Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dealing with Grief

I'm reading this wonderful little book, Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, by Bill Moyers. There's a poem on grief by Elizabeth Barrett Browning that brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my parents who have both died, my grandparents, Spike, my dog who was a doggie-person to me, and the years of loss I feel, which was caused by psychiatric medication.

And perhaps it will strike a chord for my Aunt Marilyn who mourns my cousin Liz, Cami who mourns her parents and brother, Emma, who is mourning the loss of Molly, Tamara, who is mourning Wyatt, and all of us who feel loss or grief.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish through the midnight air
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death--
Most like a monumental statute set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it, the marble eyelids are not wet;
If it could weep it would arise and go."


Paula Joy said...

I have yet to encounter this type of grief in my life.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
And I'm glad you haven't experienced this type of grief. All of my grandparents were alive until I was 13 years old.

A few years later my paternal grandfather died. Then, in the following years, my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather. In my experience, grandparents provide a love unlike any other.

And, of course, so do parents. My father died more than 20 years ago...when I was five months pregnant, and I think that if I hadn't been pregnant, I would have fallen apart because I loved him so.

My mother died two years ago, and even though she was 85, it wasn't any easier for me. Three months later, my dog Murphy died, and six months after that, my dog Spike (who was like a best friend to me) died.

When I was younger--probably your age--I couldn't imagine how I would survive if so many of the people I loved most were no longer with me.

But, with age I have developed certain coping abilities. And while I'm not religious, I have a strong spiritual connection with God (in my own way), and that helps me too.


Paula Joy said...

Susan - that is how I feel right now "I couldn't imagine how I woulf survive if so many of the people I loved most were no longer with me." The death of someone close to me is probably my biggest fear. And, to be honest, I think that is part of the reason I don't let many people "in". If I don't get too close, then I can't hurt as much. I would like to get over this fear though, because, like my post today says, I really do need more close people in my life.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
I'll read your post later tonight. I've been gone all afternoon, and I had a very difficult afternoon. I need to rest a bit, release some of the tension, and read a book, before I can reengage. answer to your comment, as much as I loved the people in my life who have died, and as sad as their deaths have made me feel, I wouldn't have missed having them in my life just so I wouldn't have had to feel the pain when they died.

And I guess that applies to all aspects of life...although death is surely the most frightening.

But I've always believed in pursuing my passions even if they sometimes disappoint me. I believe in putting myself out there, even if I sometimes fail.

Because if I never pursue the people or dreams I want most--I believe I will have missed out of what life is all about.

With love,

Cami Black said...

Susan...your comment to Paula Joy is so right on. I always like to say that even though my family died young, I feel they left me enough love to last my lifetime. I think that has given me courage to pursue my passions, realizing there will be disappointments. It's so worth the effort. Thanks for the poem. Love, Cami

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Cami,
Thanks for responding to Paula and to this post. I genuinely appreciate it!

Love ya cousin!


Paula Joy said...

THAT'S IT!! You said, "as much as I loved the people in my life who have died, and as sad as their deaths have made me feel, I wouldn't have missed having them in my life just so I wouldn't have had to feel the pain when they died."

To be any other way is quite selfish, isn't it?! I'm glad you said that the way you did - I needed to hear it. I'm feeling a post coming on about this...

Cami, thanks for your response, too!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula,
I'm glad this explanation worked. However, I didn't mean to suggest that it would be selfish not to feel that way. What I meant was that I would have missed out if they hadn't been in my life.


Tamara (TC) said...


Thanks for the poem and thinking of me. It is so difficult to feel, let alone express, the grief of losing a loving parent, grandparent or pet. I have to admit that I read the post a couple of days ago yet could not comprehend the poem at the time. I had to come back a couple more times to really get it. I am definitely feeling better as time has passed since Wyatt's death but still am having a hard time concentrating. It is strange the extent to which grief can effect your life.

I agree whole-heartedly with your sentiment that, even given the enormity of the pain when we lose a loved one, I am so thankful for the time that I had with my maternal grandparents before they died and with Wyatt before he died. I am a better person for having had all of them in my life while they were on this earth.

It was good to hear from you. I have missed you! Taking this time away from blogging is giving me a chance to heal. I actually planted a small garden with a few vegies, herbs and flowers. It is the first garden I have ever planted! I have been spending lots of time outside just trying to ground myself. It has also been a joy to see our new puppy growing, changing and building a relationship with Jesse, our other dog. He went through his own grieving crisis which was really hard to watch.

I have begun to work on my novel again and have spent quite a lot of time alone reading, meditating or journaling. Hopefully I will be ready to come back August 1st with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

I hope that you are doing well. I haven't really looked at much on your site but I did notice the post about the "Wellness Center." What a wonderful idea that would be. Maybe someday they will be a reality!

Take care.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
I sure know how important it is to take time off. I read this Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, and was suddenly struck by how much I missed all the people (and Spike) I loved in my life, and lost.

And I thought of you and decided to mention you even though you're taking a break.

I, too, have planted my first garden. I started during my gardening class by planting the herb garden, and then moved everything to our yard, and added some vegetables.

I'm finding it a wonderful avocation, and am reading a bunch of books on the topic.

Anyway, I'm glad you're doing better. I'm not sure if you know I adopted a new dog, Jack, who is just wonderful.

It's nice to catch up. All my best!


Wellness Writer said...

I just reread your comment, and my response, and just wanted to say how glad I am that your new puppy is doing well with Jesse, that you're spending time outdoors, and that you're writing again! All such important ways to heal!