Words of poets often describe grief better than we can
Emmylou Harris has a wonderful mourning song about lasting love:
When we're gone, long gone
The only thing that will have mattered
Is the love that we shared
And the way that we cared
When we're gone, long gone
A few months ago, my friend Martha found a lovely little book of mourning poetry. She gave it to me, thinking I'd be interested. She was right, I am. It looks as if was self-published by a poet named Carol. No last name. No way to really identify her, except that after the tragic death of her son, and then the death of her youngest daughter, she started writing this poetry.
The first three poems say so much:
What is a journey? Is there a beginning,
-- is there a middle,
-- is there ever an end?
Road maps needed? Will they do any good?
The journey continues.
Grief is such an aloneness.
No two griefs are the same.
Even within the same family.
Trying to explain the
-- of it all.
Perhaps the aloneness is
-- the common bond.
What happened to last year?
Where has the time gone?
Why is the year a blur?
Just living from day to day.
Such an effort just to get up.
Why does the pain still
-- gnaw at my insides?
Why can't anyone
-- see it?
Do I hide it that well?
Do I seem that calm?
And then I got a surprise from a reader of this column. He emailed me his beautiful poem about the death of his beloved wife. He wrote it one year after her death 11 years ago:
I'll Be OK
A year has passed.
You ask, "How's it going?"
And I tell you what you want to hear,
Though I'm still numb --
"Going good," or "Getting there," or "It's OK."
I don't want you thinking
"Oh no, is he going to talk about her again?"
It's been over a year.
I try to read your face
I see something -- something that says,
"Don't go there."
So I tell you "It's going good."
You think I should be beyond this by now but I'm not.
I'm able to go a little longer
Without her on my mind constantly.
And I feel, "I'm getting there."
But I'll never be the same.
I may be quiet. I may smile less, I may not laugh as loud.
Maybe you haven't noticed, but that's all right.
I don't want you feeling sorry for me.
You have your life and I don't want to intrude.
So I'll talk more, and smile more, and laugh a little louder.
And I'll tell you everything is OK.
Because it's been over a year now -- and I should be getting over it.
And if that's what you want to think, I'll let you.
I am getting better.
But the me that was -- is gone.
I'll never be who I was,
Because part of me was her and she's gone.
I'll be different, I can't help that,
But I'll deal with it.
I'll never get over it.
But I'll be OK.
By Dennis Depcik
These poems capture three of our biggest challenges after the death of a dearly loved person -- the start of our long journey to cope with grief, the grief itself, and the intense and raw first year after a death. Powerful poetry from a regular person, that I found especially moving, gripping.
The point is: Sometimes, I think, the songwriter and the poet are better at capturing these deep and sad feelings. Seneca (64 AD) said we are better off "confronting" our grief and loss. That is, try our best to cope with it, manage it, so it's not incapacitating. And if the "love we shared" remains, that's a very important start.
• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at email@example.com or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.