It lives in the subterranean world of secret sorrow. While those around me were getting “over it” I was just getting “into it.” There is a difference between grieving in solitude or solitary confinement. Invisible bars surrounded me. I couldn’t get out in my solitary confinement and no one could reach me in my solitude.

Benjamin May 15 It will be OKBut the textures of solitude and solitary confinement are very different. I needed a lot of alone time. Solitude was and continues to be very healing for me. It is soft and warm, gentle to the touch as shadows encircle the flame. I find respite in solitude, in my emptiness.

In solitary confinement, my emptiness magnifies and sitting in a crowd becomes piercing and painful. Conversations with those that have moved on empty me more as we chat about “things,” things that don’t matter to me anymore, things that dissolve into no things, into nothing.

We live in a world that likes to fill things. Silence is uncomfortable. Emptiness must be avoided. Sorrow sucks the life out of a room. And in my silence, emptiness and sorrow I skimmed the surface interacting with the surface dwellers in wait of solitude.

I hid my solitude. I buried more than my child. I buried me in the subterranean secret sorrow and smiled in a world that did not want to share my silence, my emptiness or my sorrow.

In my aloneness, silent empty sorrow has a place to rest. Solitude takes the pieces of me and lets me sit in my pieces. I do not have to pretend, to hide, to smile when the only thing I want to do is cry. I learned quickly to let my tears flow from the inside into the inside when in a world that says, “Don’t cry.”

Benjamin May 15 Tears in secretPeople stopped asking what was wrong. They didn’t want to hear it anymore and I could no longer speak what is untranslatable. Words became my prison. Solitary confinement was when I would unsuccessfully try to explain and I could feel them backing away slowly, sometimes quickly.

And the trite responses distanced us even more. “It will be okay. It just takes time. You need to move on.”  I began to see that there were times these phrases weren’t because they couldn’t think of anything else to say. These simplistic responses came because they didn’t want to say anymore. And neither did I.

I knew when someone would ask how I was doing whether they really wanted to know or they were just filling the space, fulfilling an obligatory need to address the grieving one. I knew when I needed to answer, “I’m fine” for their sake, not mine.

They would be relieved. I would be relieved. And even if we were in the same room we parted company. They would go about their day. I would go about my night and go deeper into the subterranean worlds of my secret sorrow.

At first I was angry at the surface dwellers. I was jealous that the world I once lived in was gone. I raged against the bars of my solitary confinement. I felt they didn’t care. But I was wrong. They really didn’t know how to care and I was so distraught I didn’t know how to let others care. I pushed that world away just as much as that world pulled away. We were just in different orbits.

As I reflected on the difference between solitude and solitary confinement, I began to observe what makes them different. Solitary confinement happened when I attempted to live in relation to the world I once knew with a part of me I no longer knew. I was as awkward in those forced conversations as the ones around me.

I had lost the language of subterfuge. I could not hide in what I was no longer. The mask of “I’m fine” no longer fit and the costume that blended me into the paleness of their day was in tatters.

Benjamin May 15 UndergroundClothed in solitude each night I would mend again what the day tore to shreds. The florescent light bulbs of my solitary confinement submerged into the glow of a single candle in my subterranean world of secret sorrow. And the tears that fell in secret down the inside of me during the day flowed freely down my cheeks nightly. I didn’t even wipe them away. I needed them to find their own way for I had lost mine.

Slowly, in my solitude, I found others in their solitary confinement. I watched others who no longer lived in a world of things. I felt their emptiness and I felt they felt mine. We gathered in secret. We collected in sorrow. I would ask how they were doing and they didn’t have to say “fine.”

I dropped my expectations of those around me that had moved on. I found compassion for them as I became more compassionate with me. They did not have to feel my pain. I didn’t even want them to try.

But still, many who did not know what this subterranean world of secret sorrow was like did try to care. I began to appreciate their trying. Sometimes trying is the most anyone could do and the least I could do was be grateful for their kind and loving attempts.

It was then that I realized it was I who had created my solitary confinement. I was the one pushing the world away. I hurt so badly. I felt so empty. I was so alone. All I wanted was to hold the ones I had lost, and no arms, no words, no sound could hold me when it felt like there was nothing left of me to hold.

I am grateful for the ones that tried. I am grateful for the ones that in their solitude found me and penetrated my aloneness. I am grateful for both daylight and candlelight. And I am grateful for my subterranean world of secret sorrow that offers me solitude.

I still need my alone time to find my way into the presence of the ones I love.  My solitude still shines the brightest in a single flame flickering in the night air. We still embrace in this subterranean world of my Afterloss. But today, our love lives in the subterranean world of my sacred sorrow, a sacred sorrow that no longer is secret.

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