Tuesday, December 29, 2015

John O'Donohue: "For Grief"

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets 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.

"For Grief" by John O'Donohue. Text as published in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (Doubleday, 2008).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer whose name in the lower-left corner is too small to decipher.

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  1. Wow - I don't know if this was planned for tonight's post, but it is incredible timing for me as I just posted a post reflecting on the "loss" of relationship with my mother, due in part to Dementia. Love the synchronicity of this... I will hold this one close to my heart and let it speak to me over and over again... Thank you! Christine

    1. I'm glad this poem speaks in your own time of grief, Christine. Be well.

  2. This comes at a time when our son and our family learned of the death of a long time childhood friend. His death at 31 was a tragedy...One more life lost to drugs.
    Thank you for the poem.

    1. You're welcome. I'm sorry for your loss (though the words sound empty, they aren't). Be well.

  3. I am sorry that I am just now finding this, and you, as the project has ended. And yet, this poem is a perfect ending. Thank you.

  4. I am sorry that I am just now finding you, as the project has ended. But this poem was a perfect ending. Thank you.

    1. I'm sorry, too. Perhaps you'd be interested in starting back at the beginning and reading one poem per day? (Three years' worth!) In any case, feel free to browse to your heart's content. Deep peace.

  5. Wondeful poems. Thank you so much. I will come back to this website again and again. BTW: it would be much easier for older eyes to read the poems if there was a less prominent illustration on the page. The black grass against the white background makes it very hard for me to see the words!

    1. Betsy, I'm glad you found the site, though I'm sorry you've found it after the project concluded (January 1). I'm sorry that the design makes it difficult on your eyes. My regrets. But with the project having ended, I have to confess that I won't be digging into a redesign. Perhaps you could enlarge the font? (Not sure how what keys you would use to do that on your computer. On my Mac I would push Command+). Enjoy the poems!


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