Please check back often as I fill these pages with inspirational thoughts, quotes and poems, and I hope something you read here will touch you as so often words can...



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In addition to the wonderful thoughts and poems presented here, you'll find links to these special writings below.
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This is a letter my sister found, tucked carefully inside her baby book:  A Baby's First Love Letter
To My Baby Anne by Anna C. Gibbs
This loving eulogy was written by Kathy Kobberger and delivered at her father's funeral at St. Rose of Lima Church, Short Hills, New Jersey, on September 13, 2000.  A Tribute to My Father 
Kathy Kobberger also wrote and delivered this beautiful eulogy for her beloved sister Joan O'Brien, who died on January 14, 2003.  A Tribute to My Sister
In her true story about the special bond between a young girl and a puppy, author Lynelle Dawson poignantly describes the healing effects our animal companions can have, both on those who are seriously ill and on those who are left behind after the death of their loved ones.  A Bond, for Life
During the Civil War, a week before the first Battle of Bull Run (a battle in which he would be killed),  Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Unit wrote this touching letter to his wife.  My Very Dear Sarah
Writer Mike Kleiman describes the difficulty he faces as he selects an appropriate Valentine's Day gift for his eight-year-old son in How the Gifts Arrive
After Grandy suffers a major loss, she cooks up her own unique batch of  "tear soup".  Richly illustrated in full color, this marvelous book gives both adults and children a thorough understanding of grief, along with a glimpse into Grandy's life as she blends various ingredients into her own mourning process.  Tear Soup: Recipe for Healing after Loss
I wrote this in honor of my mother and read it as our family gathered for her memorial service on her birthday, March 27, 1994.  In Loving Memory of My Mother
In loving tribute to her lifelong friend, Lucy Linder wrote this moving poem and read it at her memorial service on May 23, 2003.  When You See

It is very tempting to want to 'hate' grief,
to see it as the enemy, the unwelcome guest.
Instead, try opening yourself to grief . . .
ask it what it has to teach you.
Ask it what it is training you to do, to be.
Ask this uninvited teacher into your life
and notice how things begin to shift.
Remember that grief never asks you to let go of love.

-- Ashley Davis Prend

Grief is neither an illness nor a pathological condition,
but rather a highly personal
and normal response
to life-changing events,
a natural process
that can lead to healing
and personal growth.
The transition through this difficult time
is the courageous journey.

-- Sandi Caplan and Gordon Lang, in
 
Grief's Courageous Journey: A Workbook

Tears have a wisdom all their own.
They come when a person has relaxed enough to let go
 and to work through his (her) sorrow.
They are the natural bleeding of an emotional wound,
carrying the poison out of the system.
Here lies the road to recovery.

~ F. Alexander Magoun
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches.
If suffering alone taught,
all the world would be wise,
since everyone suffers.
To suffering must be added
mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness
and the willingness to remain vulnerable.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Real grief is not healed by time.
If time does anything, it deepens our grief.
The longer we live, the more fully we become aware of who she was for us,
and the more intimately we experience what her love meant to us.
Real, deep love is, as you know, very unobtrusive,
seemingly easy and obvious, and so present that we take it for granted.
Therefore, it is only in retrospect—or better, in memory—
that we fully realize its power and depth.
Yes, indeed, love often makes itself visible in pain.

~ Henri Nouwen

Not all those who wander are lost.

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

How We Survive

If we are fortunate,
we are given a warning.

If not,
there is only the sudden horror,
the wrench of being torn apart;
of being reminded
that nothing is permanent,
not even the ones we love,
the ones our lives revolve around.

Life is a fragile affair.
We are all dancing
on the edge of a precipice,
a dizzying cliff so high
we can't see the bottom.

One by one,
we lose those we love most
into the dark ravine.

So we must cherish them
without reservation.
Now.
Today.
This minute.
We will lose them
or they will lose us
someday.
This is certain.
There is no time for bickering.
And their loss
will leave a great pit in our hearts;
a pit we struggle to avoid
during the day
and fall into at night.

Some,
unable to accept this loss,
unable to determine
the worth of life without them,
jump into that black pit
spiritually or physically,
hoping to find them there.

And some survive
the shock,
the denial,
the horror,
the bargaining,
the barren, empty aching,
the unanswered prayers,
the sleepless nights
when their breath is crushed
under the weight of silence
and all that it means.

Somehow, some survive all that and,
like a flower opening after a storm,
they slowly begin to remember
the one they lost
in a different way...

The laughter,
the irrepressible spirit,
the generous heart,
the way their smile made them feel,
the encouragement they gave
even as their own dreams were dying.

And in time, they fill the pit
with other memories
the only memories that really matter.

We will still cry.
We will always cry.
But with loving reflection
more than hopeless longing.

And that is how we survive.
That is how the story should end.
That is how they would want it to be.

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Rickerby
All rights reserved
Used with permission of the author
mrickerby@yahoo.com
 

Remembering is an act of resurrection,
each repetition a vital layer of mourning,
in memory of those we are sure to meet again.

~ Nancy Cobb

Grief still has to be worked through.
It is like walking through water.
Sometimes there are little waves lapping about my feet.
Sometimes there is an enormous breaker that knocks me down.
Sometimes there is a sudden and fierce squall.
But I know that many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.
We are not good about admitting grief, we Americans.
It is embarrassing.
We turn away, afraid that it might happen to us.
But it is part of life, and it has to be gone through.

– Madeleine L’Engle, in
Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage
Understand that your family, friends and support group
may help get you on the right path,
but very early in the process
you have to get behind the wheel.
Only you can complete the road to recovery.

-- From a Friend at GriefHelp.org, in
The Road to Recovery
Broken Chain

We little knew the day that
God was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we do the same.

It broke our hearts to lose you
But you didn't go alone.
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.

You left us peaceful memories.
Your love is still our guide,
And though we cannot see you
You are always at our side.

Our family chain is broken
and nothing seems the same,
but as God calls us one by one
the chain will link again.

-- © 2010 by Ron Tranmer 
All rights reserved
Used with permission of the author

Ron Tranmer Poetry
     rjtranmer@gmail.com

When a loss hits us,
we have not only the particular loss to mourn
but also the shattered beliefs and assumptions
of what life should be.
These life beliefs must be mourned separately.
Sometimes we must grieve for them first.
We can't grieve the loss if we are in the midst of
"It's not supposed to happen this way" . . .
We intellectually know that bad things happen ~
but to other people, not us,
and certainly not in the world we assumed we were living in . . .
Your belief system needs to heal and regroup as much as your soul does.
You must start to rebuild a new belief system from the foundation up,
one that has room for the realities of life
and still offers safety and hope for a different life:
a belief system that will ultimately have a beauty of its own
to be discovered with life and loss.
Think of a lifeless forest in which a small plant
pushes its head upward, out of the ruin.
In our grief process, we are moving into life from death,
without denying the devastation that came before.

--
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, in
On Grief and Grieving : Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss
Man cannot remake himself without suffering,
for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

-- Alexis Carre
I Believe

Every now and then, soft as breath upon my skin,
I feel you come back again,
And it’s like you haven’t been gone a moment from my side ~
Like the tears were never cried,
Like the hands of time are holding you and me,
And with all my heart I’m sure we’re closer than we ever were
I don’t have to hear or see you ~ I’ve got all the proof I need ~
There are more than angels watching over me
I believe, oh I believe

Now when you die your life goes on ~
It doesn’t end here when you’re gone
It never ends, and if I’m right
Our love can even reach across eternity
I believe, oh I believe
Forever you’re a part of me
Forever in the heart of me
I would hold you even longer if I can
Oh the people who don’t see the most
Say that I believe in ghosts
If that makes me crazy, then I am
‘Cause I believe
Oh yes, I believe

There are more than angels watching over me
I believe, oh I believe
Every now and then soft as breath upon my skin
I feel you come back again ~
And I believe.

– Performed by Diamond Rio
Listen to this song here

There’s music in a well-lived life,
and melodies remain
each time a loving memory
repeats the sweet refrain.
The song that lingers
in our hearts
becomes our legacy ~
its beauty gently echoing
through all eternity.

© Hallmark Cards, Inc.

It is love, not time, that heals all wounds.
A name shattered to pieces
A name shattered in the void
A name that never replies
A name that I'll die calling

The one word left in the soul
To the last I couldn't pronounce
My Beloved
My Beloved

The red sun hovers over the hill
And the deer moan woefully
I'm calling your name
On a lonely hill

I call your name in great sorrow
I call your name in deep sorrow
My voice reaches toward the sky
But the sky is too far from the earth

Turn me into stone
I'll call your name till I die
My beloved
My beloved

-- Sol-Wol Kim, Korean Poet (1902-1934)

 
It doesn’t matter who my father was;
it matters who I remember he was.

~ Anne Sexton

This is for someone I will always admire
And Love with all my heart
MY MUM,
Zena Kathleen Tipton, 1935-2006


I’m not sure I have found the right words
To explain how lucky I feel to have been your child
I’m not even sure those words exist
I don’t recall the first time you held me
Or when I first heard your voice

 But from the moment you held me in your arms
You made the most selfless choice
You chose to change your busy life
So that my life could begin
You were my shelter from the rain
On you I could depend

 You held my hand when I was afraid
You helped me to mend my first broken heart
You bandaged my wounds
You wiped away my tears
You kept me from falling apart
You loved me without question no matter what I did

 I believe the greatest gift I have ever received
Was having you as my mother
Without you I wouldn’t be who I am
And I love you for all that you have been to me
My Mother my friend and now my guardian angel.

 Thanks Mum xx

 -- Sallie Manship
salliepooh@hotmail.co.uk
 

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.
-- Unknown
 
Grieving allows us to heal,
to remember with love rather than pain.
It is a sorting process.
One by one you let go
of the things that are gone
and you mourn for them.
One by one you take hold
of the things that have become a part of who you are
and build again.

-- Rachel Naomi Remen
 

In loving remembrance of
Lisa Elaine Mewbourne

9/23/65 - 4/23/91
whose memory will never fade with time.

The Death of a Flower

Since childhood I have loved the fragrance of honeysuckle.
I would vie with the honeybee for a blossom-laden branch in which to bury my trusting little-girl face.
Its sweetness filled the air with the promise of spring and new beginnings and of wonderful things to come.
Then one fateful spring day I stumbled from an open grave that held captive my beloved child.
My very heart was ripped from my pain-wracked body and cast into that dark hole.
Overhead, the sun shone brightly, but my world was as black as the clothes I wore.
Suddenly, the haunting scent of honeysuckle assaulted my nostrils.
Its old familiar sweetness clutched at my senses and a physical sickness overtook me.
Now no longer can I delight in the fragrance of the little flower.
It brings bitter reminders of the sorrowful day I died and was not allowed to be buried.
Where now are the promises of spring?
Where now are the new beginnings?
Oh, honeysuckle, thy sweetness is forever gone.
I lament thy passing.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters . . .
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.

2nd Samuel 22:17 and 20

-- Faye Mewbourne Martin
Lisa's Mom forever
Fayem810@aol.com
http://lisalamb3.com
 

A brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks.  

 ~ Unknown

What I Meant

I never meant to make springtime
such an aching lament for you!
Not that giddy, glowing, glorious time
When the entire world is new.

I never meant to make springtime
So bitter with unending loss
Filled with the echoes of red-brown clay
Dropped onto a grim metal box.

Did you know that I grieve for you too?
Caught up in those treacherous mirrors,
Whose shattered, deceitful reflections
Tell you this rapture is cause for despair.

I meant to make the springtime
My time to enter the angels' dream,
To soar through the sky-blue doorway
Into hillsides soft with promise, always green.

I wish you could rejoice for me on April 23rd
And see how sweet is my soul arrayed
With sun-soaked greens and yellows and blues
Draped in satin and lilacs and pearls each day.

Breathe in the sweet breath of spring!
In the scent of the velvet roses, I am.
In the shimmering mists to either side of your eyes, I am.
In the fragrance of the honeysuckle, I am.

Ah, could you but see through my eyes now
You would rejoice for me in the spring.

-- Denise Lynn Mewbourne
For Lisa, my sister forever

 

Grief never ends, but it changes.
It is a passage, not a place to stay.
The sense of loss must give way
if we are to value the life that was lived.

– Author unknown

Goodnight, my angel, time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day.
I think I know what you’ve been asking me;
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say.
I promised I would never leave you,
And you should always know, wherever you may go,
No matter where you are, I will never be far away.
Goodnight, my angel, now it’s time to sleep,
And still so many things I want to say.
Remember all the songs you sang for me 

When we went sailing on an emerald bay?
And like a boat out on the ocean, I’m rocking you to sleep.
The water’s dark, and deep inside this ancient heart,
You’ll always be a part of me.
Goodnight, my angel, now it’s time to dream,
And dream how wonderful your life will be.
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby,
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.
Someday we’ll all be gone, but lullabies go on and on . . .
They never die.
That’s how you and I will be.

— Billy Joel

The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.

-- Thornton Wilder

I am a parent twice bereaved.
In one thirteen-month period
I lost my oldest son to suicide and my youngest son to leukemia.
Grief has taught me many things about the fragility of life
and the finality of death.
To lose that which means the most to us
is a lesson in helplessness and humility and survival.
After being stripped of any illusions of control I might have harbored,
I had to decide what questions were still worth asking.
I quickly realized that the most obvious ones --
Why my sons?  Why me? --
were as pointless as they were inevitable.
Any appeal to fairness was absurd.
I was led by my fellow sufferers,
those I loved and those who had also endured irredeemable losses,
to find reasons to go on.
Like all who mourn
I learned an abiding hatred for the word "closure,"
with its comforting implications
that grief is a time-limited process
from which we will all recover.
The idea that I could reach a point when I would no longer miss my children
was obscene to me and I dismissed it.
I had to accept the reality that I would never be the same person,
that some part of my heart, perhaps the best part,
had been cut out and buried with my sons.
What was left?
Now there was a question worth contemplating.

-- Gordon Livingston, MD, in
Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now

The span between life and death
can be as quick and sudden
as a puff of wind
that blows out a candle.
But the candle does not suffer
after darkness comes.
It is the person
left in the dark room
who gropes and stumbles.

-- Helen Duke Fike, Interregnum
 

About his poem the author writes,

My daughter died at the age of twenty,
having succumbed to the temptation of drink and drugs.
In the eyes of the world she was an adult,
but to me she was still my precious little girl.
During that first year following her death,
I wrote almost forty poems,
which describe my attempt
at coming to terms with her loss
through the medium of poetry.
This is one of them:

How Do You Do?

How do you describe an empty heart
Or a mind that will not sleep?
How do you measure the depth of pain
Or the volume of tears that weep?

How do you find new direction
When life's compass has no reference points?
How do you energise listless limbs
With death's arthritic joints?

How do you see the future
Through a lens of opaque glass?
How do you reconcile her name
On a plaque of tarnished brass?

How do you rekindle interest
In a life that was complete?
How you overcome loss and pain
And the desire for social retreat?

How do you explain to those you know
The pretence that you have to project?
How do you smile when expected to
But your facial muscles object?

How do you trust a God you once knew
Or the power of goodness and prayer?
How you put your faith in his hands
When those hands threw the switch of despair?

How do you absorb the colours of Spring
Through eyes that see only black?
How do you control the endless pain
Of wishing she was back?

-- David T. Kerry
www.windowpains.org

 

When I let go of what I am,
I become what I might be.

-- Lao Tzu

We must learn the hard lesson
that without the pain of inner irritation,
the pearls of wisdom will not be produced in us.
I lovingly call this The Pearl Principle:
no pain, no transformative gain.
Inside an oyster,
it takes an irritant –
like a grain of sand or a bit of shell –
to produce the mucous juices
that engulf and surround the irritant,
eventually hardening
into a precious pearl.
It is the same for us,
regardless of how much
we wish it to be otherwise.
Difficulties and suffering
produce the aspiration
for spiritual enlightenment,
and it is this aspiration
which is needed to motivate us
along the path of awakening and liberation.
There is no growth
without growing pains–
and the labor pains of giving birth
to a new world and a new way of being
can be the most painful
yet rewarding of all.

– Lama Surya Das, in
Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be:
Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation

Grief comes in one size, Extra Large.
If we tuck it away in the bottom drawer
where it never sees the light of day,
it remains exactly the same.
On the other hand,
if we wear it, feel it, talk about it,
and share it with others,
it is likely that it will become faded, shrunk and worn,
or will simply no longer fit.
When grief has served its purpose,
we are able to recognize the many gifts we have gained.

-- Dianne Arcangel, in
 
Life After Loss : Conquering Grief and Finding Hope

If you truly want to grow as a person and learn,
you should realize that the universe has enrolled you
in the graduate program of life, called loss.

-- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

As We Look Back

As we look back over time
We find ourselves wondering ~
Did we remember to thank you enough
For all you have done for us?
For all the times you were by our sides
To help and support us ~
To celebrate our successes
To understand our problems
And accept our defeats?
Or for teaching us by your example,
The value of hard work, good judgment,
Courage and integrity?
We wonder if we ever thanked you
For the sacrifices you made.
To let us have the very best?
And for the simple things
Like laughter, smiles and times we shared?
If we have forgotten to show our
Gratitude enough for all the things you did,
We're thanking you now.
And we are hoping you knew all along,
How much you meant to us.
 

~ Lliam Tipton and Kyle Perry
in tribute to their Grandmother
Zena Kathleen Tipton, 1935-2006

God, Speak to Me

The man whispered,
"God, speak to me,"
and a meadowlark sang,
but the man did not hear.

So the man yelled,
"God, speak to me!"
and the thunder rolled across the sky,
but the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said,
"God, let me see you,"
and a star shined brightly,
but the man did not notice.

And the man shouted,
"God, show me a miracle!"
and a life was born,
but the man did not know.

So the man cried out in despair,
"Touch me, God, and let me know you are here!"
whereupon God reached down and touched the man
but the man brushed the butterfly away
and walked on.

-- Author unknown

Only he who suffers
can be the guide and healer
of the suffering.

-- Thomas Mann

A shadow of joy flickered; it is me.
I told you I wouldn't leave.
My memories, my thoughts are imbedded deep in your heart.
I still love you.
Do not for one moment think that you have been abandoned.
I am in the Light.
In the corner, in the hall, the car, the yard ~
these are the places I stay with you.
My spirit rises every time you pray for me,
but my energy comes closer to you.
Love does not diminish; it grows stronger.
I am the feather that finds you in the yard,
the dimmed light that grows brighter in your mind,
I place our memories for you to see.
We lived in our special way,
a way that now has its focus changed.
I still crave your understanding
and long for the many words of prayer
and good fortune for my soul.
I am in the Light.
As you struggle to adjust without me,
I watch silently.
Sometimes I summon up all the strength of my new world
to make you notice me.
Impressed by your grief,
I try to impress my love deeper into your consciousness.
As you should, I call out to the Heavens for help.
You should know that the fountain of youth does exist.
My soul is now healthy.
Your love sends me new found energy.
I am adjusting to this new world.
I am with you and I am in the Light.
Please don't feel bad that you can't see me.
I am with you wherever you go.
I protect you,
just as you protected me so many times.
Talk to me and somehow I will find a way to answer you.
Mother, Father, son or daughter, it makes no difference.
Brother, sister, lover, husband or wife, it makes no difference.
Whatever our connection ~ friend or even foe ~ I see you with my new eyes.
I am learning to help wherever you are, wherever I am needed.
This can be done because I am in the Light.
When you feel despair, reach out to me. I will come.
My love for you truly does transcend from Heaven to Earth.
Finish your life with the enthusiasm and zest that you had
when we were together in the physical sense.
You owe this to me, but more importantly,
you owe it to yourself.
Life continues for both of us.
I am with you because I love you
and I am in the Light.

-- Author Unknown

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.

-- Gaelic Blessing

Loneliness
is too close a companion for me to be objective.
It has gone home with me on long walks,
sat with me on numerous silent evenings,
stood with me in the middle of a group of laughing people,
and lay across the bed with me as I cried
because I didn’t know what else to do.
It seems that even when I escape it for a while,
it is waiting not too far away.
We have had long talks, loneliness and I,
and I have to say that I have learned much more
from our journeying together.
We have become friends.
But the friendship was a long time in coming.
Loneliness did not just come into my life
with the accident that left me a widow
but it did become immensely intensified then . . .
Could it be that loneliness is given to us as a reminder
that this world was never intended to be our home
and the things of this world were never intended to satisfy us?

Verdell Davis, in Riches Stored in Secret Places

With one more look at you
I could learn to time the clouds
And let the sunshine through ~
Leave a troubled past
And I might start anew
Or solve the mysteries
If you're the prize
Refresh these tired eyes
With one more look at you
I might overcome the anger
That I've learned to know ~
Find the peace of mind
I lost so long ago
Your gentle touch
Has made me strong again ~
And I'll belong again,
For when you look at me
I'm everything and more
That I had dreamed I'd be.
My spirit feels a promise:
I won't be alone
We'll live and love forever
With one more look at you
I'd learn to change the stars
And change our fortunes, too ~
I'd have the constellations
Paint your portrait, too
So all the world
Might share this wondrous sight:
The world would end each night
With one more look at you.

-- Written and sung by Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born

Six months, but the grief is still raw,
open to the bone.
In the most unlikely places --
the dentist's, restaurants,
creative meetings, sitting on the john --
I can still be engulfed in sobs.
In public I have to excuse myself
or pretend something's gone down the wrong pipe.
Once, in L.A., a guy actually gave me the Heimlich maneuver.
I could hardly tell him it was okay,
I was only choking on grief.

-- Tony Hendra, in
Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul

"I don't think of him every day;
I think of him every hour of every day."

-- Gregory Peck, in an interview
many years after his son's death

Sisters

If you are ever going to love me,
love me now, while I can know
the sweet and tender feelings
which from true affection flow.
Love me now
while I am living.
Do not wait until I am gone
and then have it chiseled in marble,
sweet words in cold stone.
If you have tender thoughts of me,
please tell me now.
If you wait until I'm sleeping,
never to awaken,
there will be death between us,
and I won't hear you then.
So if you love me, even a little bit,
let me know it while I'm living
so I can treasure it.

Copyright © 1998 - 2005 by Julia Napier
All rights reserved
Used with permission of the author

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

These four simple statements are powerful tools
for improving your relationships and your life.
As a doctor caring for seriously ill patients
for nearly 15 years of emergency medicine practice
and more than 25 years in hospice and palliative care,
I have taught hundreds of patients who were facing life's end,
when suffering can be profound,
to say The Four Things.
But the Four Things apply at any time.
Comprising just eleven words,
these four short sentences carry the core wisdom
of what people who are dying have taught me
about what matters most in life . . .
We are all sons and daughters,
whether we are six years of age or ninety-six.
Even the most loving parent-child relationship
can feel forever incomplete
if your mother or father dies
without having explicitly expressed affection for you
or without having acknowledged past tensions.
I've learned from my patients and their families
about the painful regret that comes
from not speaking these most basic feelings.
Again and again, I've witnessed the value
of stating the obvious.
When you love someone,
it is never too soon to say, "I love you,"
or premature to say, "Thank you,"
"I forgive you," or "Will you please forgive me?"
When there is nothing of profound importance left unsaid,
relationships tend to take on an aspect of celebration, as they should . . .
Because accidents and sudden illness do happen,
it is never too soon to express forgiveness,
to say thank you and I love you
to the people who have been an integral or intimate part of our lives,
and to say good-bye is a blessing.
These simple words hold essential wisdom
for transforming that which matters most in our lives --
our relationships with the people we love.

-- from The Four Things That Matter Most : A Book About Living
© 2004 by Ira Byock, M.D.
Free Press, New York

Sweet Remembrance

Let fate do her worst; there are relics of joy,
Bright dreams of the past, which she cannot destroy;
And which come in the night-time of sorrow and care,
To bring back the features that joy used to wear.
Long, long be my heart with such memories filled,
Like the vase in which roses have once been distilled;
You may break, you may ruin the vase, if you will,
But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.

-- T. Moore

To Where You Are

Who can say for certain, maybe you're still here ~
I feel you all around me, your memory so clear.
Deep within the stillness I can hear you speak.
You're still an inspiration ~
Can it be that you are mine forever, love
and you are watching over me from up above?
Fly me up to where you are beyond the distant star ~
I wish upon tonight to see you smile,
if only for awhile to know you're there ~
A breath away's not far to where you are.
Are you gently sleeping here inside my dream ~
And isn't faith believing all power can't be seen?
As my heart holds you just one beat away,
I cherish all you gave me everyday ~
'Cause you are mine forever, love
watching me from up above.
And I believethat angels breathe
and that love will live on and never leave.
Fly me up to where you are beyond the distant star ~
I wish upon tonight to see you smile,
if only for awhile to know you're there ~
A breath away's not far to where you are.
I know you're there ~
A breath away's not far to where you are

Performed byJosh Groban, Composed by Richard Marx
Listen to this song here
"If their song is to continue, then we must do the singing."
We have to find that special way that will allow us
 to sing our loved one’s song loud and clear . . .
Knowing you are doing something
to keep your loved one's memory alive
keeps you passionately busy,
allows you to tell your sacred story,
adds joy to your heart,
brings an array of beautiful, loving people into your life,
and rewards you with a meaningful life again.
Your loud voice will echo in many hearts
making sure your loved one is never erased from memory.

-- Elaine Stillwell, in
"Singing Their Song,"
Grief Digest, Volume 2, Issue #4

When I come to the end of my journey
and I travel my last weary mile,
just forget, if you can, that I ever frowned
and remember only the smile.
Forget unkind words I have spoken;
remember some good I have done.
Forget that I've stumbled and blundered
and sometimes fell by the way.
Remember I have fought some hard battles
and won, ere the close of the day.
Then forget to grieve for my going;
I would not have you sad for a day,
but in summer just gather some flowers
and remember the place where I lay,
and come in the shade of the evening
when the sun paints the sky in the west.
Stand for a few moments beside me
and remember only my best.

-- Author unknown

His father had been dead for fifty-three years.
Since then, Marshall had lost his wife,
two siblings, and son-in-law,
as well as many friends and colleagues.
Even at his advanced age 
walking with two canes and battling cancer,
he was sought after in his community
for his wisdom and good humor.
He was glad to give advice to others.
Yet, he told me, when he faced tough decisions himself,
he’d often sit quietly in his easy chair, close his eyes,
and conjure up an image of his own father.
Then he’d ask the dead man for advice.

He heard no actual voices from beyond,
but when he emerged from his meditation,
he’d usually have something of an answer.
Marshall explained:
"The loss of cherished persons
is never completely overcome.
The relationships continue.
They are always with us. . . .
I have my father’s value system,
his frame of reference.
I have preserved the father-space inside me."

-- Neil Chethik, in

FatherLoss : How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads
All the hardships that you face in life,
all the tests and tribulations,
all the nightmares,
and all the losses,
most people still view as curses,
as punishments by God,
as something negative.
If you would only know
that nothing that comes to you is negative.
I mean nothing.
All the trials and tribulations,
and the biggest losses that you ever experience,
things that make you say,
"If I had known about this,
I would never have been able to make it through,"
are gifts to you,
opportunities that you are given to grow.
That is the sole purpose of existence
on this planet Earth.
You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden
and somebody brings you gorgeous food on a silver platter.
But you will grow if you are sick,
if you are in pain,
if you experience losses,
and if you do not put your head in the sand,
but take the pain and learn to accept it,
not as a curse or punishment,
but as a gift to you
with a very, very specific purpose.

-- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in
Death Is of Vital Importance: On Life, Death, and Life After Death

 

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven;
a time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

-- Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Perhaps, for some people,
the reason prayer works
is because God is mute
and doesn't give advice
or try to fix things.
He just listens
and lets you work it out for yourself.

-- Author unknown

Religion is not a shield from pain,
but a mechanism for dealing with it effectively.
Effectively: not hiding from pain,
not eliminating it,
not denying it,
not continuing it --
but working through it
and getting past it
through very practical methods.

-- Dorian Scott Cole

Grief remains one of the few things that has the power to silence us.
It is a whisper in the world and a clamor within.
More than sex, more than faith, even more than its usher death,
grief is unspoken, publicly ignored
except for those few moments at the funeral that are over too quickly,
or the conversations among the cognoscenti,
those of us who recognize in one another
a kindred chasm deep in the center of who we are.
Maybe we do not speak of it because death will mark all of us, sooner or later.
Or maybe it is unspoken because grief is only the first part of it.
After a time it becomes something less sharp but larger, too,
a more enduring thing called loss.
Perhaps that is why this is the least explored passage:
because it has no end.
The world loves closure,
loves a thing that can, as they say, be gotten through.
This is why it comes as a great surprise to find that loss is forever,
that two decades after the event there are those occasions
when something in you cries out at the continual presence of an absence.

-- Anna Quindlen

I have been driven many times upon my knees
by the overwhelming conviction
that I had nowhere else to go.

-- Abraham Lincoln

The days and nights when I miss my father most
are not these big-ticket events,
which tend to buzz and flush with their own excitement
and stand so far outside normal time
as to defy any expected family context.
I miss him more, I find,
in the unexpected moments
that remind me of how he was
in day-to-day life.
The discovery of a volume on maritime history
at a used-book sale, for example,
can make my throat close up momentarily
as I recall how he'd settle in after dinner
with just such a treasure . . .
These are the details that bring my father back to me,
and also remind me of my loss.

-- Clea Simon, in
Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads
 
When we walk to the edge of all the light we have
and take a step into the darkness of the unknown,
we must believe one of two things will happen ~
there will be something solid for us to stand upon,
or we will be taught to fly.

--Anonymous

Instead of letting go of our attachment as we grieve,
we can make the mistake of grasping on to the deceased person even more strongly.
Halfway through the second year after my husband's death,
the cycles of intense pain and sadness were continuing,
and I felt a fresh fear that my grief would never finish.
Part of me wanted to ignore this intense pain returning month after month,
to push it down and avoid it all together.
Yet I suspected that repressing my own pain would not help in the long run either,
so I decided to bring more awareness to my situation.
I asked myself if I was doing anything that might be prolonging the mourning process.

Then I uncovered the secret thoughts I was generating each time I felt deep sadness and pain:
I can't live without you.  I hate being alone.  I want you back.
There was so much grasping in my mind, so many wishes that could never be satisfied!
If I continued to think and feel this way, I realized, there would be no end to my grief and despair.
It was clear that I needed to replace my grasping with a new way of thinking:
I am letting you go and wishing you well.  I am going to survive and be strong.
I am going to make a new life for myself.
When I felt the deep pain and sadness rising again, I began practicing letting go in this way.
After a few months of taking this approach, my process of mourning finished.

-- Christine Longaker, in
Facing Death and Finding Hope: A Guide To The Emotional and Spiritual Care Of The Dying
 

. . . Vulnerability to death
is one of the given conditions of life.
We can't explain it
any more than we can explain life itself.
We can't control it,
or sometimes even postpone it.
All we can do is try to rise beyond the question,
"Why did it happen?"
and begin to ask the question,
"What do I do now that it has happened?"

-- Harold S. Kushner, in
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
It may be quite possible
that we are not necessarily undergoing 'unresolved loss'
when a past death comes up for us.
Instead, this could be our opportunity
to experience the older loss in a different light,
one with some perspective
and yes, even wisdom.
Even if the feelings that come up are quite painful,
this may not mean that you didn't
do 'grief work' right the first time!
It may just be that now is the time
for you to experience that loss
and your current one
at a deeper level,
given who you are today
and what you now know about yourself.
Many of us still have parts of our losses
that may remain on some level 'unresolved.'
However, a more empowering notion is to recognize
that triggers of prior losses
may mean that we can re-grieve, healthily and holistically.
We may still be asking sometimes unanswerable questions about older losses,
but perhaps how we ask them has changed significantly.
And perhaps we have a greater comfort level
for these questions being unanswered.
And perhaps, we have a greater tolerance for ourselves
in not having all the answers.

-- Joan Hummel,
Bereavement Magazine , March/April 2004
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
 
Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds
than happiness ever can;
and common sufferings are far stronger links
than common joys.

-- Alphonse de Lamartine

For a long time I was obsessed with why Mitch had ended his life.
I thought that I needed to discover the real cause of his hopelessness.
I studied and analyzed what I believed to be his suicide note . . .
Finally, I perceived that a death by suicide is a result of factors too numerous to count.
I wanted to know why, but I didn't have to have an answer in order to go on living my own life.
Even the most experienced and astute investigators
are finally forced to make what at best is only an educated guess.
It is important, however, to ask why.
It is important to worry about why,
because one finally exhausts possibility after possibility
and ultimately one tires of the fruitless search.
Then it is time to let it go and to start healing.

-- Iris Bolton
in
My Son...My Son: A Guide to Healing After a Suicide in the Family
Bolton Press.Com

BoltonPress@aol.com

it seems odd that time does not put distance between us,
but there is no distance, no space, no place that you are not.
your presence fills my emptiness . . .
but still i miss you --
the you I thought you were --
the you who left that warm july morning
while we sat crying and begging for miracles.
i didn't know then
that you were so much more than that which died
and i didn't understand that miracles
sometimes come in disguise.
you have taught me lessons of the soul
and given me reasons to stay . . . but still i miss you --
the you i thought you were.

-- © 2004 by Sandy Goodman
sandy@trib.com
Love Never Dies
Used with permission of the author

 

What does "letting go" mean?
This phrase is often misunderstood.
Does it mean forgetting,
letting go of our memories?
Not at all.
Does it mean letting go of a relationship
with our deceased loved ones?
No!
Our relationship is changed, not ended.
"Letting go" refers to the time in our healing journey
when we are ready to gently open our tightly closed fists.
In doing so we let go of our pain.
We do not need it anymore.

-- Sandi Caplan and Gordon Lang,
in
Grief's Courageous Journey: A Workbook

People's voices continue to be heard after death
in the traces of their utterances,
in other people's speaking,
and in ongoing responses to their words.
For the living, this means that,
to the degree that we continue
to respond to the meanings
generated in conversation
with someone before they died,
those meanings continue to live on.
In a quite tangible sense,
people can live on after death
in and through words
and our relationships with the dead
need not be considered closed
with the nailing down
of the lid of a coffin.

-- Lorraine Hedtke and John Winslade, in
Re-membering Lives: Conversations With the Dying and the Bereaved
 

If closure means moving on
and leaving the memory of [my granddaughter] behind,
then I will never have closure.
Maddy is a very significant part of me,
and I will carry her along for the rest of my life journey.
She resides within my heart,
and as such she will never be "gotten over."
Maddy’s death cannot be resolved,
nor can my grief over the void in my family.
To resolve, to let go, to move on,
means denying my family history.
Not only does that diminish Maddy,
it diminishes who I am and my place in the world . . .
It is perfectly normal to search
for a continued connection with my granddaughter.
It is neither pathological nor dysfunctional
to think about her, to miss her, and to talk about her . . .
Once I started thinking about the word renewal
and all its implications,
I felt a sense of calm.
I was able to cease my internal struggle
over our society’s perception
that death is something to be gotten over.
I could invest my energy in discovering
not only how to incorporate the stillbirth experience into my being,
but also the life lessons.
I could actively look for ways to honor and memorialize Maddy.
She had no visible presence in the world,
but I do.
My thoughts, my actions, and my words
can ensure that she will not be forgotten.
I am able to explore and appreciate things in a new way
and no longer believe in coincidence . . .
It wasn’t until I finally stopped intellectualizing
and questioning the possibility of a spiritual connection with Maddy
that I was able to accept the warm certainty of her presence.

-- Nina Bennett, in
Forgotten Tears: A Grandmother's Journey Through Grief

Playing with Three Strings

We have seen Yitzhak Perlman
Who walks the stage with braces on both legs,
On two crutches.

He takes his seat, unhinges the clasps of his legs,
Tucking one leg back, extending the other,
Laying down his crutches, placing the violin under his chin.

On one occasion one of his violin strings broke.
The audience grew silent but the violinist did not leave the stage.
He signaled the maestro, and the orchestra began its part.
The violinist played with power and intensity on only three strings.

With three strings, he modulated, changed and
Recomposed the piece in his head
He retuned the strings to get different sounds,
Turned them upward and downward.

The audience screamed with delight,
Applauded their appreciation.
Asked later how he had accomplished this feat,
The violinist answered,
"It is my task to make music with what remains."

A legacy mightier than a concert.
Make music with what remains.
Complete the song left for us to sing,
Transcend the loss,
Play it out with heart, soul and might
With all remaining strength within us.

-- Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying overhead,
but you can prevent them from making nests in your hair.

-- Chinese Proverb

Hold on to what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life
even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand
even when I have gone away from you.

-- Pueblo Blessing

Widow Watching Widow
 
"Fine," I hear her say.
"I'm just fine."
And mourners hug her shoulders,
Pat her hand.
I stand near the coffee
and watch the gathering.
Her smile falters;
Her composure is complete,
A feat, I think, of fear and fatigue.
How can I warn her
That the numbness leaves
And agony becomes one's bedfellow
As anger roosts in the breast?
Now is not the best
Time for reality.
But when the friends and family
Have all gone away,
And her house is naked
In its emptiness,
Then, then I'll visit --
For tea, and trust, and truthtelling.

-- Janet Muller Benway, Bereavement Magazine , March/April 2003
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)

Please See Me Through My Tears

You asked, "How are you doing?"
As I told you, tears came to my eyes . . .
And you looked away and quickly began to talk again.
All the attention you had given me drained away.

"How am I doing?" . . .
I do better when people listen,
though I may shed a tear or two.
These feelings are indescribable.
If you’ve never felt them you cannot fully understand.
Yet I need you.
When you look away,
when I’m ignored,
I am again alone with them.
Your attention means more than you can ever know.

Really, tears are not a bad sign, you know!
They’re nature’s way of helping me to heal . . .
They relieve some of the stress of sadness.

I know you fear that asking
how I’m doing brings me sadness . . .
but it doesn’t work that way.
The memory of my loved one’s absence is with me,
only a thought away.

My tears make my loss more visible to you,
but you did not cause this sadness.
It was already there.

When I cry, could it be that you feel helpless,
not knowing what to do?
You are not helpless,
and you don’t need to do a thing but be here for me.

When I feel your permission to allow my tears to flow,
you’ve helped me.
You need not speak. Your silence is all I need.
Be patient . . . do not fear.

Listening with your heart to "how am I doing"
validates what I’m going through,
for when the tears can freely come I feel lighter.

Talking to you releases
what I’ve been wanting to say aloud,
clearing space for a touch of joy in my life.
I’ll cry for a minute or two . . . then I’ll wipe my eyes,
and sometimes you’ll even find I’m laughing in a while.

When I hold back my tears, my throat grows tight,
my chest aches, my stomach knots . . .
because I’m trying to protect you from my tears.
Then we both hurt . . .
me, because my feelings are held inside,
causing pain and a shield against our closeness . . .
and you, because suddenly we’re emotionally distant.

So please, take my hand and see me through my tears . . .
then we can be close again

– Kelly Osmont, MSW, LCSW, CGP, in
What Can I Say and Do? How to Support Someone Who Is Grieving a Loss,
© 2000,
Centering Corporation
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Whether they are the result of joy or sorrow,
tears are a response to emotions
for which we can find no words.
They reveal our most vulnerable self.
When we cry we are releasing the pain of the loss,
not the memory of the one we cherish.
The most dramatic rainbows
seem to follow the most severe storms.
Now when my eyes overflow,
I use a guided imagery technique
to visualize my tears washing away the pain
that I carry inside my heart and soul.
And when they finally stop,
I look for the brilliant rainbow of love and hope.

– Nina Bennett, in
Forgotten Tears: A Grandmother's Journey Through Grief

Author Jane Howard Samuels
describing the agonizing pain of grief:

And right now,
I feel like I have fifty broken bones
and when I'm still, it hurts,
and when I move, it hurts even more,
no matter what part of me I move,
all those broken bones grinding together.
Worst of all,
anyone who tries to comfort me
moves those bones,
hurts me worse.

-- Jane Howard Samuels, in Wombmates
Eagle Cliff Books

EagleCliffBooks@aol.com
Used with permission of the author

In our circle,
we noticed that the temptation can exist
for Christians to sugarcoat everything
and act like bad things are really good things in disguise.
"Gifts come in all kinds of packages," someone said to me recently
in reference to the painful things we face in life.
I don't think I will ever reach a place
where I could consider [my son] Seth's death a "gift"
any more than I consider rape or child abductions,
terrorist attacks, murder, genocide, or famine "gifts."
While it is true that the strength or the insight we gain from God
to get through these times could be considered as gifts,
the event itself is not,
and I believe that God grieves just as much as we do.
Why can't we just admit that painful things are painful?
Why can't we just sit down with people
and cry along with them
as we admit that what happened is cause for tears?
We don't need people to rush in
and frantically try to wrap it all up pretty with a bow,
like it is something we should savor.
In time, we may see goodness that seeped out of badness,
but we should leave it to God to show us that,
when our eyes are not so full of tears
and we can see more clearly.

-- Elizabeth A. Price, in "Helping the Bereaved: A Few Basic Rules"
Bereavement Magazine , September/October 2003
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)

 

When we’ve changed our religious views or political convictions,
a part of our past dies.
When love ends,
be it the first mad romance of adolescence,
the love that will not sustain a marriage,
or the love of a failed friendship,
it is the same.  
A death.
Likewise in the event of a miscarriage
or an abortion:
a possibility is dead.
And there is no public or even private funeral.
Sometimes only regret and nostalgia mark the passage.
And the last rites are held
in the solitude of one’s most secret self —
a service of mourning
in the tabernacle of the soul.

— Robert Fulghum, in From Beginning to End

Regardless of the reason or the cause,
a terminated pregnancy
leaves forever more
an empty place in the heart and life of a mother.
This poem was written by Lorraine in 1998,
in loving and everlasting memory
of her beloved unborn son Damien:

It swims around in your head
It shows up in your dreams
You try to let it go
Oh, how real it seems
No matter what you do
The memories will not fade
I
t goes on pushing through
You cannot hide the pain
It’s gone beyond your mind
It won’t let you forget
It turns your dreams into nightmares
It won’t let you sleep yet
It’s the guilt you carry with you
Deep inside your heart
It will never leave you
Your world is torn apart
The one you should look out for
The one you should have loved
Is no longer a part of you
Their heaven high above
The life that grew inside you
You were quick to throw away
And so the guilt thrives in you
Forever and a day
Nothing you do will cure it
No one can help you through
You feel you were wrong
But how does that help you?
The one gift you were blessed with
That needle that you felt
Has left your heart completely empty
And your head filled up with Guilt.

© 2004 by Lorraine Baylis
lol.baylis@Punkass.com
Used with permission of the author

When we bury the old,
we bury the known past,
the past we imagine sometimes better than it was,
but the past all the same,
a portion of which we inhabited.
Memory is the overwhelming theme,
the eventual comfort.
But burying infants,
we bury the future,
unwieldy and unknown,
full of promise and possibilities,
outcomes punctuated by our rosy hopes.
The grief has no borders,
no limits,
no known ends
and the little infant graves
that edge the corners and fencerows of every cemetery
are never quite big enough to contain that grief.
Some sadnesses are permanent.
Dead babies do not give us memories.
They give us dreams.

-- Thomas Lynch, in The Compassionate Friends
Tidewater Chapter Newsletter, Volume 3, Issue 1

Fingerprints

Your fingerprints are on my heart.
Fingerprints that teach me about caring.
Fingerprints that teach me about love.
Fingerprints that teach me about courage.
Fingerprints that teach me about hope.
Fingerprints that bring me closer to my loved ones.
Fingerprints that bring me closer to myself.
In the time I cared for you my whole life changed --
never to be the same again
All this from tiny fingerprints that touch my heart.
You will live in my heart forever - never to be forgotten.
I will always love you.
You are my child.
 

-- Copyright © 2001 by Tom Krause
www.coachkrause.com
Used with permission of the author

 
After a while you learn the subtle differences
between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't always mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child
And you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns
if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth.
And you learn and you learn
with every goodbye you learn . . .

-- Veronica A. Shoffstall
[Click here to see this poem in flash animation]

Apparently, the messages that come from beyond
can be swift and delicate
and if we are not open and receptive
they will fly by unseen and unheard,
and will fall to earth,
we know not where.
If we can catch them in their flight,
we will find that peace descends upon us
and we will feel the breeze of an angel's wing
as it gently reaches out and touches us.

-- Linda Pendleton, in A Walk Through Grief : Crossing the Bridge Between Worlds
lpen@starstream.net
http://www.todancewithangels.com

When asked to share her beauty tips with fans,
the beloved actress and humanitarian offered this response,
which was read at her funeral several years later:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored,
renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands:
one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.

-- Audrey Hepburn
[Click here to see this piece in flash animation]

Now that I am gone,
remember me with smiles and laughter.
And if you need to cry,
cry with your brother or sister
who walks in grief beside you.
And when you need me,
put your arms around anyone
and give to them what you need to give to me.
There are so many who need so much.
I want to leave you something --
something much better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I've known
or helped in some special way.
Let me live in your heart
as well as in your mind.
You can love me most
by letting your love reach out to our loved ones,
by embracing them and living in their love.
Love does not die, people do.
So, when all that's left of me is love,
give me away as best you can.

-- Author unknown
 

Grief ebbs but grief never ends.
Death ends a life but death does not end a relationship.
If we allow ourselves to be still
and if we take responsibility for our grief,
the grief becomes as polished and luminous
and mysterious as death itself.
When it does,
we learn to love anew,
not only the one who has died.
We learn to love anew those who yet live.

-- Julius Lester

The heart of grief,
its most difficult challenge,
is not "letting go" of those who have died
but instead making the transition
from loving in presence
to loving in separation.

-- Thomas Attig, in The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and they staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 [Click here to see Psalm 23 Flash Animation]

Son by My Side

Early each morning,
long before the roosters wake,
my son instinctively rolls out of bed
and slumbers down the hallway with his pillows in tow.
His daily migration always leads to the foot of our bed
and is followed by our rude awakening as he wedges between me and my wife.

Our bed does not comfortably fit the three of us.
I'm forced to sleep on my left side and my wife on her right.
My wife goes through similar pains as she wrestles back to sleep.
This arrangement leave us tired and sore each morning.

If I find myself resting next to a bed with tubes and wires invading my son
as monitors watch his motionless sleep,
I will desperately pray for him and his pillow to come home
and shatter the morning's peace at the foot of our bed.

If I find myself resting next to a slab marked by a stone that speaks of my son,
I will heartfully beg to reset the clock
to when my side of the bed was not my own.

It's now 3:00 a.m. and I find myself fighting for rest.
My arm is sore and sleep is beyond reach ~

But I silently lie in the morning calm as tears fill my eyes
and I consider how truly blessed is my life
with my son by my side.

-- Copyright © 2003 by Mike Kleiman
mikekleiman@cs.com

Used with permission of the author

Old Irish Blessing of Peace

Deep peace I breathe into you
Oh weariness here, O ache, here!
Deep peace, a soft white dove to you;
Deep peace, a quiet rain to you;
Deep peace, an ebbing wave to you!
Deep peace, red wind of the east from you;
Deep peace, gray wind of the west to you;
Deep peace, dark wind of the north from you;
Deep peace, pure red of the flame to you;
Deep peace, pure white of the moon to you;
Deep peace, pure green of the grass to you;
Deep peace, pure brown of the living earth to you;
Deep peace, pure gray of the dew to you;
Deep peace, pure blue of the sky to you;
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you,
Deep peace of the sleeping stones to you,
Deep peace of the yellow shepherd to you,
Deep peace of the wandering shepherdess to you,
Deep peace of the Flock of Stars to You.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to You.
Deep Peace, Deep Peace.

– Compassionate Friends
Tidewater Chapter Newsletter, Jan-Feb 2003

To shirk pain, bearable pain, altogether
is not only to be less real than one might have been;
it is to isolate oneself from the common lot of pain,
from the pain of humanity and the world.
It is to blunt or cut off or withdraw one's antennae;
it is to play only such notes
as one chooses in the universal symphony,
which is a symphony of suffering as well as joy.

-- Victor Gollancz
Oh Danny boy,
The pipes, the pipes are calling
from glen to glen and down the mountain side.
The summer's gone and all the leaves are falling ~
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
And I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow ~
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy ~  I love you so.
But if he come and all the roses dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be,
He'll come here and find the place I'm lying
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall feel, oh soft you tread above me ~
And then my grave will richer, sweeter be
For you will bend, and tell me that you love me
And I shall rest in peace until you come to me.

-- The Beloved Irish Ballad

At times, grief is like a hurricane
meandering in its path
but nevertheless picking up strength;
eventually it will come ashore
with perhaps devastating consequences.

-- Harold Ivan Smith

God grant me Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.

-- The Serenity Prayer

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.

-- Helen Keller
I have a confession to make.
I hate the word closure
when connected with the loss of a loved one.
You know what I mean --
a spouse, a sibling, a friend dies.
Weeks later there are those who want to know
when the bereaved will find closure.
The dictionary defines closure as
'. . . to be imperious to . . . to choke off . . .
to constrict . . . to bolt . . . to bar . . . to end.'
For survivors, the word closure often connotes
that the bereaved are underachievers
who flunked a grief course.
Though the intention is meant to be sympathetic,
there is evoked a note of chastisement
for failing to end the mourning process.
In the eloquent words of Dr. Jimmy Holland
at New York's Sloan-Kettering Hospital:
'We create a sense of failure
as if the bereaved is not doing it fast enough.'
For grief work takes more time and effort
than most people ever anticipate.
And even after weeks, months, and years later,
grief may ebb, but never ends . . .
The Song of Songs has an insightful perspective on the death of a beloved.
Instead of a word like closure ('to end'),
are the thoughts of never forgetting, always remembering.
The final day of Passover . . . is a Service of Yizkor ('Remembrance')
for those whose memories will never die.
In the synagogue is a 'wall of remembrance'
of past members who are recalled
with lights lit by their names.
There is no closure.
The beauty of their lives never ends.
The life of the dead is now placed
in the memory of the living.
For 'love is strong as death' (8:6).

-- Rabbi Dr. Earl Grollman, in "Closure and the Song of Songs,"
Bereavement Magazine , March/April 2003
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
As she was sorting through his belongings
at the 6-month anniversary of his death,
Barbara Ennis discovered this poem
tucked inside her father's Bible.
It was given to him by the minister
who read it at her sister's funeral 47 years ago:


Safely Home

I am home in Heaven, dear ones
Oh so happy and so bright
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light
All the grief and pain are over
Every restless tossing passed
I am now at peace forever
Safely home in Heaven at last
Did you wonder how I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Ah but the love of God illumined
Every dark and fearful glade
And He came Himself to meet me
In the way so hard to tread
And with His arm to lean on
Could I have one doubt or dread?
Then you must not grieve so sorely
For I love you dearly still
Try to look beyond Earth's shadows
Pray to trust our Father's will
There is work still waiting for you
So you must not idly stand
Do it now while life remaineth
You shall rest in our Father's land
When the work is all completed
He will gently call you home
Oh the rapture of that meeting
Oh the joy to see you come!

-- Author unknown
Submitted by Barbara Ennis
July 18, 2003
In loving tribute to her father and her sister
Richard K. Ennis and Ellen Ann Ennis
bblennis@aol.com

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.

If we are loved and remembered,
then we live on forever
in the hearts of those who love us.

-- Ted Menten
in
After Goodbye: How to Begin Again After the Death of Someone You Love

To Remember Me

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet
neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress
located in a hospital busily occupied
with the living and the dying.
At a certain moment
a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function
and that, for all intents and purposes,
my life has stopped.
When that day comes,
do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body
by the use of a machine.
And don't call this my deathbed.
Let it be called the Bed of Life,
and let my body be taken from it
to help others lead fuller lives.
Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise,
a baby's face or the love in the eyes of a woman.
Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.
Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.
Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body
and find a way to make a crippled child walk.
If you must bury something,
let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my sins to the devil.
Give my soul to God.
If, by chance, you wish to remember me,
do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.
If you do all I have asked,
I will live forever.

-- Robert N. Test

Noted author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia
tells of a four-year-old boy who lived next door
to an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.
One day the child saw the man sitting on his porch in a rocking chair,
and noticed that he was crying.
The little boy walked over to the man’s porch, made his way up the steps
and climbed onto the old gentleman’s lap. 
Without saying a word, he just sat there.
Later, when his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor,
the little boy answered, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."
Don't cry because it's over.
Smile because it happened.

-- Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

I never thought I could go on living when you died, but ~ I did.
I never thought I would survive after burying you, but ~ I did.
I never thought I'd get through those first days, weeks and months, but ~ I did.
I never thought I would be able to endure the first anniversary of your death, but ~ I did.
I never thought I would let myself love my new grandchild, but ~ I did.
I never thought tomorrow would be different, but ~ it was.
I never thought I would stop crying for you, but ~ I have.
I never thought that I would ever sing again, but ~ I have.
I never thought the pain would "soften," but ~ it has.
I never thought I would care if the sun shone again, but ~ I do.
I never thought I would be able to entertain again, but ~ I have.
I never thought I would be able to control my grief, but ~ I can.
I never thought I could function without medication again, but ~ I can.
I never thought I'd smile again, but ~ I do.
I never thought I would laugh out loud again, but ~ I do.
I never thought I would look forward to tomorrow, but ~ I do.
I never thought I'd reconcile your death, but ~ I have.
I never thought I would be able to create that "new normal," but ~ I have.
I never thought I'd want to go on living after you died, but ~ I do.
Always missing you,
always loving you,
and thinking of you daily,
with a smile on my face ~
and tears in my heart.

-- Author Unknown

My Heart Will Go On

Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you

That is how I know you go on.

Far across the distance and spaces between us

You have come to show you go on.

Near, far, wherever you are

I believe that the heart does go on.

Once more you open the door

And you're here in my heart

And my heart will go on and on.

Love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime

And never let go till we're gone.

Love was when I loved you

One true time I hold you

In my life we'll always go on.

Near, far, wherever you are

I believe that the heart does go on.

Once more, you open the door

And you're here in my heart

And my heart will go on and on.

You're here, there's nothing I fear

And I know that my heart will go on.

We'll stay forever this way

You are safe in my heart

And my heart will go on and on.

-- Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On

People don't leave life
until you stop thinking about them.

-- Larry McMurtry, in The Late Child : A Novel

Sometimes our light goes out
but it is blown again into flame
by an encounter with another human being.
Each of us owes the deepest thanks
to those who have rekindled this inner light.

-- Albert Schweitzer

When we honestly ask ourselves
which person in our lives means the most to us,
we often find that it is those who,
instead of giving much advice, solutions or cures,
have chosen rather to share our pain
and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion,
who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing,
and face us with the reality of our powerlessness,
that is a friend who cares.

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen
in Out of Solitude; Three Meditations on the Christian Life

Death is not the extinguishing of the light,
but the putting out of the lamps
because the dawn has come.

-- Rabindranath Tagore
There are only two faces to existence
- birth and death -
and life survives them both,
just so sunrise and sunset are not essentially different:
it all depends on whether one is facing east or west.

-- Joy Mills
If wishing makes it so
won't you let me know
that life is eternal
and love is immortal
and death is only a horizon
Life is eternal
as we move into the light
and a horizon is nothing
save the limit of our sight

-- from the song, Life is Eternal
by Carly Simon and Teesa Gohl
Sometimes we can find respite with others.
When I work with bereaved people
I ask them to make a list of their support system.
Once they do that I ask them to tell me
 who are the good listeners,
who are the doers.
But I also have them identify their respite people.
These are the people who are friends
even though they are uncomfortable with pain and grief.
I remind bereaved people that these persons can help, too.
They are often good people to go with to get away from grief.
They are unlikely to ask about the loss.
But they have a valued role in providing diversion.

-- Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D.,
in J
ourneys: A Newsletter to Help in Bereavement
Hospice Foundation of America
May 2001

The bitterest tears shed over graves
are for words left unsaid
and deeds left undone.

-- Harriet Beecher Stowe

How Well Are You Doing with Your Grief?

"If I were doing well with my grief,
I would be over in the corner
curled up in a fetal position crying,
not standing here acting like no one has died."

-- Doug Manning
in The Gift of Significance: Walking People Through a Loss

We are doing well with our grief when we are grieving.
Somehow we have it backwards.
We think people are doing well when they aren't crying.
Grief is a process of walking through some painful periods
toward learning to cope again.
We do not walk this path without pain and tears.
When we are in the most pain,
we are making the most progress.
When the pain is less,
we are coasting and resting up for the next steps.
People need to grieve.
Grief is not an enemy to be avoided;
it is a healing path to be walked.

-- from HOPE Line Newsletter, August 2002
E-mail: hope@dreamscape.com
Web site: www.hopeforbereaved.com

But there was no need to be ashamed of tears
for tears bore witness
that a man had the greatest of courage,
the courage to suffer.

-- Viktor E. Frankl

You have to take responsibility for how you feel . . .
When you make loss totally responsible for your pain,
you make replacement of the loss
your only hope for ending the pain.

-- Pat Schwiebert, R.N.

We can use our creativity to give expression to our grief . . .
Poetry, painting, dance, storytelling, [music], sculpture
or any of the various creative arts can be effective outlets . . .
[and using them] has much value.
First, they give expression to our deepest experiences.
Sometimes there are no words.
More than that, creative arts are suited for every individual.
Each of us has unique talents or abilities,
our own interests, levels, and our own preferences.
Some may use the creative arts to express feelings
while others will use it to share fond memories or thoughts.
Still, for others, the very act of doing something is therapeutic . . .
Producing or experiencing the productions of others
gives a visual reminder that sometimes
the worst experiences of life
can be transformed into a tragic beauty.
In its own way, that offers continued hope.

-- Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D.,
in J
ourneys: A Newsletter to Help in Bereavement
Hospice Foundation of America

May 2001
 

Somehow we must reach a place
where our love and memories are liberated
from the painful emotions linked with the death of our loved ones.
It is in that liberation that we find an awakening to new possibilities,
to new understanding and to growth.

-- Roy P. Peterson, Ph.D., in "Memories of Loved Ones,"
Bereavement Magazine , February 1998
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
 

And now we've grown older (and maybe a little wiser)
and we've learned that love isn't something you toss out, bury, pack away, or forget. 
Love isn't something that ends with death. 
Life can become good and whole and complete once again . . .
not when we try to fill up the empty spaces
left by loved ones no longer within hug's reach,
but when we realize that love creates new spaces in the heart
and expands the spirit
and deepens the joy of simply being alive.

-- Darcie Sims, Ph.D., in "Christmas is the Hardest Holiday!"
Bereavement Magazine, November/December 1987
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
 

When Does Grief End?

Grief hits us like a ton of bricks,
flattens us like a steamroller,
hurls us into the depths of despair. 
We know in a flash when grief hits,
but when does it end? 
Like the month of March,
grief rushes in like a lion
and tiptoes out like a lamb. 
Sometimes, we don't know when grief leaves,
because we won't let go of the lion's tail.
Why do we hold on so long? 
Grief offers us safety,
protection from the world. 
We don't want to let go
because we secretly fear
that we'll forget our loved ones,
and we don't want to forget – ever. 
We don't want to let go
because we fear the future
and having to face life without our loved ones.
We don't want to let go
because we make the mistake
of measuring our grief with the depth of our love –
when neither has anything to do with the other.
How do we know when grief has run its course? 
How do we know when we've grieved enough? 
Cried enough? 
"Died" enough? 
How do we know when it's time to let go of the tail? 
We know when we feel joy again, in something or someone. 
Joy in living.  Joy in life. 
We know when we wake up in the morning
and our first thought is on something other than our loss. 
We know when we look ahead with a smile
and back with fond memories,
and when we no longer dread the nights. 
We know when our life starts filling up with new interests and people,
and we start reaching for the stars
Grief ends when we let go of the tail.

Margareet Brownley,
"When Does Grief End?"
Bereavement Magazine , January/February 2002
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
 
I have found in the years that have passed
that I am most vulnerable
at times of remembrance. 
The word "anniversary"
no longer holds a promise of celebration. 
Instead, holidays and birthdays,
family gatherings and otherwise joyous occasions
contain an undertow of sorrow. 
If I get caught up in it,
I quickly get pulled under
and wind up gasping for breath. 
It is ironic that
the presence of an absence
can be so emotionally devastating.

– Bill Jenkins
in What to Do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss (3rd Edition)
www.willsworld.com
When we travel the journey of grief,
the familiar can become unfamiliar, even unrecognizable. 
Relationships can be put on hold
(though sometimes because we don't recognize the love that surrounds us),
our bodies respond differently than before
(energy levels, appetite, sleep, general health)
and our emotions often become, at best,
a wild ride through some very dark and gloomy waters. 
Even God (our beliefs, values and sources of strength) is different. 
For some, even the ability to believe in anyone or anything
is stretched to impossibility, for a long time, maybe even forever.
Sorrow can be a very deep hole,
deepened by our perceived loss of that sense of connection. 
For many it is about despair, fear and hopelessness. 
For others, a sense of sadness and futility. 
It may be less severe for many, but it is still there. 
For all of us still wrestle with the essential questions of life and meaning.
Why did this happen?
Why did this happen now?
What will happen to me?
How will I live now?
Do I want to go on living?
What do I need to do now?
These are the questions of life and grief,
as old as the ancient psalms
and as fresh as this morning's first cup of coffee. 
What does all of this mean for you and me? 
The answer (and it isn't really an answer, but a choice,
a hunch, a moving through the journeys of grief and of faith
all twisted and turned together)
is in connecting to myself, my story and my God . . .
it is faith,
our ability to believe and trust
in the outcomes or blessings of even one's suffering,
that brings us through our sorrow to a renewed sense of hope.
My beliefs help me identify where I am,
who I am, where I am going, and how I will get there. 
Healthy spirituality never dodges the tough bullets of grief. 
It never diminishes my worth and never dismisses my feelings. 
My relationship with God
leaves me plenty of time and space
to wander and to ponder. 
There is room to be angry, with the encouragement to receive anger's gift
rather than be seduced by its rage. 
I can connect with my guilt,
yet welcome forgiveness that restores. 
My loneliness is embraced through religious community or context,
ritual, sacrament and prayer (or whatever fits with your traditions). 
Grief's anonymity ("Doesn't anyone understand?")
is embraced by a God
sometimes perceived to be distant and inaccessible,
who still knows me by name!

--  Reverend Richard Gilbert, M.Div. in "Like Connecting with an Old Friend"
Bereavement Magazine, January/February 2002
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
How to Help a Friend in Grief

As much as we would like to avoid unpleasantness in our lives,
sometimes it is inescapable.
Instead, we must learn how to grieve in healthy ways
and work through our difficulties. 
If you are wondering what you can do
to help a friend who is in intense mourning,
here are some suggestions:

Recognize that everyone grieves at their own pace. 
Some progress rather quickly, some move very slowly. 
We never move at the speed that others think we should. 
Help us take one day at a time.

Keep us company and be there for us. 
You don't need to say anything profound or do anything earthshaking. 
Often, your greatest help is your quiet presence and simplest deeds.

Make suggestions and initiate contact and activities. 
It is important for you to respect our privacy and give us some time alone,
but we also may not have the energy
to structure our lives right after a traumatic loss. 
We may have to rely on others to think of things that we don't know to ask for.

Provide a safe environment for us to show strong emotions. 
It may be very painful, but it can be of enormous help.

Help us remember good things. 
Tell us your memories of our loved one as you listen to us tell you ours. 
If we begin to show our emotions outwardly,
you have not upset us,
you have simply enabled us
to be a bit more open in your presence.

Be there after the first wave is over. 
Make the effort to call, to come by,
to help us out six months and even a year down the road.
Crowds may be difficult for us. 
Shopping and holidays will be overwhelming. 
Offer your help. 
If we're not up to a visit we'll let you know,
but let us know you remember and are there for us.

Listen to us. 
We need to tell our story over and over in order to process our grief. 
We may even say outrageous things. 
Don't judge us by what we say or how we feel. 
We have a lot to work through,
and in time we will come to the answers that are right for us.

Be careful of clichés, religious platitudes, or easy answers. 
You may not be able to help us with certain issues right now,
so don't be too quick to share your opinions
if we say something you don't agree with. 
We need time to work things out on our own. 

Be sensitive to our needs, be patient, have confidence and believe in us. 
We will get better, we will experience healing;
but it will take some time,
and it can be rough going for much of the way.

Be on the lookout for destructive behaviors. 
Traumatic loss can lead some people into depression, alcohol or drug abuse. 
We may need you to keep an eye on us while things are especially tough.

Help us find humorous diversion. 
Laughter is good medicine.

Be willing to do difficult things with us. 
We may need someone to sit with us in court;
we may need a safe place to rage;
we may need help with the funeral or afterwards. 
There may be some hard times ahead
and facing them alone can be terrifying.

Help us find ways to bring good things out of the bad. 
It is important that our loved one be remembered and memorialized.

Find out about grief. 
Read some of the books that are available. 
The more you know, the better able you will be to help us.

Help us to find support and inspiration. 
Often, a poem or song will speak to us in ways that no one else can. 
Also, talking to someone who has survived a similar loss
can help us to realize that we are not alone in our grief.

We have to go through this valley in order to get to the other side. 
Dealing with grief cannot be avoided or postponed. 
Grief can make relationships difficult
and you may get frustrated with us or feel uneasy around us. 
But please remember that now, more than ever,
we need the caring and patient support of our friends and family. 
Help us get through this as well as we are able. 
Your true friendship and companionship,
your kindness and patience
can help us get our lives back together.

We will experience some level of grief over our loved one's loss
for the rest of our lives. 
Some days will simply be better than others. 
One day, we hope to reach a point
where our good days outnumber the bad. 
That will be a major milestone for us.

Thank you for being here for us.

Reprinted with permission from
 What to Do When the Police Leave : A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss (3rd Edition)
by Bill Jenkins, WBJ Press, Richmond, VA, 20001
www.willsworld.com  

People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway.

-- Mother Teresa

While the experience of grief work
is difficult and slow and wearing,
it also is enriching and fulfilling.
The most beautiful people we have known
are those who have known defeat,
known suffering, known struggle, known loss,
and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation,
a sensitivity, and an understanding of life
that fills them with compassion, gentleness,
and a deep, loving concern.

-- Roy and Jane Nichols, "Funerals: A Time for Grief and Growth"
in
The Hope Line Newsletter, July 2001, Syracuse, NY
Hope for Bereaved, Inc.    hopeforbereaved@cynmail.com
A nation that does not honor its dead
will ultimately lose its reverence for life.
If the dead do not matter,
it will not be long until
the living don't matter either.

-- Doug Manning
in
The Funeral: A Chance to Touch, a Chance to Serve, a Chance to Heal

People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within.

-- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
There is but one freedom.
To put oneself right with death.
After that, everything is possible.
I cannot force you to believe in God.
Believing in God amounts to
coming to terms with death.
When you have accepted death,
the problem of God will be solved --
and not the reverse.

-- Albert Camus

Dear Survivor: A Letter to You

It is said that death is part of life; that it is the other side of birth. 
I believe that death can also give meaning to life,
a meaning that may escape you now while your grief is fresh and raw,
but which may someday bring a special quality of peace to your spirit. 
As terrible as your loss seems now, you will survive it
even though that may seem unbelievable right now. 
Once that happens, you will have touched upon
a new and incredible inner strength.
But for now you may be a mixture of thoughts and feelings. 
Despair, longing, anger, guilt, frustration,
questions and even understanding, tumble over each other,
striving for but not quite reaching comprehensible sense and shape. 
You seek relief — you need to heal. 
It is a journey, and you must work on it. 
And so, cry.
The pain is real, but the tears are healing. 
Often we must struggle through an emotion to find the relief beyond. 
And so, talk.
Talk to each other about your loss and pain. 
Don't hide or deny real feelings.  Tell others that you need them. 
The more you deny something or address it in silence,
the more it can claim destructive power over you. 
And so, search.
Over and over, you will ask "Why?" 
It is a question you must ask. 
Though you may never find an answer,
realize that it is still important
to wrestle with the "why" question for a time. 
Eventually, you will be content to give up the search. 
When you can willingly let go of the need to question "why,"
it will lose its hold over you,
but it will take time. 
And so, speak.
Speak as often and freely of your loved one as you need to. 
He or she will always be a part of you. 
Not to speak of the deceased denies his or her existence. 
To speak of the deceased affirms his or her life. 
Believe that in time, the pain of loss fades
and is replaced by precious memories to be shared. 
And so, grieve.
This time of sorrow can be used
to draw a family together or pull it apart. 
You may be one who needs to feel and express guilt
so that eventually you will gain a more balanced view
of your actual responsibility. 
You may need to give yourself permission to feel and express anger
even though you think it's inappropriate. 
And so, grow.
We know we cannot control all that happens to us,
but we can control how we choose to respond. 
We can choose to overcome and survive it. 
When we choose to grieve constructively and creatively,
we come to value life with a new awareness. 
And so, become.
Become the most you can become. 
Enter into a new dimension of self-identity and self-dependence
as you come to love others more fully and unconditionally. 
In letting go of love, we give it freedom to return to us. 
Become all that your loved one's death has freed you to become. 
And so, accept.
Accept that in some strange way,
his or her death may enable you to reach out with a new understanding,
offering a new dimension of love to others.
I believe in a loving God Who is with us,
offering strength, guidance and solace
as we struggle with our anguish. 
I believe as we regain balance and meaning in our shattered lives,
we can come to see that death
can indeed bring a new meaning to life. 
This is my prayer for all of us.

by Eleanora Ross
in
Bereavement Magazine
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (888-604-4673)
 

Courage doesn't always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day
saying,
"I will try again tomorrow."

— Anonymous
I would maintain the sanctity of human joy and human grief.  
I bow in reverence before the emotions of every melted heart.
We have a human right to our sorrow.
To blame the deep grief which bereavement awakens,
is to censure all strong human attachments.
The more intense the delight in their presence,
the more poignant the impression of their absence;
and you cannot destroy the anguish unless you forbid the joy.
A morality which rebukes sorrow rebukes love.
When the tears of bereavement have had their natural flow,
they lead us again to life
and love's generous joy.

— James Martineau, Endeavors After the Christian Life
Music I Heard with You

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass,
These things do not remember you, beloved —
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always —
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

— Conrad Aiken
What Grief Represents to Me
by Tina Creswell
 
Grief is a strange phenomenon --
it's like going through a storm
with sheets of rain flowing from your heart
and stumbling to find your way out
only to realize that to heal
you have to go through it and not around it --
There is no escaping it;
it is part of living and acceptance of your grief.
There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness,
but of power.
They speak more eloquently
than 10,000 tongues.
They are the messengers
of overwhelming grief,
of deep contrition,
and of unspeakable love.

— Washington Irving
When you grow weary of the boasts of men, 
go to a tree, my friend —
one that has stood long patient years
within a silent wood.
Beneath its branches you will find again
a thing long lost.
Trees are content to be
as God created them.
No bough that turns its golden thoughts to autumn
ever yearns beyond a hillside's immortality.
Go to a tree in silence, you will find
in the soft eloquence of bud and leaf
serenity beyond the voice of grief
and faith beyond the reach of humankind.
Man spends his noisy days in search of gain
while trees find God in sunlight, soil and rain.

— Anonymous
Alas, poor world, what treasure hast thou lost!
What face remains alive that's worth the viewing?
Whose tongue is music now?  
What canst thou boast
Of things long since, or anything ensuing?
The flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and trim;
But true sweet beauty liv'd and died with him.
.
— William Shakespeare, in Venus and Adonis
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart
and you will find it is only
that which has given you sorrow
that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping
for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow,"
and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater,"
But I say unto you they are inseparable.
Together they come,
and when one sits alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales
between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty
are you at a standstill
and balanced.

— Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Looking back on the memory
of the dance we shared,
beneath the stars above,
for a moment all the world was right.
How was I to know
that you'd ever say goodbye?
And now I'm glad I didn't know
the way it all would end,
the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain,
but I'd have had to miss the dance.

— Garth Brooks, The Dance
Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time.
Some people bear three:
all they have had,
all they have now,
and all they expect to have.

— Edward Everett Hale
Coming to Terms with God

. . . Months ago I was angry at what I thought was 
the sheeplike stupidity of people who believed 
in a God who cared about them. 
Enraged by Gretchen's death, 
I could not understand how people, 
especially those whose children had died, 
could believe they were loved by God. 
Having myself grown up with that image 
of the fatherly taskmaster, 
I needed something to blame, 
something to hate for what had happened; 
and there He was, still present in my memory, 
somehow alive under layers of consciousness. 
Shortly after Gretchen died 
I saw a woman driving a car with a bumper sticker 
saying GOD LOVES YOU, 
and I felt like running her off the road. 
I saw the same message the other day and shrugged.
Now that my anger is subsiding, 
I see Him and all the other gods 
as not unlike my own "pathetic fallacies," 
the fantasies of minds and hearts unhinged by grief. 
I may not believe what others do, 
but I have experienced the desperate longing to understand, 
and I know I, too, am one of the sheep. 
So I don't begrudge anyone a belief 
that can help them get through the day.

— Tom Crider, in Give Sorrow Words: A Father's Passage Through Grief
Undo it, take it back, 
make every day the previous one 
until I am returned to the day 
before the one that made you gone. 
Or set me on an airplane traveling west, 
crossing the date line again and again, 
losing this day, then that, 
until the day of loss still lies ahead, 
and you are here instead of sorrow.

— Nessa Rapoport, in A Woman's Book of Grieving
I have discovered that, 
in my opinion, 
grief often inspires creativity. 
When everything is hunky-dory, 
you just don't have the same compelling need 
to express yourself creatively, 
nor to do all the hard work it requires. 
That is probably why so much 
of the world's great literature 
is about grief and loss.

— Mary Semel, in A Broken Heart Still Beats: After Your Child Dies
The End

It is time for me to go, Mother; I am going.
When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn
you stretch out your arms for your baby in the bed,
I shall say, "Baby is not there!" — Mother, I am going.
I shall become a delicate draught of air and caress you; 
and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe,
and kiss you and kiss you again.
In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves
you will hear my whisper in your bed,
and my laughter will flash with the lightning
through the open window into your room.
If you lie awake, 
thinking of your baby till late into the night, 
I shall sing to you from the stars, 
"Sleep, mother, sleep."
On the straying moonbeams 
I shall steal over your bed,
and lie upon your bosom while you sleep.
I shall become a dream,
and through the little opening of your eyelids
I shall slip into the depths of your sleep;
and when you wake up and look round startled,
like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness.
When, on the great festival of puja, 
the neighbors' children come and play about the house,
I shall melt into the music of the flute
and throb in your heart all day.
Dear Auntie will come with puja-presents and will ask,
"Where is our baby, Sister?"
Mother, you will tell her softly,
"He is in the pupil of my eyes,
he is in my body and my soul."

— Rabindranath Tagore, 
in Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore
This prayer, or some variation of it, is said on Yom Kippur, 
when Jews take special time to remember the dead.


It is hard to sing of oneness 
when our world is not complete, 
when those who once brought wholeness 
to our life have gone, 
and naught but memory can fill 
the emptiness their passing leaves behind.
But memory can tell us only what we were, 
in company with those we loved; 
it cannot help us find what each of us, 
alone, must now become. 
Yet no one is really alone; 
those who live no more 
echo still within our thoughts and words, 
and what they did is part of what we have become.
We do best homage to our dead 
when we live our lives more fully, 
even in the shadow of our loss.

— Jewish Prayer for High Holydays
in A Broken Heart Still Beats: After Your Child Dies
Some survivors 
try to think their way through grief.
That doesn't work.
Grief is a releasing process, 
a discovery process, 
a healing process.
We cannot release or discover or heal
by the use of our minds alone.
The brain must follow the heart 
at a respectful distance.
It is our hearts that ache when a loved one dies.
It is our emotions that are most drastically affected.
Certainly the mind suffers, 
the mind recalls,
the mind may plot and plan and wish,
but it is the heart 
that will blaze the trail
through the thicket of grief.

— Carol Staudacher
in A Time to Grieve : Meditations for Healing After the Death of a Loved One
As the months pass and the seasons change, 
something of tranquility descends, 
and although the well-remembered footstep 
does not sound again,
nor the voice call from the room beyond, 
there seems to be about one in the air 
an atmosphere of love, 
a living presence. 
I say this in no haunting sense; 
ghosts and phantoms are far from my mind. 
It is as though one shared, 
in some indefinable manner, 
the freedom and the peace, 
even at times the joy, 
of another world where there is no more pain. 
It is not a question of faith or of belief. 
It is not necessary to be a follower 
of any religious doctrine 
to become aware of what I mean. 
It is not the prerogative of the devout. 
The feeling is simply there, 
pervading all thought, all action. 
When Christ the healer said, 
"Blessed are they that mourn, 
for they shall be comforted," 
he must have meant just this.
Later, if you go away, if you travel, 
even if you decide to make your home elsewhere, 
the spirit of tenderness, of love, 
will not desert you. 
You will find that it has become part of you, 
rising from within yourself; 
and because of it 
you are no longer fearful 
of loneliness, of the dark, 
because death, 
the last enemy, 
has been overcome.

— Daphne du Maurier
It is the image in the mind 
that links us to our lost treasures; 
but it is the loss that shapes the image, 
gathers the flowers, 
weaves the garland.

— Colette, in My Mother's House
The loss of a dream is yet another kind of death. 
After Emily Perl Kingsley's child was born with Down syndrome, 
she was asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability. 
This essay was her effort to help people 
who have not shared that unique experience 
to understand it and imagine how it would feel. 
But her words speak just as well 
to any of us who've lost our dream 
of how we expected our lives to be.


___________________________________________

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

When you're going to have a baby, 
it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip — to Italy. 
You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. 
The Coliseum. Michelangelo's David. The gondolas in Venice. 
You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. 
You pack your bags and off you go. 
Several hours later, the plane lands. 
The flight attendant comes and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!" you say. "What do you mean, Holland? 
I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. 
All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. 
They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. 
The important thing is that they haven't taken you 
to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place 
full of pestilence, famine and disease. 
It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. 
You must learn a whole new language. 
And you will meet a whole new group of people 
you would never have met.
It's just a different place. 
It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. 
But after you've been there for a while 
and you catch your breath, 
you look around, and you begin to notice that 
Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, 
Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy 
coming and going from Italy, 
and they're all bragging about 
what a wonderful time they had there. 
And for the rest of your life, you will say, 
"Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. 
That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, 
because the loss of that dream is a significant loss.
But if you spend your life mourning the fact 
that you didn't get to Italy, 
you may never be free to enjoy 
the very special, the very lovely things 
about Holland.

— Reprinted in Abigail Van Buren's Column, 
The Arizona Republic, October 2, 2000
Please Ask

Someone asked me about you today.
It's been so long since anyone has done that.
It felt so good to talk about you,
to share my memories of you,
to simply say your name out loud.
She asked me if I minded talking about
what happened to you — 
or would it be too painful to speak of it.
I told her I think of it every day
and speaking about it helps me to release
the tormented thoughts whirling around in my head.
She said she never realized the pain
would last this long.
She apologized for not asking sooner.
I told her, "Thanks for asking."
I don't know if it was curiosity
or concern that made her ask,
But told her, "Please do it again sometime — 
soon."

Barbara Taylor Hudson
Grieving is as natural
as crying when you are hurt,
sleeping when you are tired,
eating when you are hungry
or sneezing when your nose itches.
It's nature's way of healing a broken heart.
A cut finger is numb before it bleeds.
It bleeds before it hurts.
It hurts until it begins to heal.
It forms a scab and itches until finally,
the scab is gone and a small scar is left
where once there was a wound.
Grief is the deepest wound you will ever have.
Like a cut finger, 
it goes through stages and leaves a scar.
When you try to help someone heal from their pain,
chances are you are probably healing yourself.
Listen to the words 
within your own heart.

— Patti Filion, The Compassionate Friends
The Agony of Grief

Grief is a tidal wave that overtakes you,
smashes down upon you with unimaginable force,
sweeps you up into its darkness,
where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces,
only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped.
Grief means not being able to read more than two sentences at a time.
It is walking into rooms with intention that suddenly vanishes.
Grief is three o'clock in the morning sweats that won't stop.
It is dreadful Sundays, Mondays that are no better.
It makes you look for a face in the crowd, 
knowing full well the face we want cannot be found in that crowd.
Grief is utter aloneness that razes the rational mind
and makes room for the phantasmagoric.
It makes you suddenly get up and leave in the middle of a meeting,
without saying a word.
Grief makes what others think of you moot.
It shears away the masks of normal life
and forces brutal honesty out of your mouth
before propriety can stop you.
It shoves away friends,
scares away so-called friends,
and rewrites address books for you.
Grief makes you laugh at people who cry over spilled milk,
right to their faces.
It tells the world that you are untouchable
at the very moment when touch
is the only contact that might reach you.
It makes lepers out of upstanding citizens.
Grief discriminates against no one.
It kills. Maims. And cripples.
It is the ashes from which the phoenix rises,
and the mettle of rebirth.
It returns life to the living dead.
It teaches that there is nothing absolutely true or untrue.
It assures the living that we know nothing for certain.
It humbles. It shrouds. It blackens. It enlightens.
Grief will make a new person out of you,
if it doesn't kill you in the making.

— Stephanie Ericsson
in Companion Through The Darkness: Inner Dialogues on Grief
Grief, An Unpaid Bill

I have become more familiar with death now. 
I know what it is to grieve, to feel loss, 
to remember my dead child with flesh and bones. 
In the beginning, I was numb. 
Nature is kind; 
we can't feel more pain than we can endure, 
but the pain waits. 
Like an unpaid bill, it remains until it is opened. 
We may bury our feelings, but they are buried alive,
and the time of payment always comes.
I find myself crying at unexpected times. 
In my car on the way to work, 
I see a young man riding a bicycle near the side of the road. 
Suddenly, I remember that Ken bought one 
just a few years ago when he was already ill. 
"It makes me feel young again," he told me. 
As we looked at each other then, we both understood 
the wish to go back to an earlier time, 
when the future still seemed certain.
My tears come, and I make another small payment 
on this outstanding bill of pain. 
Today is July eleventh,
the birthday of my friend's dead son. 
"Steven would have been forty today," 
she tells me on the telephone.
"Don't add to your anguish," I warn, 
not being afraid to enter the fray. 
We are both part of this community of bereaved parents,
and we know how to speak the forbidden words about death — 
something the rest of the world avoids.
"I can't help it," my friend says. "The thoughts just come."
Time passes and I continue to learn 
the lessons that death and life teach. 
They are patient teachers, 
so if I don't learn, they will teach me again. 
I have learned that death is as much a part of life 
as the air that I breathe. 
It will not stay away because I avoid speaking its name.
The grief that I feel, I must feel. 
I have loved; now I must grieve. 
It is the homage the heart pays.

— by Anita Kirschner, in Bereavement Magazine, July/August 2000,
 www.bereavementmag.com 

On Woundedness

We must acknowledge the fact 
that the entire world suffers; 
woundedness exists with every people of every culture; 
we all experience pain, suffering, and death. 
There are many people who have had divorces. 
There are many people who have had job losses. 
There are many people who have had loved ones die. 
There are many people with mental and physical handicaps. 
There are many people who have experienced violence and abuse. 
We all have problems; we all have wounds. 
Besides acknowledging the existence of our shared woundedness, 
we have to also acknowledge the potential 
for some gain from that shared woundedness. 
There are things we can learn from our own woundedness 
and there are things we can learn from the woundedness of others. 
We can grow in the midst of the world's woundedness; 
we can learn from the world's woundedness; 
we can heal through the world's woundedness . . .
Hospice affirms the value of woundedness, 
the value of woundedness in general 
and the value of one particular universally shared wound, 
our inevitable death. 
The modern loss of awareness of woundedness, 
especially our shared wound of death, 
is very different from the attitude present 
in our spiritual traditions. 
Many spiritual traditions 
have actually been founded upon, 
and centered around, 
the principle of facing the reality of death. 
It is the premise of these spiritual traditions 
that if we in fact face our woundedness (individual and mutual), 
especially facing death, 
we will end up leading a much fuller life 
than we normally do.

— Douglas C. Smith, in Being A Wounded Healer

Remember that it won't always feel this bad.  
Somehow it does change.
It does get better.
At the moment, take heart from those around you
who want to care for you
and be present for you in your distress. 
They don't always know how,
they don't always do it right,
but they try. 
Sorrow is a matter of taking turns. 
This year, it's yours. 
Next year, it might be you
setting the table for someone else
who feels that they cannot cope.

-- Deidre Felton, in Bereavement Magazine
November/December 2000, www.bereavementmag.com

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. 
Live your life so that when you die, 
the world cries and you rejoice.

— Cherokee Saying
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. 
It sings because it has a song.

— Chinese proverb
Grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears, 
but laugh and talk of me
as if I were beside you. 
Twas heaven here with you,
I loved you so.

— Isla Paschal Richardson
Grief is Not Quicksand

Often, a survivor fears that if he shows his sadness, 
there will be no end to it. 
If you are among those who feel 
that you do not know how intense, lengthy, 
or deep your expression of grief may be, 
you may find yourself thinking 
that it would be impossible — 
or at least very difficult — 
for you to pull out of grief's deep pit 
to do all the things you need to do 
before or after the death. 
Being afraid of getting sucked down 
into a hollow of "no return" 
is not realistic. 
Grief is not quicksand. 
Rather, it is a walk on rocky terrain 
that eventually smoothes out 
and provides less challenge — 
both emotionally and physically . . . 
For example, you may think: 
I will fall apart 
and won't be able to function 
if I start to show how I feel. 
Replace such thoughts 
with the more realistic: 
I will let go for a time, 
release what I feel, 
and will be able to function better 
as a result of having vented the feelings 
that are an ever-present burden.

— Carol Staudacher
in Men and Grief: A Guide for Men Surviving the Death of a Loved One
Curing, or Healing?

Curing of a particular wound implies 
the elimination of that wound,
and healing implies enhancing a person's life 
even if that wound is not eliminated . . .
Providing someone a cure 
is like giving that person a welcome gift 
(which is certainly nice). 
Healing someone 
is like teaching that person 
how to find gifts wherever they are 
(which can be wonderful) . . .

— Douglas C. Smith, in
Being A Wounded Healer
Treasure Every Moment

To realize the value of one year, 
ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of one month, 
ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one week, 
ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one hour, 
ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute, 
ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of one millisecond, 
ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.
Treasure every moment that you have! 
And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special — 
special enough to spend your time.
And remember that time waits for no one.
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That's why we call it the present!

— Author unknown
Who Am I Now?

Much of the emotional distress 
during the early stages of grief 
results from an identity crisis. 
Throughout married life 
we develop an identity blended with our mate's. 
To be successful in marriage 
each partner willingly gives up 
part of his or her individual identity, 
and in many ways marriage defines who we are. 
The loss of a spouse can cloud a person's identity 
to the point of asking, "Who am I now?"
As surviving spouses, 
we know we are not the same person 
we were before we married. 
In many ways we still feel married. 
Yet the death of our spouse 
makes us someone other than who we were 
during our marriage. 
The stress associated with the loss 
and the disassociation 
is magnified by the fear of the unknown future.
The search for and the development of 
a new identity is, in large part, 
what moving through grief 
and into living again 
is all about.

— William Wallace, in 
Living Again: A Personal Journey for Surviving the Loss of a Spouse
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. 
I want to know what you ache for, 
and if you dare to dream 
of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. 
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, 
for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched 
the center of your own sorrow, 
if you have been opened by life's betrayals 
or have become shriveled and closed 
from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, 
mine or your own, 
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, 
mine, or your own, 
if you can dance with wildness 
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes 
without cautioning us to be careful, 
to be realistic, 
to remember the limitations of being human. 
It doesn't interest me 
if the story you are telling me is true. 
I want to know if you can disappoint another 
to be true to yourself; 
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal 
and not betray your own soul;
if you can be faithless 
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty, 
even when it's not pretty, every day, 
and if you can source your own life 
from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, 
yours and mine, 
and still stand on the edge of the lake 
and shout to the silver of a full moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me to know 
where you live or how much money you have. 
I want to know if you can get up, 
after a night of grief and despair, 
weary and bruised to the bone, 
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know 
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand 
in the center of the fire with me 
and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me 
where or what or with whom you have studied. 
I want to know what sustains you, from the inside 
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself 
and if you truly like the company you keep 
in the empty moments.

— Oriah Mountain Dreamer in The Invitation

While both joy and sorrow are fleeting,
and often intertwined,
love has the power to overcome both.
And love can last forever.

— Deborah Plouse Fulton, in A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

We Remember Them

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We remember them;
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember them;
In the opening of the buds and in the warmth of summer,
We remember them;
In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,
We remember them;
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them;
When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them;
When we are lost and sick of heart,
We remember them;
When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them;
So long as we live, they too shall live, 
For they are now a part of us, as 
We remember them.

— From Gates of Prayer, Reform Judaism Prayer Book

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, 
one of the greatest truths. 
It is a great truth 
because once we truly see this truth, 
we transcend it. 
Once we truly know that life is difficult — 
once we truly understand and accept it — 
then life is no longer difficult. 
Because once it is accepted, 
the fact that life is difficult 
no longer matters.

— M. Scott Peck, M.D., in The Road Less Traveled

The human organism knows how to heal itself, 
once it knows its symptoms are normal.

—Gail Sheehy, in New Passages

It is the miracle of memory 
that transforms a houseful of stuff 
into a heritage of love and connection.

— Emily Barnes, in
Timeless Treasures: The Charm and Romance of Treasured Memories

No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know
For whom the bell tolls:
It tolls for thee.

— John Donne

A significant function of ritual in a society 
is to give its members permission to say things 
that otherwise might not be said: 
a wedding toast, a Thanksgiving blessing, a eulogy . . .
Ritual communication can be the most honest, 
meaningful, and moving communication 
we can have with one another.

— Robert U. Akeret, in Family Ties, Family Wisdom

The search for answers
is often prompted by the presence of young children, 
whose metaphysical questions are likely to coincide with— and intensify—
the parents' midlife passage: 
How do I tell my children what to believe about life and death 
when I don't even know what I believe myself?

— Gail Sheehy, in New Passages

A family has been described
as a group of people whose trouble is
that the youngsters grow out of childhood,
but the parents never grow out of parenthood. 
How true that is, and how painful
when one is a grandparent
whose grandchild has died. 
Grandparents carry dreadful burdens
that are frequently never mentioned. 
When a child dies,
grandparents bear the grief
of the death of a loved boy or girl
compounded by the pain
of watching their own adult child,
the dead child’s parent,
writhe in an agony
they are powerless to ease. 
It is a double grief.

 — Harriet Sarnoff Schiff, in
Living Through Mourning: Finding Comfort and Hope When a Loved One Has Died

Civil choices . . . demand that we tolerate ambiguity. 
They are best made prayerfully 
within the context of a life-style 
that is at least somewhat contemplative 
so that consciousness can be maximized. 
Such a life-style requires us to routinely set aside 
time to be alone, quiet, and empty
in order to be able to listen 
for the voice of God in our lives. 
[Take the time and effort] to become conscious, 
to look at the larger system 
and listen for the voice of a Higher Power.

— M. Scott Peck, M.D., in A World Waiting to Be Born : Civility Rediscovered

The Elephant in the Room 

There’s an elephant in the room.   
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.  
Yet, we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and “I’m fine”. . .  
And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.  
We talk about the weather.  
We talk about work.  
We talk about everything else —  
except the elephant in the room.  
We all know it is there.  
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk.  
It is constantly on our minds,  
For you see, it is a very big elephant.  
But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.  
Oh, please, say her name.  
Oh, please, say ‘Barbara’ again.  
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  
For if we talk about her death,  
Perhaps we can talk about her life.  
Can I say ‘Barbara’ and not have you look away?  
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me
Alone . . . in a room . . .  
With an elephant.

— Terry Kettering, in Bereavement Magazine,
Reprinted in Ann Landers’ Column,
Arizona Republic, February 12, 2000  

You — and you alone — will have stars as no one else has them. 
In one of them I shall be laughing. 
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing
when you look at the sky at night. 
You — only you — will have stars that can laugh! 
And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows),
you will be content that you have known me.

 — Antoine De Saint-Exupery

And each one there
has one thing to share:
they have sweated beneath the same sun
looked up in wonder at the same moon
and wept when it was all done
for being done too soon . . .
for being done too soon .

— Neil Diamond

Dawn is born at midnight.

— Carl Jung

On Wednesday morning, the family stayed home from work and school.  Snowball was driven to the vet and put to sleep painlessly.  Placed in her favorite sleeping place— an old brown-leather house slipper, which was put in a small, lidded basket lined with straw and placed in the front seat between Lucy and her dad.  The family car became a hearse for the ride home.
      Snowball, the tiny wonder dog from South America, living under an assumed name and disguised as a Guinea pig, was laid to rest in a grave dug underneath the willow tree in the backyard.  Lucy and her mom and dad thanked Snowball for all the good times and filled in the grave.  And marked it with a large flat stone on which Lucy had written in paint: “Happy Days, Snowball.”
    
This story, of course, is not about pets.
    
It’s about any life and death.  It’s about the deep attachments we make to other living things.  It’s about the obligatory rituals of hello and good-bye when we become attached to the life around us.  And it’s about how we help children understand the basic lessons of existence. 
  
  To an outsider, Snowball was just a Guinea pig.
    
But Snowball was also a teacher from whom Lucy learned about responsibility, affection, reproduction, imagination, sorrow, and death.  Lucy’s grandmother is dying now, and Snowball made dealing with that easier for everyone in the family.  Snowball, Grandma, Mother, Father, and someday Lucy.  It is the way of living things.  All of them.  Now Lucy knows. 

Robert Fulghum, in From Beginning to End

Pain is the difference between what is
and what I want it to be. 

Spencer Johnson, in The Precious Present

There is a Job-like mystery in human suffering and loss
that can’t be comprehended with reason.
It can only be lived in faith.
Suffering forces our attention toward places we would normally neglect.
[It is] the lesson taught by many mystics:
that this necessary dimension of faith
is spawned by unknowing.
Nicholas of Cusa said we have to be educated into our ignorance
or else the full presence of the divine will be kept at bay.
We have to arrive at that difficult point
where we don’t know what is going on or what we can do.
That precise point is an opening to true faith.

— Thomas Moore, in Care of the Soul

Give sorrow words; 

the grief that does not speak

Whispers the o'er-fraught heart

and bids it break.

— William Shakespeare, in Macbeth, Act IV, Scene III

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 aero planes 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 forever; 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 woods:
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

— W. H. Auden, in The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

-- Dylan Thomas

Use the uncertainty of life
as a constant reminder to be grateful. 

Normal day,
let me be aware of the treasure that you are.
Let me learn from you,
love you, savor you,
bless you, before you depart.
Let me not pass you by
in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may,
for it will not always be so.
One day, I shall dig my fingers into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow,
or stretch myself taut,
or raise my head to the sky,
and want more than all the world
your return.

-- Mary Jean Irion

Any concern
too small to be turned into a prayer
is too small to be made into a burden.

– Corrie Ten Boom

It occurs to me that grief
is neither a gift nor a curse
although it may, at times, seem like both.
Perhaps instead it is the dividend
of our investment in, or commitment to,
an individual or a group.
Without investment there is no loss.
Without loss there is no grief.
We earn our grief with our investment in others.
It is therefore a precious dividend
not to be avoided or shunned,
but embraced.

— From Reflections on the Bombing in Oklahoma City by Brian W. Flynn, Chief, Emergency Services and Disaster Relief Branch, Federal Center for Mental Health Services

Perhaps they are not stars in the sky,
but rather openings
where our loved ones shine down
to let us know
they are happy.

-- Eskimo Legend

The message of hospice
is that we are free to ascribe a healing meaning
to the natural occurrences of our lives.
The decision to do this
is what is meant by faith.

— Douglas MacDonald

They are not dead
who live in lives they leave behind.

In those whom they have blessed,
they live a life again,
and shall live through the years eternal life,
and shall grow each day more beautiful,
as time declares their good,
forgets the rest,
and proves their immortality.

— Hugh Robert Orr

God gave us memories,
that we might have roses in December.

-- J. M. Barrie

The great thing, if one can,
is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things
as interruptions of one’s “own” or “real” life.
The truth is of course
that what one calls the interruptions
are precisely one’s real life —
the life God is sending one day by day.

— C. S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky
come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
“There, she is gone.”
“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight.
That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side,
and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight
to her destined port.
 
Her diminished size is in me,
not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
“There, she is gone!”
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and there are other voices
ready to take up the glad shout,
“Here she comes!”
 
And that is dying.

Rev. Henry Van Dyke

. . . His dog up and died, up and died. 
After twenty years, he still grieves.

Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walker ©1968 Cotillion Music, Inc. & Daniel Music, Inc.

One day a woman who was dying from cancer wrote a letter to her husband.  Instead of giving it to him to read, however, she put in their computer under an obscure file name, and simply left it there for him to find.  A few months later, the woman died. On June 14, 1997, the man did find the letter in his computer, exactly one year from the date that his wife had written it.  This is the letter she wrote to him: 

June 14, 1996

My darling,

Thank you for being there for me, looking after me, and helping me to grow up.  If it weren’t for you twenty-something years ago, I don’t know where I would have ended up!  You were always so patient with me, a real gentleman and you always made me feel special.  I know you loved me so, and I love you so very much and have always done so.

I know you will take care of the kids and be a part of their families, to encourage and guide and to be a great Grandpa.  Always keep your home a home for them should they need it, darling.  And please make sure you leave everything to them equally.  Take care of it NOW!  I worked hard all these years with you so that they could have a share in our memories and worth.   I don’t want to see it go to the government or to some other family!

Your Happiness is Up to You!

Take time to pray.  It helps to bring God near, and I’ll be listening.

Take time for friends.  Find others who’ve experienced a loss; it will be a source of happiness for you.

Take time for work.  It will keep your mind off me.

Take time to think.  It is the source of power and remembrance.

Take time to read.  It is the foundation of knowledge to help you guide the kids.

Take time to laugh.  It will bring you together with the kids and help with life’s loads.

Take time to love.  They will still need your love as well as the grandkids.

Take time to dream.  It hitches the soul to the stars.

Take time to play.  And develop new interests.  It’s the secret of youth.

Take time to do something for someone else; it is the highway to reverence.

I may not be with you in body, but I’m with you in spirit.  And darling, it’s okay to need comforting for a while.  Be brave, and accept support from others.  Take time to heal.  Tomorrow will come.  The good is on its way.

Life is change. 
Growth is optional.
Choose wisely.

-- Karen Kaiser Clark

Take a music bath
once or twice a week for a few seasons,
and you will find that it is to the soul
what the water-bath is to the body.

— D.W. Holmes

Someone once wrote that tears
are a river
that can carry you forward.

— Oprah Winfrey

Photographs are precious memories . . .
 the visual evidence of place and time and relationships . . .
 ritual talismans for the treasure chest of the heart.

Robert Fulghum, in From Beginning to End

You are not a human being having a spiritual experience.
You are a spiritual being having a human experience.

Wayne W. Dyer

Do not feel
totally, personally,
irrevocably responsible
for everything.
That’s MY job.
Love,
GOD

Everything that happens to you is your teacher.
The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.
Everything that happens is either a blessing which is also a lesson,
or a lesson which is also a blessing.

— Polly Berrien Berends

We do not see things as they are.
We see them as we are.

— The Talmud

Smart is when you know what is true;
wise is when you know what really matters.

 — Gellman and Hartman, in How Do You Spell God?

I say to you:
 one must have chaos in oneself
in order to give birth to a dancing star.  

 — Nietzsche

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be.
It’s the way it is.
The way you cope with it
is what makes the difference.

— Virginia Satir

He who has a “why” to live
can bear with almost any “how.”

— Nietzsche

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedoms —
to choose one’s attitude
in any given set of circumstances,
to choose one’s own way.

— Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning

In order to get from what was to what will be,
you have to go through what
is.

You can clutch the past
so tightly to your chest

that it leaves your arms too full
to embrace the present.

Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding. 
Even as the stone of the fruit must break,
that its heart may stand in the sun,
so must you know pain.

— Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The only courage that matters
is the kind that gets you
from one moment to the next.

— Mignon McLaughlin

If the future seems overwhelming,
remember that it comes one moment at a time.

— Beth Mende Conny

They that love beyond the world
cannot be separated by it. 
Death cannot kill
what never dies.

— William Penn

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

— William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 2

Stars are the forget-me-knots of angels
in the meadow of heaven.

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

If I should die and leave you here awhile,
Be not like others, sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
F
or my sake turn again to life and smile,
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you.

— A. Price Hughes

I will not forget you.  I have carved you on the palm of my hand.    

— Isaiah 49:15

The truest words of all: I will not forget you.
You are in my waking thoughts,
my sweetest memories, my dearest dreams.
I will not forget you.
You have touched my soul, opened my eyes,
changed my very experience of the universe. 
I will not forget you.
I see you in the flowers, the sunset,
the sweep of the horizon
and all things that stretch to infinity. 
I will not forget you.
I have carved you on the palm of my hand.
I carry you with me forever.

— Ellen Sue Stern, Living With Loss, 1995


I walked a mile with Pleasure.
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things
I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me! 

—Robert Browning

Time it was ~
And what a time it was!
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be ~
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories 
They’re all that’s left you.

— Paul Simon

Realizing the mortality of the moment,
I became a photographer
as a way to fight Death
and preserve those things
that inevitably become lost
as time goes on.
Friends change,
lovers leave,
one moves on.
A photograph is forever.

-- Libby Friedman

I’ll be Seeing You 

In all the old familiar places
 
That this heart of mine embraces

All day through:
 
In the small cafe,

The park across the way,

The children’s carousel,

The chestnut tree

The wishing well.

I’ll be seeing you

In every lovely summer’s day,

In everything that’s light and gay.

I’ll always think of you that way. 

I’ll find you in the morning sun,

And when the night is new,

I’ll be looking at the moon --

but I’ll be seeing you.

— Irving Kahal and Sammy Fain

It is wise for me to think about the past
and to learn from my past.
But it is not wise for me to be in the past.
For that is how I lose my self.  
It is also wise to think about the future
and to prepare for my future.
But it is not wise for me to be in the future.
For that, too, is how I lose my self.
And when I lose my self,
I lose what is most precious to me.

 Spencer Johnson, in The Precious Present

You Needed Me 

I cried a tear: you wiped it dry.

I was confused: you cleared my mind.

I sold my soul: you bought it back for me,

And held me up, and gave me dignity.

Somehow, you needed me.

You gave me strength to stand alone again,

To face the world out on my own again.

You put me high upon a pedestal —

So high that I could almost see eternity.

You needed me. You needed me.

And I can’t believe it’s you; I can’t believe it’s true!

I needed you, and you were there.

And I’ll never leave — why should I leave?

I’d be a fool,

‘Cause I’ve finally found someone who really cares.

You held my hand when it was cold.

When I was lost, you took me home.

You gave me hope when I was at the end,

And turned my lies back into truth again.

You even called me friend.

You gave me strength to stand alone again,

To face the world out on my own again.

You put me high upon a pedestal —

So high that I could almost see eternity.

You needed me. You needed me. 

—Written by Randy Goodrum; Sung by Anne Murray, © 1978 EMI Music Canada

Following the death of her mother in the fall of 2001, Dava Boston wrote this poem "with one of my sisters in my mind and in my heart -- her loving eyes reflecting her feelings of loss, and mirroring how I feel as I experience my own emotions of loss":

Pooling

Your love
Spills

Silent streams

Slide down
The slope of your cheek

Past an upturned smile

Strangled

My throat

A choking frog

Croaks


© December 2001 by Dava Boston
and used with permission of the author

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