Poem as a remedy for grief & healing
No matter how hard we try, no matter what new or unique methods we come up with to try and fight off the pain of losing someone we love, grief will never completely leave us. It’s just a natural, uncontrollable human reaction. Although, there are some forms of art that can help you in this difficult moment of your life. Today, I will talk to you about the poem as a remedy for grief & healing.
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Poem as a remedy for grief & healing: some good examples
Whether it’s a parent, or a friend, a sibling or if you’re one has endured the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child, loss of a loved one leaves a void that you can’t really fill. It’s an important part of your life that’s gone forever.
The best way that I can think of to describe it is that you never truly get over the loss of a loved one, but you learn to cope with the fact that you aren’t going to have them around anymore and that tends to be enough.
And learning to cope can be harder for some people than it is for others. Some people have developed methods over their life which are very effective and work quickly, whereas others will try to ignore how they feel.
As I’m sure you can guess, the latter is probably not a wise choice. Hiding from your feelings doesn’t make them go away, you have to face things head on and process them if you want to feel better.
When you’re in that moment it just feels so helpless. It feels like nothing you can do, nothing you can say will help ease the pain. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, even if the act of dealing with your grief doesn’t feel like it’s working at first, power through.
There’s a multitude of methods out there which are tried and tested, but one of the ways which people tend not to talk much about is to grieve through art. And I don’t necessarily mean that you should grieve through creating art because that’s not for everyone, but look to art for answers.
Paintings, films, books, the topic of grief has been dealt with through all of these mediums, but I believe a good place to look is poetry. Poetry is succinct, it’s easy to consume and in 2020 it’s highly accessible.
There are many poems out there about loss and mourning, some from very well known and high profile writers. Reading some of them could offer you insight that you didn’t know you needed. The skill of a poet is in their ability to tap into human emotion in an eloquent and thought-provoking way.
What you might not be able to express in words, maybe they can, and maybe you can help yourself to think a little bit more clearly about what you’re going through by reading some poems that deal with this very subject.
Let’s consider a few:
‘If I Should Die’ by Emily Dickinson
Known well for her poetry about the topic of death, this particular poem from Dickinson is an interesting take on grief because it doesn’t really share the same melancholy tone that you would normally associate with the topic.
There’s nothing wrong with being melancholy when talking about death of course and sometimes it’s tough to consume something so upbeat when that’s the opposite of how you’re feeling. But this is still effective.
Dickinson urges the reader to envision life going on in the wake of a loved one’s death.
And morn should beam
And noon should burn
As it has usual done
The message here is that life goes on and that there are still good things to look forward to. So even with the pain that you’re feeling, you should try your best to find things that will still make you happy, because they haven’t gone anywhere.
‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou
The work of Maya Angelou is characterized by courage and resilience in the face of great adversity and pain. For the most part, this came through in her books and poems about race and discrimination.
But when she tackled other issues, she tackled them with just as much vigor and power as she did the devastating history of her people. In this poem, Angelou compares a human’s death to the death of a tall tree.
When a giant tree falls, the environment is affected. The weight of the tree shakes the world and the absence of its presence is gaping. It had such a huge part of the scenery, a titanic symbol of strength and resilience, which like everything else, eventually succumbed to nature.
Angelou viewed this as comparable to great souls:
They existed. They Existed.
We can be. Be and be better.
For they existed.
Instead of focusing on the fact that someone is gone, instead focus on the impact that they made and how you can learn from having had them as a part of your life. You can be better because they existed.
‘For Grief’ by John O’Donohue
Never one to mince words, John O’Donohue sheds metaphor and excessive subtly in favour of taking a straightforward approach to his subject matter. And that’s what some people need. Hiding the message amongst beautiful, but complex phrasing might alienate those who are suffering.
O’Donohue doesn’t do that though. He gets straight to the point that and discusses what losing a loved one means and how it feels in simple but linguistically pleasing terms. He takes us on a journey through our own grief.
A journey through the denial, the pain, the guilt and the sadness but one that ultimately ends up here:
The wound of loss will heal,
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air,
And be able to enter the hearth,
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return.
This poem is a promise that things will get better, because even though you don’t have your loved one in your life physically, you still have your memories of them. You still have their lessons and the emotional reminders of how they made you feel. So they can live forever in you.
‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ by Mary Frye
In a similar vein, this poem by Mary Frye is another expression of how death is not truly the end, how when we die we’re not really gone. Traces of us remain. Everyone who dies leaves a piece of themselves behind because we all impacted the world in some way.
Frye lists a number of different natural things from rain to birds to sunlight and any of them can be a reminder for you of those you’ve lost. After talking about all of these reminders and traces of a lost soul, we get this poignant final line;
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there – I did not die.
And when you consider this, it’s true. We are not our bodies, we are our personalities. We are what we leave behind, and we leave behind more than bones and dust.
Poetry is not the only avenue for you to deal with your grief, and it’s not going to work for everyone, but it’s worth trying because it might guide you to helpful thoughts and considerations that you wouldn’t otherwise find.
And if you’re feeling artistic, maybe you could try writing your own poems too about how you feel. It’s good to express your thoughts even if it’s just on paper and maybe others can benefit from your words too.