Monthly Archives: February 2022

Grief in translation

I’ve been trying to learn Spanish via the DuoLingo (DL) app. I began sometime last July, on a whim and as a distraction and because several friends were doing the same with various languages. To date I have an uninterrupted string of 231 days. This is particularly impressive (to me) as I never do anything every single day, apart from the mundane, nor do I aspire to. But I enjoy the challenge of learning, in spite of being far from achieving anything resembling fluency. So I persist.

DL will often require us, among other tasks, to translate sentences from English to Spanish, and vice versa.

The other day, the sentence was:

“Cuándo ves a tu madre otra vez?” [When do you see your mother again?]

It made me cry.

I relayed this information to my sisters via text, including the fact that I got all teary-eyed. It did not help matters at all when my older sister, who has been learning Spanish via DL far longer than I, replied in that language:

“Solo en fotos, solo en sueños.” [Only in photos, only in dreams.]

I know from experience that grief hits me hardest when it’s new or, years later, in moments when my guard is down and I’m not expecting it.

It has barely been three weeks. The loss is still fresh and tender and raw, my hastily constructed shields inadequate to the task. And I certainly was not expecting inadvertent evocation from a language-learning app.

But grief doesn’t care about your readiness or your expectations or your “this was inevitable and in many ways it’s a blessing” platitudes.

Grief strips you bare. Down to the breathless pain of stark white bone.

“Only in photos, only in dreams.”

I cried again.

No, that’s not accurate– I sobbed and keened and scared the cat.

And for the first time in three weeks — or in five years, or in what seems like an eternity since that cruel diagnosis — I felt myself begin to truly grieve, to attempt to measure and reconcile the depth and weight of this new void I now carry.

It will become familiar, soon enough. No translation needed.



Filed under deep thoughts