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This past Sunday, one of Susanna’s high school friends was killed in an accident. He was 21, the oldest of three boys, a student at Clemson. This week has been rough. Hello, understatement. She and I talked about the loss Sunday before going to bed, where the nightmares ensued. I dreamed that Mama was alive and I was bargaining with her to stay here, crying, begging her not to leave me. For hours, this went on. Finally got up, feeling hungover and exhausted. Was greeted by Sue sitting quietly, with puffy eyes and dark circles. She had dreamed that our dad died, and she was an orphan whom no one wanted. She called into work and slept on the sofa… said that she could sleep as long as she knew that I was in the room with her.

The funeral was last night — the first funeral that Sue has attended since our mother’s. It was a 5-year reunion for Sue’s high school class for the worst imaginable reason. Afterward, she & her friends drank. A lot. But the dreams were waiting, because alcohol only works when you’re awake — she woke herself up this morning crying and saying “Mama.”

It sucks, people. It really, really f-ing sucks. You think you’re getting better, that you’re learning to live around the giant, gaping hole. But it’s a slippery slope, and even the smallest nudge sends you hurtling back into that dark, scary place where you’re nothing but a lost, shattered child.

The grief books call it a “sudden, temporary upsurge of grief,” defined as:

brief periods of intense grief which occur when a catalyst (or trigger) reminds one of the absence of the loved one or resurrects memories of the death, the loved one, or feelings about the loss.

These are not the same as missing or thinking about a person, or even shedding a few tears. No, this is overwhelming anguish, like someone has put you in a time machine and sent you back to when it first happened, when you were raw and bleeding, and not sure if getting out of bed was an option.

Obvious triggers are birthdays, the death anniversary, Mother’s Day, and holidays.  But then there are the sneaky little bastards that blindside you when you least expect it. A sudden death like Sue’s friend, a dream, a picture, a song — even something as seemingly harmless as a hand-written recipe or a lady’s dress in church can bring it crashing back down on you like a wave, rolling you over and incapacitating you for minutes, hours, or days.

I find myself saying that it gets “easier.” Not EASY…. easi-ER. But that dark place is never more than a moment away. And is that really easier? Should any form of the word “easy” be applied to this? Easy means “without effort, free from pain, unoppressive.” Not even in my best moments, on my strongest, most “normal” days, does this word fit. It’s always, ALWAYS there, like a dull ache of chronic disease in remission, and the flare-ups, the attacks, never get easier. Perhaps they get briefer… but when you feel your soul and heart shriveling and bleeding for all that’s lost, “easy” is nowhere in sight.

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