In the spring, someone told me that it’s helpful to come up with a descriptive concept to represent the grief experience. Many people say that grief is “like being rocked by waves”. I half-heartedly accepted the wave theory (the emotions of grief do come in unexpected, overwhelming bouts), but it felt a little off. Eventually my own description took shape.

It was as though I had been newly blinded, and placed alone in an unfamiliar room. I couldn’t see what was before my face. With each movement there was a risk of unexpectedly stubbing my toe on the furniture, or worse: knocking over boxes, banging my head on the chandelier, stepping on shattered glass. Occasionally I found a safe and quiet space to rest. The work of constructing a mental map began. But the map was unreliable, based on fearful memories and incomplete knowledge. And it was unrecorded, the lines held imprecisely by a tired mind.

During those days, others often worried that I would become bored. But I’d never been busier, had never worked harder, was never so exhausted. I was dodging table legs and feeling my way along the side-walls. I was building my map. Constantly bruised and cut, recovering from various wounds while sustaining new ones. That was the work of grief.

With time my map improved, and I could even rearrange things. Put a big couch in the center, swept up most of the glass, reminded myself to keep away from that gross sticky patch near the corner. I didn’t want to be in that room, but it had become my home.

Now I have that safe place to call my own, but I’ve realized that the entire house is unfamiliar. There are many more rooms to explore and make safe. Some day I’ll need to go outside to make sure the structure seems stable. But not yet; I still haven’t cleared a path to the door.