How long does it take?

We’re sitting in a restaurant in Amsterdam when grief becomes an almost tangible thing.

Can I ask you a personal question, I ask one of the guys.

Sure, he says. It depends on how personal that question is.

Just a while ago, you said it’s been four years since. . .

Four years ago, tomorrow, he says before I get to asking.

And just like that, I find myself fighting tears, struggling to find the center of control even as I lose it.

It’s okay, Mom, my youngest son says. He pats my back and whispers something about sadness and how it’s okay to cry.

Do you want a hug? One of the girls asks.

No, I say. I’m okay.

What I really mean to say is: if you hug me, I might break down completely in public and do more than just let the waterworks go.

I am thankful that she doesn’t get up, thankful that the people at our table, do not do the thing that will make me lose it completely. Instead, they let me weep. They allow me the time to swallow my grief.

How long does it take before you burst into tears at random moments? I ask.

It still happens, the one I was talking to replies. It happens in the most random places, like when I’m in the supermarket.

There is no timeline for grief. I know this. There is no quick cure, no easy panacea. I am thankful for the gentleness that embraces me. For how my friends let me find control without fuss and without comment. They let me weep. They let me find my quiet and when I’m ready, they agree with me when I say: I think this is an ice-cream moment.

The macha ice is not too sweet. It tastes just right.