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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The Agony of Grief

Grief is a tidal wave that overtakes you, smashes down upon you with unimaginable force, sweeps you up into its darkness, where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces, only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped. 
Grief means not being able to read more than two sentences at a time. It is walking into rooms with intention that suddenly vanishes. Grief is three o'clock in the morning sweats that won't stop. It is dreadful Sundays, Mondays that are no better. It makes you look for a face in the crowd, knowing full well the face you want cannot be found in that crowd. 
Grief is utter aloneness that razes the rational mind and makes room for the phantasmagoric. It makes you suddenly get up and leave in the middle of a meeting, without saying a word. Grief makes what others think of you moot. It shears away the masks of normal life and forces brutal honesty out of your mouth before propriety can stop you. It shoves away friends, scares away so-called friends, and rewrites address books for you. 
Grief makes you laugh at people who cry over spilled milk, right to their faces. It tells the world that you are untouchable at the very moment when touch is the only contact that might reach you. It makes lepers out of upstanding citizens. Grief discriminates against no one. It kills. Maims. And cripples. 
It is the ashes from which the phoenix rises, and the mettle of rebirth. It returns life to the living dead. It teaches that there is nothing absolutely true or untrue. It assures the living that we know nothing for certain. It humbles. It shrouds. It blackens. It enlightens. 
Grief will make a new person out of you,
if it doesn't kill you in the making. 
— Stephanie Ericsson,
Companion through the Darkness
Tears Must Fall
Give sorrow words;
the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart,
and bids it break.
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth 
Undo it, take it back.
Make every day the previous one
until I am returned to the day
before the one that made you gone.
Or set me on an airplane traveling west,
crossing the date line again and again,
losing this day, then that,
until the day of loss still lies ahead,
and you are here instead of sorrow.

— Nessa Rapoport,
A Woman's Book of Grieving
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever:
I was wrong.

— from “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden

Terrifying words invade our world.
Cancer. Inoperable. Six months.
Throw everything we thought we knew
or thought we owned, into the howling wind.
Four little words of unspeakable pain. 

Panicked emergencies and a desperate search
for something, anything, to curb the pain.
Humiliating treatments and careless words.
For better or worse, in sickness and in health,
We are one - no more. 

Words of comfort float our way.
I brought some soup. No need to pay.
A hand is held at midnight
by a comforting, caring stranger.
You fight as if this thing could be struck down.

Different words assault us now.
Palliative. Chemo. Hospice. "Comfortable."
Turn everything we have, and everything we do,
into one wild anguished scream.
Nothing can reverse the danse macabre.

Soothing words are thrown at me.
God's will, at rest, an end to pain.
Worst of all: You're young. You'll find another.
You think another's solace beckons me
When half my very soul is ripped away?

New words measure time in numbing chunks.
Bills. Work. Survive. Alone. Alone.
Most surprising, life goes on its way.
Fragile threads of tempered joy and sorrow
Surround the ruined, crashed remains.

Mona Landrum Proctor
To Al  and Daddy:  
I grieve for the horrible pain you suffered, for the appalling injustice of cancer's cold grip, and for what you are missing as the world rolls along in all its glorious torment.  I grieve for your tender touch, for all the things we cannot share, and for all the accumulated memories and understandings that will never again be known. I grieve for your absence from my life, and for my own searing loneliness.  I grieve for the others who lost you, too. We share the bitter tang of loss... too soon, too soon. My heart breaks for them, and for you.    

Somewhere Out There
They sit on a bench, lending an ear...
Always there when the world doesn't hear.
Watching and waiting, observing fate's turn,
Swapping tall tales and words of concern.
Arranging and fixing a few small things...
Whispering comfort on butterfly wings.

Mona Landrum Proctor

If grief could burn out like a sunken coal,
the heart would rest quiet.

Philip Larkin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
— from "Separation" by W.S. Merwin
I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

...Life must go on,
Though good men die.

...Life must go on;
I forget just why.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Ashes of Life
Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
     Eat I must, and sleep I will,--and would that night were here!
But ah!--to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
     Would that it were day again!--with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
     This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through,--
     There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,--and the neighbors knock and borrow,
     And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,--
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
     There's this little street and this little house.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay
Without an understanding of myth or religion,
without an understanding of the relationship
between destruction and creation, death and rebirth,
the individual suffers the mysteries of life
as meaningless mayhem alone.
— Marion Woodman 

Please Ask

Someone asked me about you today.
It's been so long since anyone has done that.
It felt so good to talk about you,
to share my memories of you,
to simply say your name out loud.
She asked me if I minded talking about
what happened to you —
or would it be too painful to speak of it.
I told her I think of it every day
and speaking about it helps me to release
the tormented thoughts whirling around in my head.
She said she never realized the pain
would last this long.
She apologized for not asking sooner.
I told her, "Thanks for asking."

I don't know if it was curiosity
or concern that made her ask,
But told her, "Please do it again sometime —

Barbara Taylor Hudson

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says: 

“There, she is gone!” 

“Gone where?” Gone from my sight. That is all. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: 

“Here she comes!” 

And that is dying.

— Henry Scott Holland

Memories keep those we love close to us forever.
Hold fast to your memories,
to all of the cherished moments of the past,
to the blessings and the laughter,
the joys and the celebrations,
the sorrow and the tears.
They all add up to a treasure of fond yesterdays
that you shared and spent together,
and they keep the one you loved
close to you in spirit and thought.
The special moments and memories in your life
will never change.
They will always be in your heart,
today and forevermore. 
- Linda E. Knight


When I must leave you for a little while
Please do not grieve and shed wild tears
and hug your sorrow to you through the years.
But start out bravely, with a gallant smile,
And for my sake and in my name
live on and do all things the same.
Feed not your loneliness on empty days,
but fill each waking hour in useful ways.
Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer
and I in turn will comfort you and hold you near.
And never, never be afraid to die,
for I am waiting for you in the sky! 

— Helen Steiner Rice


Do not stand by my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle Autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starshine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.

And there shall come a day... in spring
when death and winter lose their
chill, white hold quite suddenly...
A day of sunlit air when winging birds
return and earth her gentle bosoms bare
so that new, thirsty life may nurture there.
That breathless hour... so filled with warm,
soft miracles, that faith is born anew.
On such a day... I shall return to you
you may not touch me... no,
for you have thought of me as dead.

But in the silence lift believing eyes
toward the dear infinity of skies,
and listen... with your very soul held still,
for you will hear me on some little hill,
advancing with the coming of the year.
Not far away... not dead... not even gone.
The day will suddenly be filled with
immortality and song, and without
stirring from your quiet place,
your love will welcome mine...
across the little space,
and we will talk
of every lovely thing
when I return...
in spring.

—Robert Hepburn

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
 Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

— from "Ode on Intimations of Immortality
from Recollections of Early Childhood"

by William Wordsworth

Even such is time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways
Shuts up the story of our days,
And from which earth, and grave, and dust
The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

— "The Author's Epitaph, Made By Himself"
by Sir Walter Raleigh

Though lovers be lost,
love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

— Dylan Thomas

Hope, Help and Healing
Web Sites
I carry your heart -
I carry it in my heart. 

- e.e. cummings

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