The Visibility of Change

My children are tweens/teens. When I think about their development throughout the years, it is clear and
tangible to me the ways in which they have changed. One year, they were two feet tall. In the next year or two,
they may have grown a foot. One day they were not able to tie their shoes. The next they are. One moment,
they weren’t able to pronounce a word or describe its meaning, the very next, they are.

My children have changed profoundly since the days of their births. And I have borne witness to these
profound changes. They were tangible and perceptible to my ears and to my eyes and to my hands. They were
concrete, measurable, and generally indisputable.

Grief is not like that. Grief is invisible.

The Invisibility of Grief

My grandmother’s and sister’s passing ignited a profound and relentless grief in me. It finds space between my
thoughts and my words and pulls them down. It stings behind my eyes sometimes when people talk to me
about the mundane things of life, such as their weekends or their favorite song. It rattles my body and brings
me to tears in the middle of the night…or the day. And all the while, no one would ever really know. Grief is
demanding. It doesn’t work within schedules or structures, try as you might to contain it.

Grief is also changing the way I understand the world; how I prioritize; what moves me; how I spend my time;
how I connect to other people; what I need from those around me and from those who love me.
But no one sees this. There is no outward evidence that unequivocally roots in my grief. There is no neon, bold
line that connects the grief I feel with the lessons I am learning, the specific ways I am transforming. Outside of
constantly engaging in deep conversation with me or observing me shrewdly without filters, these
transformations are invisible.

The Distance It Can Impose

Therefore, grief can impose distance between you and others, particularly those you love. No one knows
exactly how you feel, even if they are grieving the loss of the same person. So, you are changing right before
their eyes, in really big ways, but no one sees it.

So, there is sadness associated with the loss of the person. But there is also the grief associated with
managing that loss in intense isolation.

Purpose in the Pain

I have been able to dull some of the edges of my grief by creating more space for it. By speaking and writing
about it. Doing so gives it legitimacy and credence. It takes my transformation out of the shadows, making me
more like a butterfly than a mold, which can grow and spread inside the walls and drift on the air, unbeknownst
to anyone, until it’s a big, bad problem. Speaking and writing about my grief gives shape and form to my
grandmother and sister, whose presence can also feel invisible now that they are no longer on earth. There are
now and forever will be “receipts” to demonstrate that the pain I have felt has had purpose.

Read more by S. Dione Mitchell on Open to Hope: The Many Forms of Grief – Open to Hope

S. Dione Mitchell

Stacey D. Mitchell is a cisgender, Black woman, wife, mother, friend, learner, mourner and follower of Christ from the South Side of Chicago. Though Stacey has held a variety of jobs since the age of 14, her career began as a 6th grade Reading, Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, where she was the recipient of a variety of awards, most prominently when she was selected as Teacher of the Year by her peers. Since then, she has worked in service of marginalized communities and People development in her roles as the Vice President of People and Equity at Educators for Excellence; the head of the People department at the Obama Foundation and now as the Founder of SAGEli Consulting where she helps individuals and organizations realize their highest, most positive personal and social impact. Stacey is also a Surge alumni. She graduated with distinction from the University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign, is fluent in Spanish and really enjoys long walks in scenic outdoor spaces, reading, writing, jumping double dutch, skating and spending time with her loved ones.

More Articles Written by S. Dione