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The Thing Is by Ellen Bass

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This started out as a note to myself, but since you need it more than I do —

Dear J.,

You can do this. You don’t have to be okay right away. Give yourself time and space to heal. If it involves being a mess for awhile, let it happen. Lord knows I’ve been there. Come to think of it, I am still there. My dear friend, for the first time in a long time, you are alone again. You have to get used to the idea, and you need to reconnect with the self before there was someone else in your life. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. It’s scary, yes. I want you to know that I am here. I am holding your hand. You are much stronger than you think.


The Thing Is
Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

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