Grief Mirrored in Language and Metaphor: Karen Russell

I’m a huge radio and podcast listener. It’s a primary means for learning, relaxation, and escape. Today listen to a Fresh Air interview with the author Karen Russell ”Sleep Donation’: A Dark, Futuristic Lullaby For Insomniacs” I was struck by her language and metaphor. The narrator  of that novel is suffering grief from the loss of her sister. All italics are from Karen Russell and the interview. 

The longer I listened the more Russell’s language evoked new reflection on my grief and loss which I have written about herehere, and here. Yet hearing her words and seeing the images they evoked made me realize I may just be “water boarding the reader” with what I have shared. I thought I would revisit this old chestnut grief to see if I could better capture it. 

Early in the interview she reads from her book and reads ‘to be evicted from your dreams‘. That for those who have not suffered grief is exactly what it is in six simple words. We have been evicted from our dreams of the life we had, the life we were working toward, and life we wanted. Suddenly we are thrust into a ‘Subaqueous state’. For me it has been that way since Donna died. I reside underwater unfocused and floating while struggling to find the surface. 

At the end of the podcast she is referring to another book ‘Swamplandia’ and said ‘Cue ball break of grief where everyone goes into their separate pocket’. How true and accurate, we all end up in our own places when we grieve. Everyone’s grief is different. And I will add for me it is not one place, it moves. My grief is organic. A HCP said to be “You have adapted well to your loss.” Wanting to be the good patient I drank that kool aid without measure. It was bullshit to a point said to clear the desk and chart notes. Yes there are days I feel adapted to my loss, yet that adaption is a moving target that requires us to keep careful aim in order to understand and learn. 

I will live with my grief as my partner and manage it like a tool to grow, learn, and motivate. I’ll not allow it to weaken me. Though I have been evicted from my dreams I will work to regain them each night. 

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