Tuesday 18 December 2007


Grief is a horrible emotion. You have no control over its power. It feels like a dark cold cloud of paralyzing vapour that invades your blood stream and courses through your body and mind at irregular intervals.

I remember when my grandmother died. After I had hung up the phone I walked outside into the cold of the February air and knelt down on the cold brick of my back patio. My entire body shook as a primitive shriek of loss escaped out of my mouth. I moaned from inconsolable pain and the tears fell unburdened down my cheeks, my neck and rested in the bowl of my clavicle.

I was there for a long time. My husband, my neighbours, my children stood on the outside of my grief looking in knowing they were powerless to take it away or to do anything to diminish its grip on me. Marc simply put a blanket over me and let me be. It was one of the most touching things he has ever done.

The next day we flew out of Heathrow to Denver. Marc took care of the children as I sat weak and bewildered in my assigned seat. Without warning and without grace the tears would drip out of my eyes despite my stoic instructions to stop.

Not until I got to Denver and I embraced my sister did I feel any strength return to my soul. Until that moment I was unsure of how I could possibly stand. But she took from me and I took from her and somehow we got strong enough to hold up my father.

There were many dark moments in those next few weeks and there are still many gray days even these years later.

My grandmother was old. She had lived a full rich life. She had left a legacy in her children, her grand children and her great grandchildren. She had done what she came to do. I found comfort in that.

Not everyone has that luxury. Many of my friends have lost a loved one during this holiday season. Some of those have not lived long enough to complete their legacy and the holes they leave in our lives are larger than others. There is nothing to do but stand on the outside with a blanket to cover them when they get cold.

In this moment, I believe WH Auden said it best:

Funeral Blues
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden


Janell said...

I think you said it better than Auden with, "There is nothing to do but stand on the outside with a blanket to cover them when they get cold."

Shirley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shirley said...

Janell is right on this one.

Thanks for sharing your personal story. I think it helps others to know people have "been there" and that you can look back on those days when grief was all consuming.
I don't think it is ever gone away, just gets put aside a little bit as time goes by.