Aubrey Barnes: Holiday Grief

“Holiday Grief” was written by Rock Island Illinois native Aubrey Barnes, also known as “Aubs.” He is a poet, spoken word artist, author, battle rap artist, emcee, educator, and podcast host of Black Thoughts Podcast. You can learn more about Aubs and support his work by visiting his website.


“How Old was You, when Grief invited They Selfs to Family functions?”

I was Thirty years old. It was toward the end of January in Two-thousand, Twenty-two. It was cold and snowy, as usual in the Midwest. I had been Feeling weird all that morning up until my lunch break when I got a call from my Sister… “They found Benjamin.”

Which told me what had happened in that instant, since no one calls to tell you that a mid-twenty year old man was found after going missing, unless they are no longer alive to tell You that themselves. I tended to skip some steps in that Traditional ism of the Stages of Grief, and Accepted the news as soon as it hit my Gut. It didn’t mean that shot hurt less, it just meant I didn’t distract My Self as to deny what had really happened. I Cried Loud. Publicly. Around coworkers who couldn’t tell You my middle name, but were Invited into a Vulnerability that I withhold from even the closest people in my life. My Mourning. A Mourning I’d Feel over and over again.

Birthdays. Easters. Christmas. New Years. 
I’d Feel it over and over again.

“Do She Make You Feel like a Native in Yo Own Body;
Foreign to a Place You been Living All Your Life?
A Forest where Seed was Planted, Producing Good Fruit
Only to Be Uprooted by that Branch that Fell from Family Tree,
Though Fall Season was so Far from You?”

I’ve made it to the end of December, which is a couple days exactly a month since My Brother passed. I consider My Self at this Present moment, continuing to Transform from the Grief. That’s one thing I’ve learned of Grief. When You go through the discomfort of Loss. Like, Sit with it. Hear it. Listen to it. Accept it. You both Heal and Transform all at the same time. To me, Transforming doesn’t mean not feeling the feelings that come with Loss. It means being Aware of that void that is hard to describe, but you know is always there in your Body. Chest. Mind. Hands. You feel the emptiness, and you Cry with it when it Invites you into that Space… And You lean into being more Present when it Invites You into that Space. Which invites you to be more Intune with Self. Invites you to be more Intune with your neighbor, realizing how Fragile we are in this Life, and how we Break less when we have a community that Accepts us when we fall apart. Which in a sense, moves us from living less under Individualism which tends to only say, “I can be strong all by myself. I can get through this alone. I can heal by myself.” Which gives way to ego, then destruction in some manner. Grief Shifts us to Collectivism which says, “I am Heavy. I can’t Lift this on my own. I need to Be here for Me. But that Me also needs Someone outside of Me to Lean on. That ‘Someone’ is one day going to need that from Someone too. I can Lean on Others, and those Others can Lean on Me.

“Does Grief, in a Strange way, Make Silent Nights Seem so Holy?”

Sitting in our living room, ‘watching’ television after Christmas dinner doesn’t feel the same. My Father asking us to say what we are Grateful for on Thanksgiving strikes the heart more than usual. In the same moment though, there is a sense of closeness that wasn’t there as much as it was before. There is more of an invitation to be present with the time spent with family. Loss has made it so that Life isn’t taken for granted or mundane. The Loss of my Brother in a sense has made every gathering I get with Family more Holy. It has made me feel more; feel the tears when they come. Feel the potency of my laughter much more when my cousin Eric is telling jokes. At thirty years of age, Grief taught me that She is complex, bringing both the Pain of Loss and the Joy of Life all at the same time… All we can do is let ourselves Feel..

“… Cuz whatever age Grief comes and Visits You,
She’s always gone Make You Feel.”

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