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.
The Stages of Grief
It starts small. A little rumble under water,
a tiny grumble, a phone is on the counter while I am chopping
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
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…
This is not over. This is so
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
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
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.
Please don’t go. Please,
please don’t go.
You have no
idea what it is like to be
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
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,
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.
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
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
a draw-bridge, a footbridge
a lift-bridge, a
26 thoughts on “The Stages of Grief (A Poem)”
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.
What will we do if not for bridges?
Thank you, Ally!
Thank you Danie!
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.)
Thank you so much Melanie.
So raw and open and kind to your listeners because you let us in to what most of the world wants us to stay out of.
Just as powerful now as when you first shared it with me. So happy you’re free of your own box.
Thanks Dad 🙂
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.
So glad Sarah. Thank you.
Forwarded to my daughter who is still grieving multiple losses. Thank you. What a gift.
I just want to say that you are loved and I’m praying for you today.
Thank you a million times, Ann.
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.
Thank you Miriam.
I’m glad you are sharing your poetry. I feel like a closet poet as well, and then when I share I’m reminded that people truly do appreciate vulnerability. I hope you feel the same.
Totally a closet poet! Hope you find the courage to share yours as well.
so many people will understand & felt like writing this poem but you had the courage to write & publish it.
This was beautiful. Thank you. You help heal others with your honesty.
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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