It is ironic that a poem of mine (a triolet) about grief is about to be published whilst I am experiencing grief.
Our beloved cat, our pet of many years, died last week and I am ‘still’ experiencing waves of grief. It would belittle my grief – and our loving cat – to make light of his death. Yes, he was ‘only an animal’ (so are we humans, let’s not forget) but grief is difficult, it is withering, and it has the potential to hollow a person out. Here are the first two lines of my triolet which is entitled:
To Death, may he be pleased with his handiwork
GRIEF it has withered me, hollowed me out;
I am brittle and frail, like a skeleton leaf.
What is difficult about grief is its ferocity. To my mind, feelings just ‘are’. They are neither good, nor bad. But there is no doubt that say, happiness, makes us feel good – or rather, it has a positive effect on a person’s mind and body. Other feelings, such as grief, anger, guilt or anxiety make a person feel ‘bad’. They have a negative effect on our mind and body. But taking some enlightening pointers from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not helpful in how we live our lives. Things, feelings, are either useful or not useful.
What is wise is to be able to acknowledge these emotions that make us feel bad; to recognize them, to explore them, and to be able to express and release them in a safe way. If – or rather when – I am angry I punch the air or go and throw bricks around the lawn. In an enclosed space, I stamp my feet and make as loud a noise as I can (without totally frightening my children!). After releasing this pent-up emotion which threatens to strangle my throat, it begins to leave my body, and in time, it leaves my mind too.
I have been crying a lot lately, and releasing my grief in this way. Things will then be fine for many hours until… another wave of grief hits me and I am crying again. I let myself cry, because there is tremendous healing power in tears.
I wonder what use there is in grief. Particularly in the first stages when a human can only feel shocked, numbed and weak. After this first stage comes a deep sorrow that weighs one down, and it feels as though this will never pass. My poem is about this middle stage. Finally, there comes acceptance, and a muted sadness that resides within the soul, next to the wonder, joy and peace that life can bring.
As I wrote earlier, though, what I find particularly difficult about grief is its ferocity. And how it will remind a person of other deaths, earlier deaths… and it makes a person think of future deaths, and of one’s own mortality. I am fully aware that this death has caused me much pain because it has made me revisit the death of my father, and though this happened more than 20 years ago, grief’s ferocity will make this 20 years become a mere 20 minutes…
So what can I usefully make of this grief? I will use it to focus my attention and my heart on my loved ones; I will use it to cherish the beauty of life; I will use it to enrich my empathy towards others; I will use it to deepen my understanding of what it means to be human; I will use it to strengthen my resolve to follow my dreams; I will use it as a reminder to be gentle on myself; I will use it to write, to share my thoughts and perhaps provide a little solace to others. And I will release it in a way that shows my children that it is right and important to grieve, to mourn, and to cry. In my poem I write:
All my Joy has been stolen, by Death, petty thief;
But I am feeling rebellious today. I will not let Death have me think there is nothing to be gained by grieving. It was the right time for my cat to die; he was old and ill. But death hurts, and I don’t want it to. Still, I do not want this grief to be useless. So I will examine my grief, reflect on my emotions and find the usefulness therein.
Print copies of The Road Less Travelled in which my poem ‘To Death, may he be pleased with his handiwork’ appears can be found here: The Road Less Travelled, published by Dagda Publishing
The full poem can be found on my blog here: Sample Poetry