Grief//Code Blue

Let the grieving go to the water for if we are going to heal, let it Be Glorious.


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The Origin of Code Blue

This is a post I wrote directly after my dad died. It is how I discovered Code Blue. I hope this new code can be a way to connect and create space for the grieving, as well as, provide resources. Share your stories with me at

Adele’s Hello comes through the speakers: Hello it’s me//I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…

This song always hits me hard. Before my dad died we had not spoken that much. Or seen much of each other. It was complicated.

So sometimes I’ll be driving to work and I’ll hear this song and it hits me pretty hard and I’ll sense that I need to have a  really good cry. I know if I don’t do it here in the confines of my now deceased father’s four door Toyota, I’ll have to do it at work.

In front of everyone.

About something that seems small but feels big.  I’ll have to go into my classroom closet and cry.  I’ll watch the tears fall down my face like an old faucet, just drip after drip, slowly and painfully. Not letting the water turn on completely because if it were to start, I’m not sure I would be able to stop it. It’s happened before.

I’ve watched in the confines of my classroom closet as the tears fall onto my silk pink shirt, and I worry they will take a longer than usual time to dry off and someone will ask me about them. And I pray the innocent child who asked, “Where are your parents?” or my helicopter boss doesn’t enter those classroom doors, one with questions the other with tasks.  Somehow I find a way to blot my tears so as to not let the mascara give evidence to my pain.

Not everyone is comfortable with grief. Everyone carries these so called “meters” above their heads so I can judge and measure their comfort level.

I’ll watch their meters flip back and forth as I ask internal questions: “Have they lost someone too?” “Did they ask me questions about my dad after he died or did they just avoid me?” “Did they come to my dad’s funeral last week?” “Were we even friends before any of this happened?” “How uncomfortable are they with me now?” “With my sadness?”

There are different threat levels and actions associated with my interaction and their direct response:

Code Red (The uncomfortable/silent type): Our eyes meet and I spring into action sorting, moving, buying, drinking-distracting myself for the length of our conversation. They approach me nervously, as if I’m breakable and they don’t deserve to see me break.

Code Orange (Good intentioned leaders): These people probably wrote me an email, but can’t manage to muster the strength to say anything to me in person. They would rather pretend it didn’t happen. Me too.

Code Yellow (Next door neighbors you never meet): These people have sent a text, gave me some amount of space to say something about it and have offered help in the form of action. We don’t talk a great deal or very often about the elephant in the room but I know they are there, and frankly some days that is gold to me.

Code Green (Kind Strangers): These are the people who have somehow popped out of the woodwork as they found out my dad had died.  These people have either lost their own parent or something similar. They feel obligated to do something or say something because loss is a close friend of theirs as well. It is often with this level of person that I ask myself: how good of a friend was I before I lost a parent? Did I remember to call? To ask? Did we lose touch or simply stop being as close? I am reminded how hard it is without community to keep an eye on those we love. And at this code I shed a bit of my anger and become more aware of how hard it is to admit we are all dying.

Code Blue: These are water friends and family. Or friends that are now family.  They are the first phone call you made to tell them what had happened and they offer to come sit with you and they watch you cry. They watch you sob, hit the floor in anger. Sit quietly without a single word to be said.  They sit and watch you wrestle with regret, the email you didn’t send, the hospital visit you didn’t make. You realize in this moment you are forever tied to this person, they are a part of you now and it’s not frightening, it’s very comforting.

And finally,

Code Clear (Saints Among Us): They are the people who’ve found Blue and then spread the color over the canvas with you for months, watched as it turned to nothingness. They helped you start over again. They’ve stuck around when you tried to push them away because you were so angry at the world you prayed for someone to come up to you and test you. These people know you as a soldier. They’ve seen you lay out your cards on the table as blood dripped from your hands from the many mistakes you’ve made and the battles you’ve fought and lost and won and they say: Amen. What’s next? We are with you. Pierce yourself like a voodoo doll and I will feel the same spike of pain in my own hand. They say this in their action, their words and you repeat it back to them.

So as the song comes over the speakers I imagine it playing out in real life like this:

Me: Hello it’s me, I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet. To go over everything. They say that time is suppose to heal you but I aint done much healing. 

Dad: Hello its me, I’m in California dreaming about who we use to be when we were younger and free. I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet.

…there is such a difference between me and the million miles I’ve traveled to get here. To this place where I can cry. The tears get clearer, faster. It is from the absence-of-color-people, that I have learned the hard work of grief is not in cutting people out because they got it wrong. That is easy. It is harder to admit you are hurt. And if you are lucky when you admit this to yourself and to others you put all the colors together and create a pattern-a framework-a new space to live in. You stop reading people and step in like the fluid spectrum we all live in, you stop rubbing against your own need to be shiny and perfected. Against the reality that I know to be self evident: while not everyone makes it to this clarity, some will, and I need these people like water.