I was a wreck in August and much of September, and I couldn’t understand why. I remember a conversation in which friends were comparing notes on mental health and medications and they described themselves with official-sounding labels. All I know is the med I’m taking. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I cried in Sri Lanka and I cried on a writing retreat and maybe I cried all the tears I have for this year because even though it’s October, the month we lost Elli, I’m numb and distant.

As I write this, I think back on the year we’ve had and understanding is like the gray dawn of October creeping through the orange trees. This is a year I will bid farewell on New Year’s Eve by saying, “Thank you God that it’s over.”

Of course I’m shell-shocked. If life is war, I’ve just been through a hell of a fight. My daughter is dead, my friends and I were attacked by our own people, and we’ve been abandoned, cast off. I’m bleeding from wounds new and old, but the guy next me had a leg blown off by one of the traitor’s grenades. I wear numbness like a flak jacket and noise-canceling headphones, a necessary self-preservation for a feeler who has felt too much but must keep going. I breathe out “God help us” as I hold pressure on his severed artery and my husband gives him sips of water.

We mourn anew. Grief upon grief. Loss upon loss. Pain compounded.

This is not something I can control. Grief has seasons all its own, and it follows no calendar that I can find. To fight it is to spit into a hurricane – you just end up with a face full of your own saliva. You cannot tell yourself, “I should feel this way” or “I shouldn’t be numb right now.” There is no should in grief. Grief is. All we can do is ride it, hang on tight as it takes us through the weeping, the rage, the betrayal, and the distant numbness. All we can do is keep going.

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On Wednesdays, I host a link-up for anyone willing to step away from the pretense that all is welltake off their mask, and write nakedWhen we’re brave enough to be real about both the good and the bad days, we can offer real encouragement to those who in one of those bad days. Stop pretending life is perfect. It isn’t, and you just make the people around feel worse about their bad days when they think they are alone.

If you’ve written anything unmasked, link up below! Please link back to this post (here’s the link: http://wp.me/p2n5xv-Cd ) so your readers can learn and maybe join in too, and then make sure to visit at least two others and leave them encouraging comments.