Good Grief


Ah, Grief. That old chestnut.

Buckle in because we’re about to get serious.

How was this topic decided upon, you ask? Marichelle and I took Tala (our dog) for a walk and when I asked what should the next MEUS newsletter be about, there was a pause and Maricehlle said, “Grief?”

I immediately said, “Sure!” So that knee-jerk reaction is something for me and my therapist to unpack. But in any case. Here we are.

Death has been pretty close to me since before I can remember. My father died (heart attack) right before I turned two and the rest of my immediate family has died as well. My mother (cancer) six years ago and my brother (passive suicide) about a year and a half ago.

All the other friends and family I have lost count.

The process of grieving has also been a part of my life since before I can remember and I let go of the prospect of that ever ending a long time ago. Multiple therapists have diagnosed me with “Complicated Grief,” like a bullshit relationship status on Social Media but it’s true. You can’t pathologize grief because it is embedded in life for everyone.

Death and grief have had a direct impact on my development throughout childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and up to now. My father’s death rocked my family and set a path of neglect, abuse, rape and trauma that I bore the brunt of as a child. I then had to care for the remaining two members of my immediate family while harboring deep resentment and felt guilty with the collection of feelings upon their deaths that included relief, anger, sadness, hatred and love.

The defense mechanisms and coping skills I depended on were self-destructive at first until I was finally able to shift to positive sublimations which required incredible discipline including trauma therapy three times a week.

First line of defense: Humor

Second: Activism and Social Work

Third and unfortunately very rarely: Creative means

Utilizing creativity has been the only way I have been able to move through areas otherwise untouched. Like it’s pouring water into a grieving body full of fissures. Because that last part of grief, the part where I still love the people that hurt me the most and are now dead, has been the most difficult part of the grieving process.

I wrote this not long after my mother died and it was at a point where I was hanging on by a thread. During the time of my mothers slow, tortuous death my ten year marriage ended, I was starting grad school in two weeks and I found myself caring for my abusive brother in place of my mother. I lost weight, was drinking heavily, certainly didn’t have a sense of fucking humor and my journey towards social work was suppose to begin in two weeks. So to barely cope I was left with creative means, the part of me I often neglect and wrote this:

She had beautiful nails, my mother, and then she didn’t.

She had been deteriorating since she was diagnosed with cancer in the fall. It should have been an easy fix. The oncologist said it would be. It was a slow-moving skin cancer in an unfortunate area. Not that there is ever a fortunate area. But when you have to have your clitoris extracted in the surgical process of removing cancer, well…

She never remarried after my father died. She never engaged with anyone romantically in those thirty-three years after he died. So why go to a gynecologist? Well, you go when you have skin cancer that splits your lips, I suppose.

She always filed her nails. Diligently. She never went to a nail salon but she kept her nails damn near perfect.

She suffered a stroke a week after her surgery. She couldn’t communicate well, but she was there. Her personality. Her spirit. She couldn’t tend to her nails as well as before, but she did her best. She couldn’t tend to her words as well as before, but she got her point across.

She strategically placed emery boards in places of idleness throughout the house. The nail polish colors she chose always aired on the side of caution. Clear varnish or light pinks. I asked her why not try lilac as that was her favorite color? She simply could not. For some reason I thought that was sweet.

She started to rot. Her surgical sites developed abscesses and she shit and pissed herself, adding to the bacteria that made her rot. She couldn’t clean herself. She couldn’t bring herself to get her point across. She cascaded.

She stopped eating. I stopped eating too. It’s hard to stomach anything in such close proximity to torment.

She stopped looking. Her eyes glazed over and her words turned into groans. Her mouth became a pit of dried skin and congealed saliva. When people begin to watch you and no longer look at you, why see? When words become inaccessible, why lubricate? When food is no longer desired, why salivate?

She didn’t have any complicated tools to tend to her nails. One year for her birthday I bought her a small kit of scissors, various clippers and cuticle removers. The case was leather; a deep red with silver clasps. I wanted her to know I noticed her careful attention to her nails. That I noticed the details.

She never stopped screaming after her final admission to the hospital. Sometimes the screams quieted to a moan when muffled with morphine. She started off only screaming when the dressings were pulled out of her wounds like some twisted magic trick; it seemed an endless thread of puss and blood-filled gauze came out of her body. After a while, if you simply touched her forearm, that was enough for her to surface and vocalize her anguish in a series of animalistic outbursts. Never words. When no one can understand, why speak?

She once had such beautiful nails but they turned yellow, cracked and caked with blood, puss and shit. By now it was summer and the heat compounded the smell. I wanted to tend to them so badly. Desperately. But one small, delicate touch set her off. One slight amount of pressure against her body and she was the perfect example of torment in purgatory.

She had one small moment of clarity before she completely fell under. She looked at me. Saw me. Smiled. Then put her hand with those nails to my face; nails encrusted with all the evidence of her clawing her way out of hell just to tell me that she loved me but she was done. It seemed she thought I was the only one that could understand and do her bidding. Her smile turned into a hollowed gaping hole of a scowl. She asked me to die. So I did. I let her die. I even signed on the dotted line.

I distinctly remember feeling ok that I loved a woman I hated after I wrote those words.

This shit is highly inconvenient, we all know this, especially during the midst of a global pandemic and we see the various ways we have processed. And it doesn’t really ever make sense, does it? I think about that every day at my job alone, walking through jails on Rikers Island and feeling the intangible thickness of grief push against all reason.

It’s both human and inhumane.

I share this with you because hey, we’ve kinda gotten to know each other and I feel like I can be a wee bit more vulnerable with you. ;)

I don’t have a grand conclusion here, I don’t know what to tell you about grief other than it’s complicated, non-linear, inconvenient, painful and yet, somehow can reach those parts of you that are recesses of pure love. And I don’t have a grand answer as to how to harness those untouched aquifers.

So I propose a question: How do you process grief? I’d love to know. No. Really. Just respond directly to this email or write me at:

And if you’re cool with it, I’d love to share through MEUS’s various outlets and it can be totally anonymous.

Ok, now it’s time for your Reluctant Astrologer to give you your weekly horoscope via one of my many Sad Bastard playlists I use to weep about all sorts of shit including but not limited to: death, relationships, heartbreak, near demise of Twinkies etc.


// April 11th - 17th, 2022

Here’s how it works: I put my playlist Simplified Grief on shuffle for each sign and give you an interpretation of the song that comes up.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Lived and Died Alone by Shamir

The chorus is such a perfect interpretation of how beautifully grotesque grief can be:

When the sun has set, I will go dig up the dead
Lift their bodies from their graves
And I'll lay them in my bed
To fill their hollow hearts with all of my broken parts
And all the love they were never shown
​To all those who have lived and died alone

Aries, take something that symbolizes maybe not a person but a part of you that you miss and forget about sometimes. Like take for instance this playlist. I don’t know about you but I really miss mixtapes. Find something or think of something that represents maybe your wide-eyed adolescence and that was painful at times. Reminisce and pour some love on it because remembering proves grief is that deeply non-linear.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Paris by Lizzo

Peaceful, Prophetic, Patient

Oh Taurus, my bestie, you feel me. Not to make it about me but you are a good listener so I’m just going to make this about me.

My French ex ripped my heart apart when she broke up with me right before a trip to visit her family in Paris that I was supposed to go on too. I was destroyed mostly because of the breakup but for fucks sake I wouldn’t have minded going to Paris too. I’m just being real but while she was gone I remember hearing this song and it gave me LIFE!!! Ah, the chorus:

Have you ever been to Paris, at night?
Neither have I

It was Lizzo’s hard hitting humor that had me put this song on heavy rotation and it seriously helped me get through.

Sorry I made it about me, Taurus.

But here’s what Lizzo can do for you too: Right now, don’t commiserate but instead share humor with people in your life that hold no judgment, deeply share and understand your heartaches and luxuriate in it.

And stop always being the listener! ;)

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Hailstones Don’t Hurt by SOAK

SOAK is like this really sad elf in an alternate universe and makes sad look so damn sexy.

It’s not, we’ve all been knee deep in our own cry snot.

I was only trying to latch on
But you're lost
We're ready for the rain to burn on our way home
Hailstones don't hurt but your forget does
​And we should move on

But I don't wanna

Gemini, I want you to tap into the "But I don’t wanna" energy and use it as a pressure release valve. That’s what grief truly is and it can be anything from the prospect of detaching from a toxic person you love to re-watching the final episode of Lost. It’s ok to not wanna right now.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both Sides of the Sky by MONEY

Fuck me this song knocked me OUT the first time I heard it. Apparently the musician that wrote this song was at a bar, drinking heavily and thoroughly depressed when a bar fly looked at him and said, “Mate, what’s wrong, you look like a sad painting on both sides of the sky.”

So he took that question and turned it into an amazing song.

Cancer, this week keep your senses keen to inspiration that opens a door for you. The hardest part is already done now just bust a move through.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Souvenir by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus

Always managed to move in
Right next to the cemeteries
And never far from hospitals
​I don't know what that tells you about me

I had this song on repeat when Covid was rushing through NYC. I lived in Park Slope right down the street from a hospital so the ambulances were nonstop to the point I was hearing phantom sirens.

My bedroom windows faced the main street that led to the hospitals and sometimes I would just sit there for hours and occasionally put my headphones on and Souvenir was a go to song.

And the line I don't know what that tells you about me in this song always made me cry.

I really don’t know why. Still. So Leo, how about you forget what it all means and relish in the maybe consequential narratives that feel perfectly suited. Could be random but that’s ok. You don’t need to know right now and maybe it doesn’t say anything about you.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Coffee by Sylvan Esso

I was going to try and not make this about me too but I’m a Virgo so *crosses legs, lights a cigarette*

My mother started becoming very ill in the Winter and then died in the Summer. This corresponded with the ending of a ten year relationship and my heart being pulled in another direction. Many directions. And I drank a fuck ton of coffee.

Wild winters
Warm coffee
Mom's gone
Do you love me?
Blazing summer
Cold coffee
Baby's gone
​Do you love me?

I had a soundtrack and I wonder what our soundtrack is right now, fellow Virgos. During a welcomed seasonal change, where are we coming from and where are we going. Since my mother’s death, Spring makes me feel uneasy and I find myself bracing.

Let’s practice temporal change representing release and ease. It doesn’t always have to be growth.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Long Shadow by Twin Limb

It feels like the sky keeps shifting and can’t quite make up its mind.

The darkness fading to grey and
Grey into rose then
​Rose into white

What happens when our perceptions of time change are at odds with what the sky decides? And how do we contend with the lack of control and surreal visuals of unexpected shifts?

If you find yourself currently uneasy about the feeling of dissonance, maybe try to pick up on the slight movements between the shifts, no matter how brief and you’ll see there is always a complimentary color, always something in place where it feels the light is absent.

Embrace that there is some order to the chaos and even if it feels mindboggingly miniscule and erratic, there’s seemingly a reason.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Melanie’s Melody by The Black Angels

I always thought this song felt like an unresolved longing for something or someone and you sometimes reflect with not necessarily regret, but wonder. But it just sits in the periphery, unresolved.

Between us
In my dreams everythings foreign
​In my dreams everythings foreign

Think about sharing something that’s been sitting with you that you never made sense of. Release it to someone you trust or somewhere

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

The Pines by 070 Shake

Stop what the fuck you are doing and listen to this song NOW.

070 Shake took a classic and knocked the wind out of it with her interpretation.

Gotta go, right now
I gotta go
Headed home
To a different timezone
Sun is low
Everything is going right
'Til she told me
​Where she slept last night, yeah

You know what, I think I believe in ghosts now because I felt Leadbelly in this song. His energy has not ceased, that’s for certain.

And like everyone, Sag, you've been dealt a blow of deception in some form or another. Maybe in the past, maybe now. In any case, harness that energy and interpret it with fierce control and deliberate aggression that deserves a crown. 

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Down The Line by Remi Wolf

I for the life of me can not stop listening to Remi Wolf. And while we can all understand kicking some cans down the road because now is just not the time, there’s no space, Wolf makes it feel completely ok to be exasperated with our own procrastination.

On and on and on I'm guessin'
Pushin' it off just keeps me stressin'
So on and on and on, I'm sayin'
​Not right now but maybe down the line

So think on what you're putting off, throw on this song, and just laugh at yourself about it for a bit. It’s alright but process before it catches up with you. Use this song as your “Fuck, I gotta face this shit,” anthem. You got this, Cappie. 

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun by Gaelynn Lea

Um, you have to read all of the lyrics, sorry.

Our love's a complex vintage wine
All rotted leaves and lemon rind
I'd spit you out but now you're mine
We bit the fruit, it seemed a lie

I'll never know which way was right
Now side by side we face the night

And I love you
And I love you

We walked the pier and back again
It was the most scared I've ever been
You held my hand until the end

And I love you
And I love you

Don't tell me we've got time
The subtle thief of life
It slips away when we pay no mind

We pulled the weeds out til the dawn
Nearly too tired to carry on

Someday we'll linger in the sun

And I love you
​And I love you

It is exhausting to hold onto what is the exact polar opposite of passionate hate. Which we could interpret as passionate love, but in reality it’s relentless obsession. An addiction, an expression of excused consequences and a horrifying reminder that perfection doesn’t exist. So you dream and dream and lose everything while you calcify.

I want to say “shake off the illusion,” Aquarius but really the only way to come to terms is to let go and grieve.

As Marichelle’s tattoo says, “Let This Life Happen.” 

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Voice in Headphones by Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron, Fred Squire

This is SUCH a deeply feely Pisces kinda song. And Mount Eerie started in Olympia, Washington where I think everyone there was simultaneously a Pisces at one point.

I'll no longer hide it
Yes, the way you say it stirs me to the core
Every time, no matter what
No matter who I think you are
​Every time I hear you say undo I do

Pisces, I wonder if you can allow yourself to come undone but instead of just unraveling all over the place, you can untangle this time. What if you try to add precision into your release of emotions. It doesn’t have to be perfect because that would just be sterile and cold, but maybe it can look more like a gentle, physical motion instead of a collapse. There’s no one way to define dance.


Currently watching: REAL HOUSEWIVES OF MOTHERFUCKING NEW JERSEY. Marichelle and I had no idea that it was back on and there’s MULTIPLE episodes to catch up on. Maybe next time we do horoscopes I’ll put a season on shuffle and have each episode interpret a different sign.

Theresa is a Taurus, she’s my fav and hey, maybe now I know why. :*

Currently reading: Sometimes I find it incredibly difficult to explain what I do at Rikers as an LGBTQ+ Compliance Manager which is a title that will never describe the complexity of navigating an archaic system and nearly suffocate from the amount of bureaucracy that prevents me from simply helping people. This article, The Disillusionment of a Rikers Island Doctor by Rachael Bedard, gave me so much relief that someone was able to express what so many of us in this field feel and are often at a loss for words when pressed to explain the microcosm of human degradation that Rikers is.

Currently Listening: Um, duh, my Simplified Grief playlist! There’s more songs than listed via the 12 horoscopes. Take a listen if you like!

Local Events & Classifieds:

Natalya Khorover workshop Making flowers from single-use plastic. April 22nd, 1-3 pm

Mother’s Day Silk Scarf Gift Workshop Sunday, May 1st, 1-4 pm

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