Losing someone, or something, that cannot ever, no matter how much we want them to, be gotten back, a parent/grandparent, a child, a spouse, a friend, one's innocence, hometown, these tragedies are lifelong companions for us to unpack and to remember. To mourn, and in time, one hopes, transform, or simply to carry around with us as sacred visitor/remainder to our lives.
I lost my Grandmother recently. Suddenly one of the largest, most beautiful chapters of my life closed and none of us got to choose the ending that we wanted. We found out that she had leukemia, and at 89, this was it. She had already suffered so much. In fact, to be quite honest, loss was the stuff of my family. My Grandmother lost three sons, all in their early 20's, all tragic deaths. One was cut in half by a train, another hung from a rope in his room, and the third, the only one I ever got a chance to know, drove his car off of a bridge one fatal night. My Grandmother was never the same. How could she be? It was too much loss for anyone to have to bear, and yet, somehow, she did. Bore it, that is. Wore grief like a cloak. It is, she once said to me, a life's work.
My father lost two brothers in their early 20's as well, one died in his arms after falling down an open elevator shaft, the other, who spent most of his adult life homeless, was found floating in the East River and is now but a number on Potter's Field. Tragedy and loss is the thread that wove my family together. Not ideal, but what there was. It is said that it's not what we lose in life that matters, but what we have left. Such things rarely help in the face of so great an accumulation of losses. Now, my mother, who has been fatally sick with Dystonia since she was 13, is being told there is nothing more anyone can do for her, and that it is time for hospice.
I was tasked with the impossible, painful work of my Grandmother's end of life care. Four days on hospice, she went so quickly, a sign of just how hard and long she had been holding on for, such that when she did finally let go, she really let go. I felt guilty and conflicted, hospice seemed like an unspoken form of doctor assisted suicide. The only thing that brought me peace of mind was in knowing that it was what she needed from me and that only I could give it to her, this thing she needed, to go, to be out of pain. What was one to do but simply (not so simply) honor that.
Joyce Carol Oates writes; "Grief is a kind of illness. Sever grief, severe illness. The wish to do harm to oneself as penance for having survived the loved one, or as a way of joining the loved one, is very strong, and because it is totally unreasonable, it is difficult to refute with reason... After an unexpected death; this is the great, the truly extraordinary adventure most of us will have to undergo at some point in our lives, though it is very difficult to speak of it coherently afterward. Not the phenomena of grief as it might be calmly assessed and analyzed, but an evocation of grief itself - that which is unspeakable."
This is what we are looking for in our special winter issue on loss and grief. Perhaps you have had to assist a loved one who was terminally ill in their end of life care. Perhaps you lost a child or a parent way too early in the journey, or a childhood friend. Or perhaps your childhood home was lost in a house fire. Or perhaps, as I recently had found upon returning to the trailer park where I grew up in North Carolina, that the whole thing was just gone, cleared out for a development of upper middle class homes; unrecognizable. There is a grief in knowing that the poor have no place to return to that can be called home.
There is no formula or hard rule here, whatever you feel you've lost, whatever you feel is grievable, we want to be a space where you can process, mourn, scream, call out, remember, fall apart. This is hard work, to write, to edit, but my feeling is that doing such work brings us some form of relief. It is hard to name, more of a feeling than a word, more of a silent prayer than a faith. In the end, it's true, that words and art are not nearly enough. The work of mourning is beyond these things, it is beyond any and everything. It is an impossible kind of work. Unfinishable. Irremediably ours. But words and art are what we have at hand, while not enough, they are nonetheless something essential. As are you. We are honored to house your story and the story of those things and people that you have loved and lost.
Submissions for our special winter issue on Grief & Loss are open until midnight on 10-30-19.
Poetry: We are pleased to announce that we have a new, special guest editor who will be reading your poems for this issue, Erica Anderson-Senter. Please send 3 to 5 poems to Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org. Poems can be pasted into the body of the email or sent attached in a word document. Please, no PDF's. Subject line should read as follows: Your Name_Poetry Submission. Please include a third person bio and an author photo.
CNF, Essays: Send up to two pieces (preferably no more than 20 pages) to Erica Anderson-Senter at email@example.com. Subject line should read as follows: Your Name_CNF Submission. Please include a third person bio and an author photo.
Fiction: Send up to two pieces (preferably no more than 20 pages) of micro or long form fiction to James Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line should read as follows: Your Name_Fiction Submission. Please include a third person bio and author photo.
Art and Photography: Send up to 10 pieces to email@example.com.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.