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

6 responses to “Grief in translation

  1. Mino

    Your wordsarch feelings I have been unable to express for months, sinceu dad passed. And the words void and mundane are sticking with me for reasons I am pondering. The blood is vast. And I am hiding in the mundane. Even counting mundane tasks as wins for the week, because just that much is exhausting. Thankful I don’t have a cat for scare into hiding. Thinking of you and hoping you find comfort in your dreams. Hugs – Mino

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mino, usually I enjoy it when something I write strikes a chord with someone. In this case, not so much. I’m sorry you’re having some of the same feelings. Grief is so hard. Stunning how something so empty can weigh so much. Keep going with the mundane. Between the pandemic and this impending loss, mundane tasks have kept me sane (well, as sane as I get) these past couple years. Big strong hugs right back.


  3. nightsmusic

    My mother died many years ago now. She just…died. There was almost no warning. We thought she had the flu. It wasn’t. It was a classic heart attack that women present with that at the time, no one still really understood the symptoms to. For women. Because we present differently than men. So she was here on a Friday, gone by Sunday and I buried her Christmas Eve morning. And more years than I can count later, I still will get hit with some tiny, infinitesimal thing out of the blue, more often than not at the worst possible moment, and the tears will come. I don’t sob like I used to, but I still cry inside.

    Whether you’re prepared in some way or it just happens, that finality is still a shock. I can’t tell you that it will ever get any better, but it will get easier to bear. It will. Hang on until it does. Until the pain is replaced with the love. It will happen. In the meantime, cry, rail, shake your fist and the one great leveler of us all. You’ll feel a little bit better after. Hugs and more hugs to you. I’m so sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cecilia Ortiz Luna



    Liked by 1 person

  5. NM, it was a similar thing when my dad died 25+ years ago. He’d been in and out of the hospital and physical rehab after a kidney transplant– one complication after another, any of which could have killed him, for 18 months. He was finally so much better and preparing to come home when he had massive cardiac arrest during dialysis. Not *shocking* after all he’d been through, but certainly not expected at that time. And yeah, after all this time, just some little unexpected thing can make it all seem fresh again.

    Thank you for the kind words of comfort and support. And the virtual hugs. It all helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Cecilia.