It can come out of nowhere. You’re doing fine and boom, grief hits you like a ton of bricks. And it can hit you during happy times as well as sad times. I find holidays particularly difficult, as I grieve not only for the loss of loved ones but for past times and what could have been. While I looked with love and joy at my two grandkids Winry and Rory this Easter, I still grieved for my stillborn grandson Liam.
People talk about “waves of grief,” but I think it is more like an ocean, always present. Sometimes the waves are choppy, and we feel grief intensely. Other times the water is calm, but the grief is still there.
We grieve not only death, but intangible things such as loss of family traditions as our elders pass, loss of health, and so on. We need to acknowledge and work through our grief when it hits — not doing so can affect us physically and emotionally.
One grief poem which speaks to me is “For Grief,” written by John O’Donohue. For me, it addresses the choppy seas and calm seas of grief.
by John O’Donohue
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.