What is Grief?

The concept of a seahorse blew Edward away. It took a few minutes for me to realize why he was so astonished. At seventeen years old, Edward had never heard of such a thing and imagined a curly tailed creature, the size of a horse, rocking back and forth on the ocean floor. Edward lacks context. Among other things, he cannot read. I read for pleasure and I read to glimpse other worlds. To access. To gain purchase on what someone else can see, feel, describe.  Not only in terms of what is out there in the world, but interior worlds as well.

Every session,  I read a few chapters out loud from Matt Christopher's book, On the Court With... Lebron James. Last week, we read a chapter describing the death of Lebron's grandmother. His mother and her brothers were "grief-stricken," but since it was Christmas, they bravely carried on for three-year-old Lebron.

"Do you know what grief is?" I asked Edward. He shook his head. I tried to explain. "After someone dies, the sadness we feel is called grief."

Any boy who lives in the Juvenile Detention Center has obviously courted sadness and likely grief has found him many, many times.  I was uncomfortable trying to describe this emotion to this hardened boy. Undefined and unlabeled sadness:  was this like the seahorse for Edward? An enormous submerged sorrow, bobbing along, in worlds both familiar and unimagined.