“Each new loss has a rhythm of its own.” 

We often don’t intentionally think about loss, but I’m asking you to consider it just this once. When did you feel loss or grief? Loss seems to trickle in, like a dripping faucet not shut tight. But when you really stare deep into the puddle, you see that it’s larger than you realized. And it’s natural for that puddle to swallow you whole. 

Marisa Renee Lee’s incredible memoir GRIEF IS LOVE covers loss in all its forms as a guidebook of showing how she navigated the death of her mother, a miscarriage, and the many various losses that happen throughout daily life. Yet, it’s not a how-to guide, because who can really tell you how to process trauma and pain? Researchers can’t always do it. Marisa’s account is truly a friend, coming over with a bottle of bourbon (my preference) or tea and sharing her stories of love, joy, pain, despair, and hope. GRIEF IS LOVE is a true reminder that, when we share our stories, others can see themselves in the ebb and flow of the journey we’re all traveling. We’re all truly walking each other home, to be more at peace in our own selves. 

Not only does Marisa share her roadmap of navigating heartbreaking loss, but she also shines a light on the inequities of how Black women have to move through their pain differently than the world. She takes great care to share how she felt that she couldn’t be vulnerable or public about her grief as the “Black female striver” who had reached a career goal: working in the White House. How she had to stuff her feelings inside at first, not letting anything show and managing the despair while still being a high-functioning human. I greatly appreciated her explaining how her grief of losing her mom and her pregnancy loss was layered with centuries of Black women who carry a complicated grief history with enslavement and inequities in our society. 

This book is a portrait of permissions. Allowance to cry in public. A drive to find a grief partner to confide in when things get rough. Acknowledgment that saying “no” is an act of self-care. Embracing grace and joy as they enter back in. Recognition that your partner grieves differently, even though you experienced the same trauma. Permission to not force anything to make sense, but just to make the best decisions for yourself as you rebuild your life after loss.

I somehow needed this permission. I don’t line my losses up on a table, counting them all the time. But when I close my eyes and recount the events of my life, I can still feel them deeply. Individual raindrops do make the puddle. Miscarriages and chemical pregnancies. My grandmother’s death. Losing jobs or opportunities. Some sting more than others, and healing comes in waves. Just like Marisa, the old wounds open when fresh loss or unexpected joy enters.

That duality causes us to embrace what the poet Maggie Smith calls “the andness of things, just as Marisa notes in her book. Grief moves through our body, just as joy does. In the end, grief truly is love. Love for what was lost. Love for ourselves. Love for others. We just need to explore the drumbeat rhythm this new life has as we walk through the hard stuff.

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