My Dead

Sweating out the notorious ‘5 Stages of Loss and Grief’.

Gabrielle Ross

January 25, 2014 | Sweat | February 2014


I have two deads.

They are my dead.

They rest in the apex of my heart, weighing it down.

My grandmother found that resting place first. With one sentence uttered by my father (“It’s about grandma…”), she settled in uncomfortably at the very bottom. At first, her presence was unnerving; I cried and shook because I couldn’t stand the hurt, the pain. Then, over one year, the urgency of the pain faded, but not the weight of it.

She was joined by a dear friend of mine. He took residence in another corner of my heart, adding more weight. Instead of flying there immediately, like my grandmother had, he ate away at my heart before resting. It was a disconcerting death: it took me weeks, months to realize he was gone. All the while, he was chiselling off piece after piece before settling himself in his corner.

I think about my dead every day. It’s not conscious; I do not necessarily name them in my thoughts. But their presence is constant, a balancing act between heartache and comfort. Heartache, because I miss their being and their physicality and their warmth. Comfort, because they are a part of me now; I share every success and failure with them.

 Sometimes, I panic. Because I realize that now that I have acquired my dead, there is no going back. As I get older, these deaths will pile up. I cannot imagine how heavy my heart will be, having to accommodate all of these dead. My mind starts to ramble, my body starts to shake, because I need to move, to feel the life pulsing in my veins. I need to run, to eat, to laugh, to cry, to sweat. I need to feel ALIVE, to compensate for the dead I will need to carry for the rest of my life.

When I catch my breath, when my mind is calmer, I realize that one day, I will be someone’s dead, too. That this feeling, this weight that I have at the bottom of my heart, is a collective one. Some people may not have deads yet, but they will. And some may have too many to bear.

So the next time the panic strikes me, I decide to still my body. This is not an experience to live by myself; running forever just to feel the breath in my lungs won’t make my dead go away. Instead, I hug my loves. I share a laugh with strangers. I give my time to others, free of charge.

This is a better way to deal with my dead. It’s a saner way.

The weight is there, but I’m happy.

And that happiness will make room in my heart for other deaths.

Illustration by Ilenia Madelaire.
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Gabby is an Acadian who’s missing the sea and splitting her time completing her Master of Social Work at UOttawa and watching TV. She also writes for Fantastic Fangirls & Heroine TV and tweets at @gloryisben.


  1. Marie-Noel Ross
    February 9, 2014

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    Je pense avoir compris l’essentiel de ton texte,et comme ton père le mentionne c’est un texte très touchant et j’ajouterais inspirant. Un baume sur le coeur quand la douleur arrive.

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