I recently finished listening to Harry Potter on Audible. If you haven’t done this yet I highly recommend that you do: listening to them brings a whole new appreciation and love for them, which I never thought possible. I can confidently say one of my favorite books in the series is book three: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I love it for so many reasons but it's really the first time we realize things aren’t always as they seem, and gives us some background into Harry’s parent’s lives.
I also love book 3 because it taught me something about grief.
Don’t worry, I won’t be giving away any major plot lines or spoilers here.
There’s a creature introduced to in book three called a boggart. A boggart is “an amortal shape-shifting non-being that takes on the form of the viewer's worst fear. Because of their shape-shifting ability, no one knows what a boggart looks like when it is alone, as it instantly changes into one's worst fears when one first see it.”
So, for example, my boggart would be a needle because I’m deathly afraid of them.
Boggarts like shadowy corners and dark places. They make themselves small and keep themselves hidden until discovered out of nowhere and then, they terrorize the person who found them.
I’m going full nerd here, aren’t I? I promise I have a point. Stick with me.
To rid yourself of a boggart you cast the spell “Riddikulus!”, which “causes the creature to assume a form that is humorous to the caster, along with a whip-crack noise, thereby counteracting the Boggart's ability to terrorize.”
You already knew all this, don’t you? Of course you did, you beautiful tropical fish.
What I’ve learned? Grief is like a boggart.
Grief hides in shadowy corners and dark places: hard to find and harder to identify. No one knows what grief truly looks like until it pops out of nowhere and scares the shit ouf of you.
And it terrorizes you.
When Kyle’s brother passed away I watched as a boggart took over his parent’s home: everyone was grieving but no one was experiencing grief the same way. We all miss Jake, but the way we missed him was different and the way we were communicating it was different. The boggart was shifting from anger to sadness to hope and it was hard to figure out how to keep up with it all, let alone tackle it.
We’ve spent the last few months trying to juggle the way each person has been grieving. We have reacted to this loss in very different ways, we’re all coping in different ways. We all have different boggarts and that’s what makes grief so hard to understand and so hard to relate to sometimes: we don’t understand how it looks for someone else because we’ve only experienced it in our own way. There’s no manual for grief, no way to explain how it looks or the forms it takes. No one does it the same.
But another thing I’ve learned?
You cope with grief the same way you get rid of a boggart: you turn it into something you can manage and you keep moving forward. Because you have to. Because grief, just like the things we fear, will always be lurking in shadows and dark corners but we all carry within us the power to turn it into something we can handle. We might always have that boggart hiding in the darkest corner of our closet, but whenever it rears its ugly head and tries to take us down, we have the power to turn it into something less scary and grow.
After Jake passed I was scared we would be consumed by grief. I feared time would stand still and we would forever be terrorized by the boggart in the house. But, as time has gone on, we’ve learned new ways to make our grief manageable. We’ve worked on ways to move forward, to shout “RIDDIKULUS!”, wave our metaphorical wands and change our sadness into hope and for a while the boggart is at bay. And we keep moving forward. Because we have to. Because we have to, for Jake.
I’m telling you: for every life lesson, there is a Harry Potter reference.