Oh no.

It’s happening again…

All at once a bombardment of varying thoughts pound into my head and sink my heart into my stomach, as though pelted by hail in a storm.

Oh no … Not here!

But it’s too late to swallow the lump in my throat. It’s too late to force down the wells of tears rimming my eyes.

And so here I stand, amid the last-minute-lovey-dovey-consumerist-bustle, staring down at the word grief written in large font on a book cover under the “self-help” sectional sign. Here I stand, with an older white-haired gentleman flipping through pages of a Theology book standing to my right, and on my left a twenty-something-year-old gazing to the slew of inspiring books on the upper shelf. I sense the motion of other customers in the store passing behind me –or maybe they even cross in front of me—in any case, I don’t particularly notice because time in my body has stopped its predictable onerous ticking.

I blink and the tears erupt, beading over the bottom lid and effortlessly flowing over cheekbones and down to the bottom of my chin where they remain gathering droplets until to heavy to cling to the skin any longer.

Yes, here.

Grief is unpredictable. Grief does not schedule when and where it will make an appearance. Grief does not wait for an invitation; grief shows up unannounced, running by its individualized clock.

Today, the day before Valentine’s Day, I accidentally stumble upon the morbid yet ultimately unavoidable section in the bookstore and I find my own grief wanting to be expressed –regardless of my thinking it terrible timing.

All around me are shades of pink and red and hearts and cards with sparkles and people, so many people, making that last-minute dash to find that something special for a special someone. And here I am, dissolved in tears on winter-salt-stained carpet because a few letters of the alphabet triggered within me what I so like to avoid.

Honestly it takes a good while for the fact of Valentine’s Day to dawn on me. Perhaps subconsciously the tears of grief have been brewing from this topic for a while and simply needed a prod to come out. Grief is indecisive.

Loss of a loved one does not always happen by death.

The man I was madly in love with, and engaged to marry, at this time last year is now a shadow of fond memories. And unmitigated fear. And constant worry. And oh, the guilt-ridden-anxiety. The personal regrets.

The grief is fickle.

The reality is mental illness took him suddenly and I don’t know exactly where it has led him –or even if he’s still alive. I just know he’s not by my side. I know the beautiful ring I twirled on my ring finger whenever I was deep in thought, is no longer there. I know when I walk alone down a sidewalk I can’t reach for his hand to interlock with mine. My heart breaks, and then breaks in a different way, and then some more, when I think of my loss of him.

So grief strikes and I cry. Not because I feel sorry for myself. Not because I feel as though I am missing out on a great Valentine’s Day. Not because I feel unloved. I cry because it has been too long of holding in the grief –all of the grief: denial; anger; bargaining; depression; and the acceptance so rarely seen.

The grief is a whole world engulfing great space inside of me. It is time to subside it piece by piece. So today I pick up that book which sent me into tears and begin to journey onto another path of filling this vacancy.

It is still a day of mushy kisses and pressured romantics. But it is also an ordinary day in the life of grief.