La La How The Life Goes On

Unbearable Loss

Posted on: March 22, 2016

A friend recently lost her grandson, suddenly and unexpectedly. In a time like this there simply are no words to offer in comfort. Megan Devine, a writer on trauma and grief, offers a beautiful and painful truth to anyone who feels compelled to say things like, “Things happen for a reason” or “It’s God’s plan” or “It will all work out for good.” Or for people, like most of us, who want to rush in and find a way to fix the hurt. Her truth is this:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

Anyone who has lost someone special in their life knows this to be true.  A profound loss is never fixed, is never okay, is never erased. It is simply carried. As time goes on, the weight can feel lighter. And yet some days, even decades hence, out of nowhere it will feel like an anvil tied around your neck once again. This is grief and this is loss. And as much as it confirms our utter helplessness in its face, we all know that the only way out is through.

And so we stand with our friends as they carry their loss. We do what we can to carry it with and for them when they cannot.  And we try to offer words of comfort, offered by better writers than ourselves.

WH Auden, Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last 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 wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

Philip Larkin, The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

 

Kevin Young, Redemption Song

Finally fall.
At last the mist,
heat’s haze, we woke
these past weeks with

has lifted. We find
ourselves chill, a briskness
we hug ourselves in.
Frost greying the ground.

Grief might be easy
if there wasn’t still
such beauty — would be far
simpler if the silver

maple didn’t thrust
it’s leaves into flame,
trusting that spring
will find it again.

All this might be easier if
there wasn’t a song
still lifting us above it,
if wind didn’t trouble

my mind like water.
I half expect to see you
fill the autumn air
like breath —

At night I sleep
on clenched fists.
Days I’m like the child
who on the playground

falls, crying
not so much from pain
as surprise.
I’m tired of tide

taking you away,
then back again —
what’s worse, the forgetting
or the thing

you can’t forget.
Neither yet —
last summer’s
choir of crickets

grown quiet.

 

Langston Hughes, Island

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

I see the island
And its sands are fair:

Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.

 

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