Poem About Grief

Note: I want to share this thing with you. Not because it is finished but because it needs to be outside of me. It came to me very quickly. A few words a few days ago. A sentence last night. A phrase when I woke up this morning.

I ate my breakfast. I drank my coffee. I took my daughter to school.

It was waiting for me when I found my chair. It is better, I think, for it to be on the outside of me. What I mean to say is this: I wrote this, then went for a run with a friend and, when I came back to it, it seemed more beautiful than scary.

***

Grief is the subterranean monster that has been waiting with inexorable hunger since your childhood. She is the unseen creature lurking just beneath the surface, reaching up for you with her impossibly long arms to drag you into her silent kingdom of earthworms, clattering bugs and other blind, scurrying things.

Grief is the shape inside the shadow standing in the corner of your room. That faceless familiar form, seeming so much like a person with no name. The thing tucked in that corner of the closet which reminds you somehow of an open mouth, not speaking, not moving. Preternaturally still. Patient as thunder.

It is the moment you first notice the rusty hinge of heaven and how, once seen,  you cannot unsee it ever again. How precarious the sky hangs there above your head now, no longer floating. Now pressing downward and how you realize for the first time that the sky has been falling your entire life. You just never took the time to notice. And now, there is no escape from it. The sky which has always been falling and your life which gets smaller with each passing moment.

And now how your life seems like a hallway with only one door. A long hallway, perhaps, but one that narrows and slopes slightly as you slip constantly forward, tripping toward that one single door waiting for you at the end. That door is slightly open. It stands ajar as you move closer and closer until, one day, which will be a complete surprise to you, you will stand with your hand on that door’s knob.

And now grief is like a closet overfilled with all the things you packed away, the useless things that had no place in the moment but which are now tumbling out and toppling over you. Forcing you to deal with each and every misplaced thing. How they break and bruise you and they bury you in this endless avalanche of things you thought you had forgotten, things you had set aside, things you not wanted to remember.

And now grief is sitting with you underneath a small tree on a very small hill, trembling like a leaf on a branch on that very small tree. And how you will call it meditation. Or you will call it mindfulness. Or you will call it prayer.

But it is really just you and your grief waiting for something to happen. Something different. Something without precedent.

And the sun rises. And the sun sets as it always has. And there are creatures moving underneath you, stirring in the dirt. And there are shapes inside all the shadows that lengthen and shrink as the days roll by. And the sky closer to you now that it has ever been.  And you notice how the bright traffic of clouds once so unremarkable now restlessly rearrange themselves like the furniture of your life. And how, even with your eyes closed, you can feel the stretch of that long, one door hallway as it swallows you down into mystery, deep into surprise.

And how, when you open that final doorway, all the things come down on you.

And now you understand your whole life has been a practice with gravity. The trick of holding things down. Keeping things where they belong. And now everything is floating. Everything is drifting. And you are working, once again, with groundlessness, except this time you are working with sorrow. You are working to save your life.

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4 thoughts on “Poem About Grief

  1. Wow this is amazing, I can relate to every word. I haven’t suffered grief for a lost person recently (although it brings to mind losing my father suddenly a few years ago), but I suppose recently I’ve been grieving for my former life, pre kids and husband and constant care. So many lines resonate, particularly the ones about the over-filled closet and the mindfulness tree (I’ve just started a mindfulness course in an effort to shift the gloom and find some joy in the future)
    I hope your words have helped you. They’ve certainly helped me to know I’m not alone.

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    1. Thanks, Amanda. You are always so kind to take time with your comments. Tomorrow we have the memorial service for my mom-in-law. She died last Sunday. The past week has been lots of emotions for me and my family. Lots of good, happy feelings and some dark, somber feelings too. Today I found myself cycling through that spectrum pretty fast. I think this is how it will be for us for a while. Very raw and cracked open but, when you are cracked open, a lot of light gets in. The words have helped me a lot. I’m glad I don’t have to bottle them up and carry them quietly. I can share what’s going on inside. Very glad if the sharing helps others too.

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      1. Hang in there. I lost my father suddenly in the year I turned thirty, graduated my MA, got married and moved house. It was a tough time for so many reasons (he was 58, we didn’t have a great relationship, I blamed myself yada yada). I thought I would never heal, but the body and mind are amazing things. And yes, being able to communicate your thoughts is so valuable, to yourself and to others.
        Thinking of you
        A

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