Wooden Box

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 16:33 -- emmafm

On my bedside table lies a small wooden box. 

To a visitor, it seems insignificant 

perhaps an elementary school art project. 

However, to me, it serves as a powerful reminder. 


For a majority of my life, I have never been quick to share my personal feelings 

I keep them in a mental vault

locked by distraction and denial

safe and protected from any potential outside judgment. 


My reserved demeanor intensified in 9th grade 

when I lost my mom to cancer. 

In the cruelest of magic tricks: one second she’s there and the next


I felt dazed 

the chains around my mental vault grew tighter.

I tried my best to distract myself.

I jumped headfirst into school

preferring to work through math problems instead of my 


My aunt saw me drowning

and threw me a lifebuoy

"a bereavement group"

she suggested.

Excuses dove off my tongue

If I couldn’t tell my close friends how I felt, how could I do so with strangers? 

It would be more traumatic than advantageous. 


my mom’s death forced me to face that

I could not trap my feelings inside forever. 

Eventually, I’d have to open that vault in my head and face 

the monsters inside 

and let others help me battle the pain.

Despite my fears, 

I decided to give bereavement group a try. 

It was a choice that would unexpectedly change my life.


I still vividly remember 

the crisp November afternoon 

of my first group meeting. 

Standing on terrified tiptoes 

and peering through a window on the door, 

I saw teenagers settle onto a bright red rug 

beginning to paint blank wooden boxes

I heard faint murmurs escaping from the crack underneath.

Paralyzing fear held the door closed in front of me

an invisible force pleading with me to turn back

“you don’t want to open up and see what’s inside,

those chains hold it closed for your own protection”.

I ran through a motivational monologue in my head

Hoping to drown out this forceful fear

and reclaim my motor skills.

"once other people see what's in the vault they'll never look at you the same-

don't open up".

After a conclusive 




I stunned fear long enough to

open the door with shaky hands 

and walk into the room filled with strangers.


Three years since that cold November day, my decorated box sits bedside like a trophy. 

The silver spirals delicately gliding up the sides 

are reminders of the gradual weeks 

turned to months 

and then years 

since I began my journey of restoration. 

My fear of judgment faded as I bonded with others experiencing similar complex emotions. 

I look to the box as an acknowledgment of my mental vault

slowly opening to myself 

and those who support me.

The demons inside are slowly losing a war  

against my newfound




This poem is about: 
My community


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