Things to do in the Belly of Despair

By Kerry Herlihy

May 16, 2022

Things to do in the Belly of Despair

Blow out the candle that burned for his last days. Dump the OxyContin and morphine in the cat litter like the hospice nurse told you to do. Touch his cheekbones that emerged like knives these last few weeks. Fill a large pot and bathe him like you used to bathe your daughter, part by part. Open a window so his spirit can leave. Hold his cold hand as you wait for the sun to rise. Try not to think or feel. The day after the memorial service, force your leg to move from the bed to the floor. Don’t give it a choice. Pack your daughter a lunch she won’t eat. When you are alone in the car, put on the saddest song you can find. Sob like there is a thunderstorm coming out of your heart. Feel the pressure lift. Know your grief will settle back down into your bones as you open the car door. Feel guilty that your body is still in the world and his is not. Forgive yourself. Paint your bedroom an orange so bright it hurts your eyes. Choose it because it is called Irrepressible Joy and you will try anything to tether yourself back to this world. Wait. Take one step towards the shafts of weak light in the kitchen where you used to dance.


Kerry Herlihy is a high school English teacher and writer living in southern Maine. Her essays have appeared in multiple publications including The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, The Citron Review, and Solstice. Currently, she is working on a memoir about love, loss, and motherhood.


Image by Kat Smith courtesy of Pexels

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