Your Experiences

One of the hardest and most universal aspects of grief is that sense of isolation, it feels cold and lonely grieving, even amongst friends and family. Many of the people I have worked with, as well as myself, have found both connection and consolation through the words, images or stories of others.

Orlando

Rain was always where we were best
In our own time and place
Our worlds caught in one moment

From the very start
my heart knew yours.
And trouble.
Heaviest but at it’s happiest
My fingers burnt
The hardest way to learn

Cat like curled in this feather nest
I dream of you
Pungent with what is passed
my pillow telling tales on me

My head swims lost at sea

It cuts where we left it unfinished and raw

So who uses who?
When our skin cannot feel another’s touch
our hearts so easily broken
We patch them up and carry on,
Cautious as a scorned, wretched animal
Bruised and bloodied
The scars of our past remain
Branded by our daring to love
I have to ask myself what for, this pain?
To what end are we running to blindly?
Will we be free when we get there?

I can’t steel myself forever
A martyr for lost love
Bathed in tragic light

And yet you come
When I’m naked and so small
Penetrate my fragile thoughts
Distort the clouds behind my eyes

Breathe. Hold it. Carefully hide it. The painful, dark secret.
Too ugly to air. Too heavy a burden to share.

Do you judge me ?
Question my love?
Or just watch, knowing the passing of time makes fools of us all
as we revel in our own meaningless vanities

When I let you go
This anchor around my heart,
I won’t drown, clinging to the wreckage
I must let go of you and swim

Who wants to cry forever to the sea?
My ear to a shell does not hear waves
But only echoes of what used to be

The ticking in our carbon shells
Sands running through until….

And then that familiar fear rises in my chest, of losing you again
Or him
And I question myself and my fear
How I got here
And should I just run…..

Caged Bird
BY MAYA ANGELOU
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

I Will Not Tell You How to Grieve

I will not tell you how to grieve, for I don’t know all that you’re grieving.

I won’t tell you how long you should grieve, for I won’t know when you’re done, as if you can ever be done.

I won’t know when you’ve begun to grieve, for the shock that can rock you might leave you numb.

And grieving only happens when the time is ripe.

I don’t know your time, just as you won’t know mine.

I won’t tell you not to cry. Tears not cried are tears denied.

We cry out in stress to help untangle the mess.

We need to feel to heal the messes.

Life is messy; grief the messiest.

I won’t tell you, “At least you’ll have your memories.”

“At least…” nothing.

I won’t tell you that your loved one is still here in spirit,

insulting your ache of wanting to wrap your arms around them.

I won’t tell you how long it should take, what it should look like, or what the grief of others with similar losses looked like.

There are no similar losses.

Others’ grief is their own, just as yours is your own.

I will do my best not to say anything that undermines what you feel, judges how you feel, or how you express/don’t express it.

I will hope for that same space in your heart as I navigate the uncharted waters of my iceberg.

I will not tell you how to grieve.

***

I saw Julia Samuel at the Edinburgh Festival a couple of weeks ago. My Dad died when I was fourteen, in 1971, when feelings weren't talked about. I've recently been writing poems about my Dad. This is one of them:

Old enough for a funeral

The hearse cuts in
with a coffin, winks
in the sun. Dad?
We’re driven slow,
smooth as scissors

Mum, me, Sam; wordless.
Caroline and Michael
not there –
considered too young
at nine and five.

Uncle Arthur
and cousin Ralph
in the second car,
down from Glasgow
for today.

I don't know what to expect.
We sit in rows, loose
as undone stitches
while outside,
the day continues.

I hear two things:
a sob
from Uncle Arthur and
a hum from the curtains
as they close.

The coffin is not there.

Janet Hatherley

The 10 best poems for when we are grieving

Happiness by Stevie Smith

If I should die by Emily Dickinson

from Queen by Mab Percy Bysshe Shelley

He wishes his beloved were dead by W.B Yeats

Death Rainer Maria Rilke

Remember by Christina Rossetti

Book of Ecclesiastes - A Time for Everything

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Frye

Funeral Blues by WH Auden

By Herself and Her Friends by Joyce Grenfell

“I was tired of well-meaning folks, telling me it was time I got over being heartbroke. When somebody tells you that, a little bell ought to ding in your mind. Some people don't know grief from garlic grits. There's somethings a body ain't meant to get over. No I'm not suggesting you wallow in sorrow, or let it drag on; no I am just saying it never really goes away. (A death in the family) is like having a pile of rocks dumped in your front yard. Every day you walk out and see them rocks. They're sharp and ugly and heavy. You just learn to live around them the best way you can. Some people plant moss or ivy; some leave it be. Some folks take the rocks one by one, and build a wall.”
― Michael Lee West, American Pie

THE WELL OF GRIEF
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.
-- David Whyte

Too Soon - Mary Yarnell

This was a life that had hardly begun
No time to find your place in the Sun
No time to do all you could have done
But we loved you enough for a lifetime

No time to enjoy the world and it's wealth
No time to take life down off the shelf
No time to sing the songs of yourself
Though you had enough love for a lifetime

Those who live long endure sadness and tears
But you'll never suffer the sorrowing years
No betrayal, no anger, no hatred, no fears
Just love - Only love - In your lifetime

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