Atop a Tower of Grief, a Place to Breathe

Author: Sonia Rai

In the last few weeks, people all over the world have watched as the life they once knew, piece by piece, was stripped away from them. People have woken up every day to a world filled more and more with shadows. People have woken up to see the ever expansive landscape of their life become limited. They’ve bit by bit had to let go of things that are outside of their control and retreat further and further inward.

Gone are the distractions. Gone are the loud parties. Gone are the empty moments that they tried to fill with empty people. And many people have slowly come to realize that pretty soon, they were going to have nowhere else to go but the four walls of their homes, where ultimately, they would have to deal with that place not many of them ever cared to venture: the inner world of their own minds.

The inner caverns of our minds are where we find anxiety lurking and fears creeping up behind us. Many of our inner worlds hold skeletons shattered by the hatchets we refused to bury. Many of our inner worlds are ruled only by shrieking chaos. My inner world used to terrify me. So I kept it locked up and used every excuse I had not to venture within arm’s length of its door. But after John died, that door was blown wide open.

Sonia and John



Fitting some pieces back together

And from it, the wreckage of every experience I’d ever had and every emotion I’d never dealt with came spewing out, and I had no choice but to look at the chaos around me and try to start fitting some pieces back together without knowing how any of it was supposed to look.

I spent the better part of the last year rebuilding my inner world. Pulling splinters from bleeding hands and walking away in frustration more times than I can remember. But continuing to build, and mold, and shape. And it’s only in the last few weeks that I have been able to see what I’ve been building in the last year. It’s only recently that I can see that I was building a tower. A majestic one. One that sits high above the clouds like a castle from a fairy tale. Somehow I seem to have built a beautiful tower out of mangled and charred debris.

It’s almost as if this inner world was crafted by the hands of someone who loved me. Deeply. Someone who couldn’t help with the wreckage of my outer world, so did what he could with the wreckage of my own mind. It’s almost as if I sit in a house built by the kind of love that only grief could unleash. There are no shadows here. There are no unlit corners. There are no skeletons. Or daggers. Or ghosts.


From Wreckage, a New Perspective

There is candlelight. There is magic and wonder and fairy houses. There are subtle hints of blue. There are books. And words. And there is love. There is so much beauty in the tower that John built for me out of the wreckage of my grief. There is a place for me to sit high above the chaos of the world and just peer off into the clouds. I’m reminded here that the wind can only carry the echoes of cries so far up. I could ignore the world’s pain from here. Easily. But I won’t.

It’s from this tower that I am able to take deep breaths of clean air. And kiss the whispers of my loved ones every morning before wandering down to the ground and, placing my ear against the door for a second, begin to venture out to do what I know must be done … to minister to the pain of others. The tower that was built from my grief is only for rest. And perspective.

It is for a bird’s eye view so I can find people who need me and walk to them. So that I can find people that desperately need magic. And words. And wonder. And love. This tower was built for me so that I can find people in pain, kneel beside them, and whisper: I know your world is burning. Mine was, too. But look … look at that castle in the sky. Look at what can be built from the ashes of a wrecked life.  


Sonia Rai is the surviving girlfriend of Capt. John Graziano, U.S. Air Force, who died in an aviation accident in 2018. This blog is shared, with Sonia’s permission, from her website,