Stages of Grief

2023 Barrett Winner

3rd Place Tatyanna Banks

Out of a dream, I'm shot awake. Circles of darkness still linger, blocking out at least 70% of my vision though I see the clock clearly. It’s a quarter past 6 in the morning. My senses begin to unthaw as if they had just been taken out of the freezer. The scent of orange oil candles fills my nose, and the residue from the bottle of Ciroq that I emptied into my system in an attempt to drown my sorrows remains on my taste buds. Stiffness holds my neck captive, letting me know that I had fallen asleep on the couch. I look up slowly so that the light isn't too blinding.

Suddenly, my entire body is overcome by an uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. A yearning finds its way into my heart as I glance upon a half-written letter to Heaven.
“Dear God, if you're listening, I'm begging you to allow visiting hours in Heaven. One time is all I need. Abuela, Tía Secelia, Jon my dearest friend, Padrino
Antonio, Prima Darnella, Matthew, mi hermano...I just want to see their smiles
again. Am I asking too much or...”

The ticks and tocks of the clock send me spiraling down into a trance that feels like a mental rabbit hole. I've began to gather remnants from the dream of which I've just awakened from: I had seen the loved ones that I've lost so sudden and tragically. We all embraced as tears fell from our eyes.

In a room of silence, I hear their voices and laughter. I close my eyes briefly and see their faces with the widest smiles upon them, the light of heaven in their eyes and their arms reaching out to me. As I open my eyes, they flood, robbing me of my vision once again. Fear begins to consume my spirit, for at this moment, I'm afraid to be alone.

At this hour, I feel as if the only ones who can take away this feeling have been taken away from me. I’m up and about, practically tearing my robe off before throwing on my clothes for school. I ache for a shower, but depression has once again stolen my cleanliness. At this minute, I want to dedicate at least a minute to my priorities, the biggest three being my schoolwork, my home and my mind. But the memories of my loved ones haunt me every time I attempt to partake in any form of self care. I find myself feeling envious because they're all sleeping peacefully together and the only one who gets to wake up is me, lonely. I head into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. As I reach for a filter, the tears in my eyes fall onto the sleeve of my white collared uniform shirt. I look down at the wet stain, sobbing even harder. It is at this second, I realize: I haven't given myself time to grieve at all.