The Stages of Grief (A Poem)

I wrote this poem back in 2011, the week I lost a dear friend to suicide—the same week a major earthquake (and then Tsunami) hit Japan.

I have avoided sharing poetry in the past, telling myself no one would want read it anyway. But reading and writing poetry have both been a great comfort to me in my life, and these words have helped to mark my journey as I navigate this new season of grief. I hope it is a comfort to you, too.

grief

The Stages of Grief

Part I

It starts small. A little rumble under water,
a tiny grumble, a phone is on the counter while I am chopping
dinner.

A missed call. One missed call.

A Tsunami is coming, they’re warning on the radio, but that’s all –
just a warning –
and not even for my hometown, so…

Fear grows slow. We talk ourselves
down. We talk to ourselves in hushed tones, whisper
through the row in our dark-toned clothes things
that nobody really knows.

God is in control…

We come and we
go, and

I go home and do what I always do. I wash clothes,
chop cloves of garlic to sauté with oil for dinner –
a late dinner – because its been a long…

Part II

This is not over. This is so
not
over. Who decided that this was fair? You? Ha. Who made you God
that you get to choose

you bastard. You asshole. You all-kinds-of-words I don’t make a habit of
using you
didn’t consider that
I would be left here.

What did you think? Or didn’t you think before
you walked out the door – casually went on like you couldn’t
care

less if I were rendered
immobile. You couldn’t care
less if the floor was cold in December.

I’ll fight you on this. You didn’t think I would but
I will. I’ll fight over
every asset, every virtue, every thing of value, every
time I try to eat tacos I’ll fight
to hold it together.

And, yes, maybe I’ll lose. But the point is you
don’t get to choose
for both of us. I am a part of this too.

Get out of my house. I hate you.

Part III

Please don’t go. Please,
please don’t go.

You have no
idea what it is like to be
alone.

Part IV

Don’t expect to cry once. I don’t know why but
I always do. I expect the last words you said to be the last
heave of chest, the last of my melting into you.

But grief isn’t like that. Grief comes back while I’m up
in the attic and instead of that fan I had planned to find
I find

a book, or a hat, or an old pair of shoes
you kept. Expect
to cry then and

Expect to cry when you least expect. In the cereal
aisle, the post office line, the worst possible times
this May. Last

November. Next June.
Aftershock sneaks up on you, and you –
you have this stupid thing you do when it does because

grief changes everything. Your body, your mind,
your infrastructure
is compromised and suddenly

whole buildings crumble at the slightest touch. You
sink to your knees and your cereal box barely
brushes the floor as it hangs from

your weak grip.

Part V

I feel five years older today
than I felt yesterday

I feel bigger. I feel little. I feel so tender
that I could lay on the floor forever, just
stay on the floor so heavy that

today I am able to swim against the current, to fight
against the grain I feel like today has a
bigger space than yesterday.

I feel like I lost all of myself for

what I gained. It has been
ingrained in me
from a very young age

but this is not like that. This is not the
past. This is not me sitting
in the back of a high school class.

I am not looking across the room at
your bent-rimmed hat.
This is not as well-worn-in as
that.

This is the last
time I will see you.

This is the first
thing I do in the morning: I ask
that all the gaps will

be filled in over time. Bridges built
and re-built. Like
your bridge, my bridge

our bridge.
a draw-bridge, a footbridge
a lift-bridge, a
a skywalk.

22 comments on “The Stages of Grief (A Poem)

  1. Where does it say we can not post a poem?
    This poem can be so much more powerful than a detailed exposition of 1200 words on the same cause of your grief in 2011.
    This is honest, raw, vulnerable and beautiful.
    We often don’t receive answers for why all the pain.
    But, healing also comes.
    Often.
    And hope.
    What will we do if not for bridges?
    Thank you, Ally!

  2. I keep trying to think of something to say that conveys how awesome I think your writing is…how encouraging and inspiring and thought-provoking I’ve found your posts, your books, your courses, this poem…. I’ve erased six comments, however, because they sound either overly fawning or borderline stalking and that isn’t my intention! 😉

    I just want you to know I appreciate your writing. Thank you for sharing your expertise and experiences. (And I loved this poem–the rhythm and emotion and imagery. Awesome.)

  3. Grateful you shared this. It’s beautiful and felt familiar to the grief I’ve experienced, like words carved from my own heart. That IS a comfort. Sharing this with a friend walking through the loss of her father.

  4. I applaud your courage to share something so personal, so sacred.

    You have captured the grief experience for many of us. Such bravery. To not only allow yourself the freedom of experience and then thefreedom to express this so powerfully. Thank you for gifting us with your words and your heart.

  5. Truth breeds freedom.

    Thank you for ever and always being truthful. Your authenticity is a gift which frees us all.

    Thanks for being brave. Thanks for sharing.

    Love to you in this unimaginably difficult time.

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