Essay: The Origin of Grief is Gravity: A Hybrid Dialogic Essay

By Cassie Premo Steele and Melissa Seligman

Tend it. 

Like a fire, like a woman in labor, like a wound healing and still bleeding.

The “and” is key. 

Give it space. 

Because we cannot hear without the marvelous magic of distance between

one wave and another. 

Mother yourself. 

Time is your friend. Be in each moment like water but ride those waves.

Don’t run away. Don’t be that mother. Eat, sleep, play. Repeat all day. 

But not too much. 

Your heart was a hose that vacuumed up all the feelings and kept the house so clean,

the children fed and washed and healthy. 

Make room now for all that you are. 

Do you remember when that man asked you what you would write and who you would be

if you weren’t a mother? You sat there, mouth agape, unable to answer. 

All of you being back inside you. 

Like walking along the beach and collecting not just the

perfect shells but all the trash, too. 

Release has a reason. 

It’s not the same as violence or death. 

It’s clearing the land for future planting. 

Release is not the same as loss. 

The grief will feel different. 

More like making up a room for a guest than burying. 

So more settled beauty can enter. 

Sometimes you wonder where the time has gone. Why it took you so long.

And then you realize the impatience may have caused the train to slow down. 

Don’t move too soon to action. 

This was the addiction that kept you from feeling. 

But you’re stronger than that frantic fantasy now. 

Hold a rock. 

You are that rock. Let your hand be the mother who holds you and decides what and  when and where and how.

Drink water.  

Honor it as the source of life it is. 

You are. 

What is no longer here is still loved. 

This is not rejection or killing or any kind of death. What you walk away from still has  life. And love. 

But your main love is you. 

Don’t be the old lady who keeps the ancient and dull knife and cuts herself because she

cannot bear to throw it away and anoints herself in the cloak of frugality. 

You almost died once. 

Your body remembers this time

and will panic if you try to take away

her dull knife. 

Safety comes from leaving. 

You see it in every Lifetime movie. 

Be that heroine. 

It was the body that stayed, then. 

Now your mind is back and can take the reins to ride the horse  

of that scared body. 

You have done this for others. 

Mother, wife, friend. 

Now do it for you. 

This is grief for what is to come. 

You remember this, from after your wedding. 

Mourning the maiden as you left her behind. Making way for what was to be. 

Ambiguous grief. 

Like amphibian or reptile. Knowing when to walk on land and swim in water.

Being forgiving for mixing it up and starting over with the matching motion. 

Disenfranchised grief. 

You are a citizen of your life. 

Don’t forget to vote. 

Reclamation work. 

You didn’t have the power to be all you were born to be. 

But now it’s been handed back. Be free. 


The birds do not shy from eating what you put in the feeder.

Their feathers form the crown. 


You are in control. 

This is your land. 

No judgment is necessary. 

You are the jury. 

Just say the truth. 


Do you still have that stone in your hand? Feel how warm it is now? 

This is what I mean. This is what you need. 

You have it all with you. 

All you need. 

Repeat as necessary. 

The body never leaves, as I said. 

But there is running. Numbing. Stuffing. Starving. Lying. Drinking. 

Smoking. Sleeping. Working. Hiding. 

The complete self is waiting. 

Get onto the bus. 

Go pick her up. 


You buy your own ticket. 

It’s your ride. 

Genius held by gravity. 

That’s the final stop. 

At least for this journey. 



Cassie Premo Steele is a lesbian ecofeminist novelist, essayist, and poet. The author of many books, her newest novel, BEAVER GIRL, is available now from Anxiety and Outcast Presses,


Melissa Seligman is a Conscious Dying Educator, a death doula, and an advocate for creating space for suicide grief and trauma-informed death awareness. She is the author of two books and the founder of the grassroots movement, Her War, Her Voice.