Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories  February 2017 | issue 494

Fourteen Steps

by Jennifer Rabin

Jennifer Rabin is a writer and artist whose essays and criticism have appeared in Harvard Review, The Rumpus, and Bitch. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she can be found hunched over her computer or working in her art studio.

I was raised in the Jewish faith, which provides structured guidelines for the grieving process. If you follow them, if you grieve well, you will make it through. The formal mourning period lasts twelve months, after which it is time to move on, get back to the world, and fully inhabit your life again. But ten months in I couldn’t even inhabit my house. I still felt adrift in the waters of grief, clinging to the rudderless dinghy of my bed, with no land in sight.

During those ten months friends had suggested the following:

I should post affirmations in places where I will see them daily, like the bathroom mirror, so that even if I don’t believe their messages — I am happy! I am whole! I am loved! — they will slowly reprogram my subconscious.

I should pay thousands of dollars to sit cross-legged with other shattered people at a retreat center founded by a new-age guru.

I should take a shaman-directed hallucinogenic trip so that Grandmother Spirit can tell me everything I need to know to achieve self-actualization.

And, my personal favorite, that I should just get over it.

I wanted to get over it — more than I have ever wanted anything — but I couldn’t remember my life before the loss or imagine a future big enough to accommodate it.

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