The thing about grief is that people lie about it. Maybe they mean to console. Maybe they’re trying to deny what they know. Maybe they feel honesty is too unkind. Whatever the maybe, people tell those of us who grieve that it won’t last. That time will heal. That we will move on. That everything will be alright.
In my experience, none of that is true.
Grief, once it’s found you, never lets you go. It visits you again and again and the more it visits, the more vulnerable you become. The howl of a new grief wakes all the old griefs until the whole pack is baying at you for attention.
A friend of mine died this week and grief found me again. This was the fresh grief of a new and unexpected loss, so raw that all I can do is feel it, not talk about it. That kind of grief washes words away, refusing to let them get the traction needed to turn pain into thought. But it didn’t visit alone. All the earlier griefs, the ones I’m supposed to have moved on from but haven’t, made themselves felt again.
And even as I’m writing this, I’m feeling guilty because my grief is small compared to the life that has been lost, the hole that has been torn in the world, the ending of things that were not finished.
I’m not good at the living in the moment, staying with the emotion, riding the waves of pain stuff. I need words and the words I have seem so platitudinous that I can’t bring myself to form them. So I went looking for poems about grief because poets are all about having the right words.
I read ‘Funeral Blues’ by W H Auden and ‘Time Does Not Bring Relief’; You All Have Lied’ by Edna St Vincent Millay and ‘Grief Is A Mouse’ by Emily Dickinson and they all resonated to some degree. Then I found a poem I hadn’t seen before, ‘Speaking To Grief’ by Denise Levertov
It makes a lot of sense to me. Here it is.
One thought on “The thing about grief…”
I’m sorry for your pain, Mike. I too am well acquainted with sorrow. I have found that while grief is a legitimate emotion that shouldn’t be denied, comfort and joy can coincide with grief. They’re kind of like siblings living together in the same house with us: they’re all there, and we choose who we hang out with the most.
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