Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

The Weight of Grief

“How much does a pound of feathers weigh?” he used to ask his child.

It was one of his many jokes—most puns, many too long, and others brain teasers. All repeated often over the years, much to the child’s annoyance. Though later, much later, as their father lay dying a too long death, the child realized that the jokes were carried on the wings of his trauma.

To the feather puzzle, the child never remembered to reply, simply, “A pound.”

Instead, their mind always thought of the mountains of feathers that this implied. All fallen from someone. Or perhaps pulled or wrenched. Or even stolen. Numerous, individual, little losses that nonetheless piled high.

The answer, in this child’s mind, was, “Infinitely heavy.” Or, “An unbearable weight.”

“Feather light” never made sense.

So they didn’t answer their dad. They let him think his solution to this riddle was correct, maybe because they could feel the sorrow in his eyes lighten ever so slightly when distracted by humor.

After 2.5 years of pandemic, the child-as-adult asks themselves, “How much does a pound of grief weigh?

There’s no one to answer. Even if there were a response.

Maybe, like the child’s quietude years ago when their dad told this brain teaser, silence is the answer.

In the silence, we hear denial. The kind of denial that has piled up higher than that mountain of feathers, added to by nearly everyone around the child-as-adult in this society that masks its grief by exposing unmasked smiles, pasted on like masks.

The child-as-adult yearns to shatter the silence, to begin to add up the weight.

Of feathers. Of grief.

Of how pressing a pound of trauma can feel when a society turns away from trying to communally respond. Or trying to even be curious about the collective weight of grief, feather heavy.

If the child-as-adult feels unable to journey through and with grief, or its fullness; if the child-as-adult feels alone, stuck, as if smothered by the weightiest of feather-filled comforters that never seems to comfort, it is because our public mourning is too light, too silent.

Each time they see a feather, they wish they’d told their dad, in reply, “I see your grief. Pounds of it.”


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This entry was posted on October 5, 2022 by in Uncategorized.
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