Sometimes grief gets ugly

I tried to draw a picture of me drowning. That same charcoal sea, undulating waves. But no life raft. No bathtub. No one else on the horizon.

But sometimes the sea is so deep it swallows up even the simple curve and smear of charcoal on paper. I can’t draw, I can’t draw, I can’t draw. The paper turns black and muddy. Charcoal dust covers my hands and legs. Words get lost in my brain, some desperate sort of aphasia, and I am reduced to grunts and wails and yelling.

This is what happened to my drawing that I couldn’t draw:


A therapist many years ago suggested I rip up paper when I feel despair. To slice at it with a razor, ball it up, destroy it.


Instead of turning this destructive energy on myself, I stab the paper, drag the razor down, opening it up, over and over, shredding it. When the paper is too thin to cut anymore, I tear it into to smaller and smaller pieces.


A brief catharsis.



I sit with the wreck of my failure until embarrassment settles in. We are not supposed to fall apart. We are not supposed to wail and gnash our teeth and rend our clothes. We are supposed to go about in a funeral parlor hush, red-rimmed eyes carefully dabbed at with tissues. We are a calm, orderly, stoic culture.

I sweep up the pieces and throw them in the trashcan. I wash my hands, rub the smudges off my calves and feet.

When someone greets me, asks me, “How are you?” I dutifully answer, “Fine, thanks,” and smile.

© Burning Eye


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