The Physics of Grief

When grief hits, gravity goes. I looked into the impact of loss on my sense of direction, time, and space.

After the sensation of falling stopped, I looked around and realized I was numb, existing nowhere at all.

When I heard my dad’s voice calling out to me in my dreams, I was neither awake nor asleep — balancing in some confusing yet padded ether with no hard touch of my reality. Like cotton balls in my ears.

The numbness I felt was like a comfortable balloon. Twelve-inches worth of emotional bubble wrap surrounded me at all times. I was neither experiencing my loss nor my surroundings much at all.

Therapists call this Disassociation — a mental state or ongoing condition in which we distance ourselves and “depersonalize” from hurtful memories. It’s a physiological response to something that’s too hard to feel. For me, these were eight-hour long funeral lines, the last hug I gave Dad, and the complicated feelings around our unresolved family issues.

After numb came heavy.

As I walked between classes, I carried ten-pound weights from each of my limbs. One hour of being awake and aware meant one hour of being asleep was necessary.

After so much grief, I pushed my thoughts elsewhere. Before long, I began to time travel.

Every time my phone rang from a family member, I was sucked back into that first moment of my loss. This trigger stemmed a series of sharp flashbacks, each trapping me in that moment I couldn’t avoid like the protagonist in a Black Mirror episode.

At times during the worst of my grief, the room felt smaller and smaller as grief closed in.

My once-beloved bedroom became a too-small trap. At night in my dreams, I always felt that my worst fears were approaching. Dangling over me from the ceiling were reminders of death, big menacing spiders or worse. I’d scream, reach out, find nothing and wake up gripping my sheets for dear life.

Queens, NY. Sometimes traveler. Creating new narratives on mental health and sustainability. Founder of Earth & Me, a zero-waste small business and publication.

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