Monday, October 25, 2010

Growing Into It

It goes on  endlessly, this bereavement business, but it changes.  You just keep moving around the contents of your backpack, looking for different ways to balance the weight.  Yesterday in church, a conversation with three other mothers in a room vacated by the rest of our class: we are all doing all of it simultaneously, grieving for children gone for 12, 8, 4, and 2 years, and living the other parts of our lives. 

This poem ~ never discussed, but a big part of my retreat:

Love Sorrow ~ by Mary Oliver

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand, 
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child. 
And amazing things can happen. And you may see, 

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.


  1. I know Mary Oliver (well, her poetry, at any rate), I love her, and I do not know this poem. It has blown me away. I want to set is as a seal upon my forehead.

    Love to you.

  2. I meant to add (and I will) that it's in the volume Red Bird.

  3. oh...I read something else along these lines recently, though not quite as gorgeously written, but my poor time addled brain can't retrieve it!!

    Thanks for sharing this bit...

  4. Thank you for the poem, which I did not know either. Especially evocative for me as one of my first daughter's trademark outfits was a little green hat and coat....And because I once again cried through half of a child's school performance today (daughter's play--son's choir concert is tomorrow) and it was both heartbreaking and, because the intense grief strikes so rarely now, a welcome connection with her and my more evanescent youngest as well.

  5. I haven't read this poem in ages...I love Red Bird. This poem strikes me in such a, well, other way, than it did when I read before all this stuff..and since all of my stuff has been packed and in storage, some of it for over a year, I haven't had the book to re-read....thank you. I need to spend some time with this one, too...prayers for you continue...

  6. May I copy this and send to my step-son who lost the love of his life to cancer?

  7. Anon - it's not mine. You can find it online or in the book Red Bird.

    I might add -- it has been 25 months since my son died. This is probably not a poem for someone at the beginning of grief. A year ago it would have sent me running out of the room screaming.