It’s been a long while since grief has hit me in the way it has over the past few days. It came out of the blue and at first I didn’t know what was happening to me. I’m at a conference in England, amongst colleagues and students, far from home, and I’ve felt awful: low and tired and just not right. And then the tears came. They started to seep out yesterday morning in a crowded conference room, almost entirely unexpected. I’ve grown so unused to crying in public.

I’ve been crying intermittently since, sneaking into bathroom stalls and hiding behind my hair when I can’t sneak away. I went on a walking tour today to learn about the history of slavery in Liverpool and we went to the Anglican cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. I’m not religious, but whenever I travel, if there’s a church where I can do it, I light a candle for Anja. I slipped away from the tour, detoured into the toilets at an opportune moment and went back to the quiet, beautiful Lady’s Chapel and lit a candle for my girl.

fullsizeoutput_61a6In the main part of the church, under a giant stained glass window, there was a message that felt like it was just for me, today. fullsizeoutput_61a8And then I visited the graveyard, trailed my hand along the tops of headstones and held in my heart the babies and the mothers who grieved them. I sat in the shade for a bit, waited, listened and then headed back to the conference.

Crying in bathroom stalls and putting on a brave face is almost harder than I remember it and this blindsided grieving present-me feels very proud of and tender toward past-me who did this all the time, everywhere and every day. Seven years ago I would probably have been appalled to know I could still feel this bad sometimes. I probably would have been equally appalled if I thought I wouldn’t.