I pack it away again every spring. I have other black cashmere sweaters now. They’re not as timeless, not even as well made, but they suit my life better and have a bit more style. But every now and again, I reach for that cardigan and I put it on over a little black dress or with my favorite jeans.  Sometimes, it feels like the only thing that fits – something in which I invested so much and will cherish forever. Til death do us part.

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