Grief is a Chimera.
Chimera: from Dictionary.com: a mythological, fire-breathing monster, commonly represented with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.
Also: an organism containing more than one set of DNA.
Also: a thing that is more than one thing.
At first, loss is almost entirely pain. It’s like eating flames. The hurt sears through you; there’s no nook of you it doesn’t touch. Your blood, your bones, your fascia, your thoughts—every cell of you, scorched.
You are sun-hot with pain.
Your mind pulses with your new reality. Words and images flood you. Scenes tucked away for years zoom back, suddenly startling through the filter of this loss.
When it’s not ablaze, your mind sags, goes limp and lazy. Like it’s daring you to focus on a magazine article or a sitcom or a prayer.
Fresh grief is contraction after contraction with nowhere to rest. It’s merciless.
Months or years slide by. Time distorts and warps; it feels like a million years since the loss, and also, like just this morning.
Some days, your resting spots seem a little wider, a little plusher. You forget for a breath, maybe two.
But other times, you actually feel worse; the time that’s passed has nudged you from your disbelief. This isn’t a forest fire in a faraway dreamscape; it is your life. The person you loved, could barely live without, is no more, except for how you hold them inside of you, an absence so thick it becomes a presence. Except for the way you can hear their voice like a swallowed echo. Except for how they are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
From time to time, you think, how lucky was I to have loved them. To be loved by them.
Still, the hurt slices ribbons through your gratitude. This loss is a two-headed thing, a chimera. Some days, she’s a fire-breathing dragon, some days a rectangular-eyed goat, too odd to be trusted.
More time passes. Your loss is no longer the first, screeching thought that wails at you each morning. You are nearly used to it now, though you still sometimes wade in pools of unbelief. You ponder the ambiguity of death. The expansiveness. We are nowhere, and then we are a fistful of cells, and perhaps if we are lucky we are born and live for some time before returning to the mystery, before our bones sink into the earth or are scorched and scattered. Before we flutter off to heaven or become part of the cosmos, before we’re origami memories tucked in the bodies of the living.
Those memories keep you company now, and are only mildly bittersweet—a cup of warm tea with a splash too much lemon.
At first, the grief was a fire inside you, and you can still conjure that now; there are still moments or hours or days when the pain is as bright as it ever was.
But other times, you’re a phoenix. The fire razed you, pruned you, revised you. It left you more essential.
Your loss is a scar you wear proudly. A ring around the tree of you. A sweetness at the back of your throat. As if you drank a dash of their essence, and it swims in you, a chimera, a you-them, a them-you, until you can no longer distinguish their essence from your own.
Isn’t that what love is—that murky, milky place where we two collide and merge? Isn’t that how we mark one another? Isn’t love always steeped in ache and fullness?
A chimera. A fire-spewing monster. A coiled kitten.
The truest thing you’ve ever known.