Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Heal?

If you read my post yesterday, you will have noticed that there was a death in my family. My mother-in-law passed away this week, and everyone who knew and loved her (many, many people--our family, and her enormous circle of friends) is in pain and grief this week. She was (and is) a beautiful, caring, vibrant soul.

I wrote poems for Cindy here, and for those aching without her. I also wrote this post in the fall, about poems as tiny doses of comfort and love.

Now I ask you....what other poems would you recommend for those who are grieving? I am especially looking for poems dealing with loss. I would love to read and share them.

Thank you for your kind thoughts this week, and any suggestions. Go hug the people you love.


  1. I'm so sorry, Hannah. What a difficult thing for you...I think one of the most beautiful poems I know about grief is "Michiko Dead" by Jack Gilbert.

  2. Hannah,
    I am sorry for your loss. Grief is a powerful, and often profound, experience. And poetry, I've found, is balm for the ache of loss. I suggest:

    - Ten Poems to Say Goodbye, by Roger Housden

    - Sweet Grief - a painting-poetry collaboration between myself and a friend. Please message me your mailing address and I'll put one in the mail for you.


  3. It's comforting to me to see that you've posted, Hannah (right on schedule!). Take it gentle, of course, and appreciate the magnificence of how everyone is trying so hard to serve each other.

    Here's a poem I particularly like:

    On Hearing of a Death

  4. Donna's suggestion of the Gilbert poem: I agree. It's deeply moving.

    Lucille Clifton's "as he was dying" and "evening and my dead once husband"; also, her poem "grief"
    I can say easily that poetry, both the reading and the writing of it, saved me when my brother died. How beautiful a thing it is to share with others words that speak when your own voice cannot.

    John O'Donohue's 'For Grief'

    Donald Hall's "Without", "After Life"; his "Letter" poems to Jane Kenyon also are lovely.

    Ruth Stone's series "Who Is the Widow's Muse?"; also, "Speaking to My Dead Mother", "Gone"; "For My Dead Red-haired Mother"; "Sorrow"

    Marge Piercy's "The day my mother died" and "Love has certain limited powers"

    Derek Wolcott's "Love after Love"

    Kim Rosen's "My Nana Like the Trees"

    Blessings, Hannah. My heart goes out to you.

  5. So sorry, Hannah. I wish you and yours some peace. Try 'Fear no more the heat o' the sun' by Shakespeare..
    x Dick

  6. I am so sorry for your loss and your family's loss, Hannah. I have been trying to write a poem to express both grief and solace, but nothing is enough - except to remember how a loved one changed our lives, and continues to be in it...

    Kotaro Takamura, after losing his wife Chieko and finally coming to terms with her loss, wrote a poem about this.

    I channeled his emotion and adapted it into one of my own, called "To a Woman Now Gone".

    Some people have told me that it has helped them remember beauty after a loss. I hope that it can help you too.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family...

  7. This is one of my favorite poems about death and grief. I'll hold soft, healing thoughts for you my dear. When someone goes it is so very hard. Here's the poem----

    Perfection Wasted by John Updike

    And another regrettable thing about death
    is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
    which took a whole life to develop and market —
    the quips, the witticisms, the slant
    adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
    the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
    in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
    their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
    their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
    their response and your performance twinned.
    The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
    in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
    Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
    imitators and descendants aren't the same.

  8. Here's another beautiful, plain, complicated poem:

    Thinking About George
    for George Schneeman 1934-2009

    Thinking about George in
    January in California
    The sinking sun lights a few late
    Streamers of cloud with faint blooms
    Like the distant inklings of
    All one remembers

    Under the bare plum tree
    A white cat sleeps on a chair
    And squirrels chitter in the ivy
    Audible for once in the vacuum
    Created by traffic's absence
    All one remembers

    Returns in a moment and
    George is present in the mind
    And we are alive in the light moving
    Into the darkness of all that is lost
    To fill the emptiness of the day with
    All one remembers

    -- Tom Clark

  9. I'll think about poems when I'm fresher. For now, I'll just say I hope you're doing OK with everything. It's never easy, no matter what the family dynamic.

  10. Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and suggestions.

    Throughout this painful time, I have been very moved by how good people can be to one another...I am so grateful for the kindness others have shown me and my family.

    Thank you--I look forward to reading through these poems and sharing them!

  11. The web address for Narrative magazine, with its issue on what poetry can mean in the wake of death:

  12. Oh....I just saw this, Hannah. So sorry for your and Marcus' loss. Dickinson's 372(341) is one that I turn to to try and understand (and is one that I'm sure you know): "After great pain, a formal feeling comes - The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs -..."

    xoxoox to you

  13. Dickinson:


    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune--without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I've heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.


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